Since the birth of my twins I have dedicated my time to understanding and advocating for the need for paid parental leave in the US. I have learned that the biggest hurdle this nation needs to overcome before solving this crisis for working families is our own discussion around the issue.
Let’s start with maternity leave.
I have identified that aside from a few leaders in this discussion our main narrative about why parental leave is needed in this country is missing the point.
There are several points we are avoiding in our attempt to quickly blame our working families for their own “lack of preparation” and “entitlement issues” and move on to the next easily resolvable issue.
The point is that we have created a debilitating cycle for working families.
The point is that it is not our choice as a nation to simply stop procreating or working- nor should we want it to be. See Jessica Shortall’s amazing TedTalk around this point to hear more.
The point is we expect women to feel fully invested in as employees and if they choose to reproduce we don’t see why they can’t just leave the workforce for no more than 12 weeks (lest they be fired) unpaid while maintaining a healthy emotional, mental, and physical perspective after birthing another human being, recover from the near death experience that is birth, learn to mother a new child and return to work with little to no preparation, support, or guidance.
and we wonder why women don’t come back.
The feelings of guilt and inadequacy associated with this experience are enough to paralyze any career driven person.
This is not an entitlement issue. Mothers need time with their babies after birth to bond and recover from labor and pregnancy.
It’s time, as a nation, that we start having honest conversations around maternity leave.
THE POINT is that as a nation we put undue emotional, mental, physical, and financial stress on 50% of our work force who are also the mothers to the future of our country in their most vulnerable stage of life.
This stress also directly effects maternal and infant mortality rates in this country.
This is a direct cost that men in the workforce do not endure in the same way. Our experiences in this regard are not equal, yet we expect equal response.
Who are we as a nation if we do not empower our women and therefore, our families? It’s time, as a nation, that we start having honest conversations about our women and children.
“Why can’t families just save?” In a time where 61% of working married couples have two working parents, it is difficult to save for 3 months of unpaid leave for one of those members.
The fact that most families cannot save the correct amount to pay themselves during this temporary unemployment period puts financial strain on families that often leads to long-term debt. This especially applies to the 40% of American households in which a woman is the sole or primary breadwinner.
Women are forced in many of these instances to return to work earlier than they are prepared to. Today in the US 25% of women return to work within 10 days of giving birth.
Before we decide what kind of solutions our working families need, we need to get to the root of this issue.
To the moms- I hear you and I am you. I will not stop working, listening, and standing up every day so that we can have actual solutions and support that address our needs to be both successful business women and kick ass moms. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Find your community- you are welcome here- and participate in the conversation about your real life experience with this issue that has been sugar coated and stepped over for far too long.
To the dads and partners- we need you too. Keep kicking butt. Continue to stand up for what you know your family needs. The most successful Take 12 registries I have seen were led by the supportive spouse/partner. You know what your mama needs- time to recover and bond (and feel like a human again before returning to work). Continue to validate, support, and fight for her ability to stay home for the amount of time she needs so when she returns she can feel empowered to make it happen in every facet of her life. Help give her strength with your words, actions, and time.
Please share your maternity leave story in the comment below. This is a place for community and empowerment- Hurtful comments, though they are your own, do not have a place here.
It’s time to change the national discussion on paid parental leave.
We start here.