As you guessed it from the title of this blog post, I was thinking about Kanye’s (now infamous) interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech whilst I watched an old episode of the John Oliver show. Kanye’s voice uttered (well not really, but just go with it) the words as I watched about how the US is failing its mothers (and fathers) by not adequately providing them with a reasonable amount of time to bond and nurture their new babies.
Anyway, don’t ask me why, but Kanye’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
I did some more research, and according to an article published by The Independent, America ranks so low on the list that we’d need to get down and dig to see paid leave after giving birth.
Here’s some embarrassing facts about our non-existent paid leave.
The US is at the bottom of the list
And, no, this isn’t an alphabetized list, where we’re just above Uzbekistan and Vatican City (which would leave me with more questions than answers). The US, according to the OECD, and Papa New Guinea, are the only countries on earth that do not offer paid maternity leave.
That means for a lot of women someone either needs to come up with express maternity wards (please don’t); we need to use our vacation time (if we have any saved up); or leave our little one with a trusted sitter (and no, your 16 year old neighbour who looks like he could happily do a remake of “Half Baked” shouldn’t be your go to for babysitting services).
There were lawmakers who actually argued against giving women even unpaid maternity leave
Yeah, this was a clutch the pearls moment for me as well. Apparently, in 1993, lawmakers argued that by passing the meager Act, it would be certain death to businesses. It didn’t mean certain death to businesses and it had very few recognizable effects on businesses.
Of course, Kanye’s voice has entered my head again, and I hear him saying, “some lawmakers must hate mothers.” Well, I’d venture to say that Mother’s Day must be pretty awkward when it rolls around each year for them.
There are several stipulations that might not cover you when you take leave
To qualify for unpaid maternity leave, women must work for a company that employs 50+ workers, have maintained employment with said employer for the 12 months prior to taking leave, and have at least 1250 hours under their belt of working hours over those 12 months.
This means that if you’re a temporary worker, or a woman that works for a small business, you need to step up your pumping game and hope that you can afford a safe and reliable sitter.
Partially paid maternity leave only exists in a handful of states
When I found this out, I thought I had entered the Twilight Zone (and that dude with the creepy voice appeared in the corner of my office telling me that I’ve entered an “alternate universe”).
There are around 3 states that offer some type of paid maternity leave. These states are: California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Paternity leave? Yeah, that’s not a thing
You thought mothers had it bad. Well, for many fathers their needs to take care of their children is not even considered by policymakers. Unless, of course, his parenting style is more like Don Draper and less like Tom Hanks, at which point he couldn’t possibly care any less about parental leave.
But if he’s anything like my husband, he is as committed to his child (in our case, his step-daughter) as a mother. But since states provide very little post-natal/postpartum support in the way of maternity leave, it’s no surprise that they don’t provide it to fathers.
These embarrassing facts, coupled with, according to the CDC, approximately 40% of babies in the US are born to unwed mothers; the average cost of childcare totaling $196 per week; and that single mothers and single fathers make approximately 31% and 45%, respectively, of a two-parent household, the situation looks catastrophic for many families.
This is the main reason why I left the US. In Germany, parents are provided with subsidized childcare, no matter their income, where the state pays for the majority of the overall cost. In my case, even as a non-EU national I just had to pay a paltry 28 euros a month. Also, here in Ireland, the state covers 3 hours of childcare a day (during the work week), and they send every mother 140 euros, per month for each child. This doesn’t matter if you have a high-paying job, or no job at all. Whilst it’s not as good as Germany, the laws here in Ireland still provide support to families.
Also, parents are provided with both maternity and paternity paid leave to help them bond with their babies.
Share your story. How are you dealing with the piss poor maternity leave laws in the US?
#maternityleavelaws #postpartum #postnatal #OECD #CaliforniaMaternityLeaveLaws #paternityleave #JohnOliverShow