A lot of us don’t think much about maternity or paternity leave policies on a day-to-day basis. I didn’t. I mean, it didn’t affect me for the most part and most of the people around me weren’t expecting either. On top of that, some of my friends got pregnant after they got laid off (thank you, economy) and some became stay-at-home moms so the topic of maternity leave never came up in discussion.
Enter my own pregnancy.
I’ve learned a lot that has really made me question where our country’s priorities lie. I mean – how can you not? Are we to blame ourselves for the lack of paid maternity leave because we are the ones that pushed for equal rights? Or did people just assume that if we starting working, that we would forego having kids? That would be absurd.
I think the hardest part for me to swallow is that – for the most part – women have to work for families to live comfortably nowadays. It’s not hugely a matter of choice anymore. It’s practically a necessity. I know I’ll have to return to work after my leave is over because we have a mortgage to pay for. We want to keep fresh food on the table. We have utilities to pay for and a home to maintain. I’m sure if we were extremely strategic, we may be able to live on one income, but it would be like keeping an eye on every penny spent like an eagle. We just wouldn’t be comfortable.
That said, it kind of pains me to think that we don’t have paid maternity or paternity leave. Luckily for me, I’m living in California which does offer partially paid maternity leave (and if you’re lucky enough, your company will cover the balance to make sure you still get your usual pay while you’re out). However, figuring out that paperwork is another story…
Note that I mentioned “or paternity leave.” I have to call this out because it seems like everyone is always screaming for equal rights, and I honestly believe that because of these movements by women, men are wanting to be more involved with rearing their children. Equal rights, right? How are they supposed to help without paid paternity leave, especially since, historically, men are paid more than women? The family needs to survive off of SOMETHING. Men have to forego helping their baby mommas survive the first few months of parenthood because they have to work to keep the home running. I don’t know much about how the first few months will go, but based on all the stories I’ve heard, I would be more than happy to allow my husband to help with changing diapers and feeding so I could have a moment to relax (or even just doing chores/housework so I don’t go completely bonkers). I wouldn’t ask this of him if I know he has to go to work because no one should be working through exhaustion.
The whole concept of lack of paid leave in an industrialized country is like an endless conundrum.
Of course the topic comes up while I’m talking to a colleague the other day. She just has to mention that in England – where she’s from – they could get up to a year in paid maternity leave. Sigh. On that happy note…
I bumped into this great article regarding paid leave, and I really do hope it eventually catches on. It’s a beautiful thing. I do believe the government should be doing their part as well, but if it hasn’t begun yet, I don’t know if we should anticipate it coming anytime soon. Perhaps when our kids grow up and have their own kids, things may be a little different. Until then, major props to these companies and their choice to be progressive with their approach on paid leave (why do I feel sad that I just called this progressive?).