Maternity Leave in America SUCKS!

Let's just get it out there, shall we. I am NOT happy about returning back to work after being on maternity leave! Granted that I took 12 weeks FMLA and some vacation time to boot, I still can't bring myself to the point where I can be comfortable leaving my baby and going to work. The earliest memory that I have is from when I was probably 6-9 months old. I was sitting in a chair, watching my Mom walk away from me. I am convinced that this is the start of the animosity that I had towards her when I was little about not spending enough time with me. Of course, I've gotten over it by now, but I'm still secretly paranoid of the scars I'm going to leave on Betty during her childhood. It doesn't help that I'm REALLY into astrology and read in my "Secret Language of Relationships" book that Betty and I's worst relationship pairing would be parent-child.


...Maybe this is the time of my life that I should put all of this astrology shit behind me. If anything, reading that our relationship could potentially be challenging should be more of a "reminder" to me that life, especially parenthood, is about patience, empathy, and understanding. -More reason to keep my volcanic nature in "dormant mode" as I venture into Mommy-dom.

I digress. So, since Pat is laid off and his Dad is sick, he's going to be Mr. Mom for a while. We had originally hoped for Pat's temporary contract job would turn into a permanent one, but things just didn't work out that way. I'm kind of glad because we would have had to put Betty in daycare right away. As daunting a scenario as it is going down to one income and unemployment again with a baby, I am thoroughly glad that I don't have to leave my infant with complete strangers at a day-care....yet.

Although I have postponed a potentially scarring "mother moment", I still can't help thinking about how much better I'd feel if I had more time with my baby. It still boggles my mind that our country is considered to be so advanced, yet our maternity rights are so behind other countries. Namely, we STILL don't have the right to paid leave!? We are one out of FOUR countries in the WORLD that don't get some kind of paid leave. The other countries must be like England or Australia or something, right? -Countries with some semblance of our economical standing? Ah, no. The other countries are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. I can guarantee that most people in America don't even know where the hell those countries are.

The Swedes get a FULL YEAR of maternity leave that you can share with the father! The unfortunate trade off is that it's really hard to get executive positions if you are a woman, because of the maternity laws. Sweden's top earners are all men. (Although, my source for that is old...I wonder how different it is now!) Financially, it makes sense to me that you should only be able to take up to a certain amount of time to take care of your baby without your uterus bringing about the demise of a company. However, I think it's ludicrous that we can't get at least 6 weeks paid!

Googling "maternity leave in America" brings up sad results.  However, I did find an article that says there is a bill , the Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Actthat is trying to be passed in the senate.  This bill would allow federal employees up to four weeks paid leave.  Although that sounded like a promising start, I'm miffed that this doesn't cover people who are NOT a federal employee.  What about the rest of us who don't work for the govt.??? I found no current articles saying whether or not the bill was passed in the senate. I guess not, since the passing would have been plastered all over the news! Another article says some people blame the US Feminist Movement for the reason we are so behind other countries. They rallied for equal rights, but now that we have them, we are paying for it with our lousy maternity leave!!! Really?? Is it really a "have our cake and eat it too" situation that women should have equal rights AND the right to not lose our standing with our jobs just because we want to reproduce?  What are we doing (or not doing) as modern women in America to let this go for so long? How have we become so complacent, that none of us are dong anything to change this? Are we too busy being full time employees and full time moms?

If Australia in 2011 can get 18 weeks paid, then I don't see why we can't we get paid leave too.  After all, who wants to be the cheese that stands alone? If and when Australia passes this law, the US will be the only industrialized nation that doesn't make it mandatory that their citizens get some sort of paid leave.

I really hope that some day there will be something like the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act that will be passed for all parents. I'd love for my husband to have the right to take time off to spend with his baby too!  It's hard to believe that Dads haven't had that right for a long time.  America, or the world for that matter, just can't embrace the idea of Mr. Mom. I can't find one parenting magazine, floor mop ad, or baby product ad that is geared towards men.  It's like today's advertising execs still think that men don't know how to mop a floor or take care of a baby. How can they still be so blind? With the economy in the toilet, there are more and more families have stay at home fathers who probably mop a floor and change a diaper during their day to day routine!

I'm glad to see that there are some stay-at-home Dads who are networking together and trying to give more exposure to the Mr. Mom trend. However, I'm not sure that I approve of how some of them are going about it. There's a local Atlanta DJ that put together a group called "Dads Between Gigs", a group "for unemployed dads to network with other unemployed dads while giving their kids something fun to do". Am I wrong in finding something backwards about the title of this group? I feel like it perpetuates an air of antiquity when we could otherwise be embracing this time as a chance to take a step forward in how we view modern family life. After all, there would NEVER be a group called "Mom's Between Gigs"! Why is it hard for modern society to accept the role of fathers as primary care givers?

I can see why this is a hard topic to sort out the pros and cons, but I find it really surprising that there aren't more bills being passed to remedy the shortfalls of our parental leave laws. Today's American parents need to reverse the notion that we all can't have a great career unless we are childless and willing to forgo taking time to raise a family.  What is it going to take to get the US to jump on the bandwagon and allow our citizens to have their reproductive rights honored by making it mandatory to provide paid time off to raise our babies?  Until we get this answered, I, like the rest of American moms, will be returning to work and leaving my baby all too soon.


NIKOL said...

Amen, sister. I agree with pretty much everything you said.

After our first son was born, my husband quit his job to go back to school. He was Mr. Mom during the day and went to classes at night. I was the breadwinner. I'm so glad that our son was raised by one of his parents for the first few years of his life. (I'm sad that parent wasn't me.) I think it's unfortunate that stay-at-home dads aren't recognized more often. Even little things like the fact most public men's rooms don't have a changing table show how marginalized dads can be.

"Dads Between Gigs" is kind of ridiculous. I mean, I get what they're saying. But what if being a dad IS their gig?

I also get irritated when stay-at-home moms call themselves Full Time Moms. Um, just because I work doesn't mean I'm a "part-time mom." I'm a mother ALL the time, thanks.

Great post! Sorry you have to head back to work and leave Betty. I feel your pain.

NIKOL said...

Thought of you today. (We were talking about names, and someone mentioned that she loved the name Betty). Hope all is well with you and the wee one!

Regina said...

Nikol, thanks for thinking of me! The wee one is WONDERFUL and my father-in-law has taken a turn for the better. -just living life between the deep breaths! ;o)