Over the last week, I’ve been asked my opinion on the recent TIME Magazine cover no fewer than twenty times. Apparently, having birthed a baby recently was supposed to mean I should care. Or something.
The article associated with the now notorious cover (which became a hot topic even before the actual edition of the magazine hit newsstands) discusses a style of parenting called attachment parenting and, by extension, mothers nursing their children for extended periods of time. I’d go into more detail on the theory and principles behind attachment parenting if I had more time, but I’m sorry – I’m busy perfecting my “style” of parenting. I just like to call it “parenting” and it involves me making sure my child stays alive. It’s working out pretty well for us so far.
This article has added more fuel to the fire in the so-called “mommy wars,” specifically due to the cover questioning if readers are “MOM enough.” Because, seriously, we mothers need more people to size us up and point out the million ways we are failing. ::eye roll::
It’s true though, we mothers are in the middle of a war. But, the battle isn’t attachment parenting against plain “just-make-it-out-alive” parenting. It’s not stay-at-home moms versus working moms. It isn’t whether it is better to breastfeed for 6 months or 6 years. It isn’t about bed-sharing versus the crib. These petty wars, which pin Mom against Mom in a competition to win society’s crown as “Super Mom,” are a diversion from the real problem. And if you’re an American mother, you need to wake the f*ck up.
The real problem: Our country is treating us like shit.
Did you know that the United States in one of the only industrialized nations that does not provide a mandatory maternity leave benefit? It’s true. Just look at some of these international examples:
Canada, up to 50 weeks at 55% paid.
France, 16 weeks rising to 26 weeks for third child – and up to 104 weeks unpaid. Yup, that’s 2 years.
Germany, 14 weeks (100% paid) 6 of which taken before birth, then 12/14 months at 65% paid.
Sweden, 16 months parental leave (that’s right – for both mom and dad) at 80% paid.
United Kingdom, currently 39 weeks paid, due to rise to 52 weeks paid.
Shall I keep going, or are you pissed off enough yet?
According to USA Today, “out of 168 nations in a Harvard University study last year, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave, leaving the United States in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.” God bless the U.S.A.!!!
Why are we so busy fighting over what some mothers decide to do with their boobs? Why are we not more worked up about this!
Most of you have probably heard of the U.S. Family Medical Leave Act, which allows eligible employees to take unpaid and job-protected leave (up to 12 weeks in a year) for specified family and medical reasons. The birth or adoption of a child qualifies, so you probably thought that this was the U.S. equivalent to the above examples.
However, the keyword in the above would be “eligible.”
To fall under FMLA, you must have worked for your employer at least 12 months, and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. Additionally, you must work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
So, sorry if you just started a new job. Guess you shouldn’t have gotten knocked up. Also, sorry if you only work part-time. Just shouldn’t have gotten pregnant. And, the one most near and dear to my heart– too bad if you work in a small office or telecommute. If your company doesn’t want to hire more than 50 people and, if they do, those employees don’t work within 75 miles of each other, you just shouldn’t be makin’ babies.
When I got pregnant, I discovered firsthand how awesome it is to be an American mother. You see, my company had over 50 employees but we worked remotely (i.e., from home). So, because the 65 employees didn’t all live within a 75 mile radius, my employer was loop-holed out of having to comply with FMLA. I didn’t even fall under Maine law, because I was the only employee they had in the state.
The company made up for it with what they called a “generous” short-term disability plan. 6 weeks. OmgthankyousomuchthatisSOgenerous!!!!!11!!!!!eleven
I had to return to work before Charlie was even capable of sleeping through the night. I had to return to work before Charlie and I could establish proper breastfeeding. I had to return to work before my post-partum bleeding had stopped. I had to return to work before I was even cleared to do the deed again with my own husband. I had to pray every day that I didn’t get PPD because I was out of PTO. FML.
Upon returning to work, the good fight has only just begun for most women. Luckily, working from home provided me the freedom to pump my breast milk freely. Most women are not so lucky. They are left pumping in bathroom stalls, or in their cars. Some women are fired because they need to pump. God forbid they have to travel with a pump. And seriously, I feel bad for any mom that works for Target.
I guess the good thing about being forced to return to work after just a few weeks is that your breast milk supply tanks so fast, you probably won’t even have to fight for your right to pump.
But, don’t fret, you will still wear the scarlet ‘M’ on your sweater. Because god forbid you need to take time off with a sick child, or need to leave right on time to pick your baby up from day care – that establishment to which you pay more than your mortgage. You can be a professional and you can be a mother, but if you show any hint of the former you’re probably going to be viewed as the company’s weakness.
Why is it this way?
The USA Today article shifts blame to the American feminist movement, which didn’t want to hear anything about mothers. The focus was strictly equal rights for women with no room for special treatment.
I’m not trying to blame all the wrongs facing mothers on this historical movement that brought American women so far. I would only like to point out that there are intrinsic, natural, hormonal differences between a man and a woman. And whether we like it or not, these differences need to be taken into consideration in the fight for equality. Because it we don’t fight for them, we will end up with just another form of discrimination.
There have been some minimal attempts to make change, all of which have been shot down by our government. Most likely, due to the all important question – who is going to pay? U.S. employers already pay $21 billion a year in relation to FMLA. [cite] But, there has to be a financial pro to fair treatment of mothers. If there isn’t, why are so many other countries providing these benefits?
What about the increased health benefits that more successful breastfeeding would provide? What about lowering stress levels for mothers who feel like they have to “do it all” – could we prevent some cases of PPA/PPD? What about fewer medical bills for children who are sick each and every week in day care – like the 6-week-old that lands in the NICU with RSV? What about the mothers who would rather quit their jobs and collect welfare in order to stay home with their children? What about the breakdown of the family unit that can result from too much stress with a newborn?
Could all of these costly things be remedied if we only were given more time? More time to learn, to nurture, to be with our little ones? To be mothers?
If you are not a mother, you at least have one. Why would you not want mothers to be allowed the time that they need with their babies? My plea is that women of America (and everyone else) get off of each others’ asses about how long to breastfeed and whether or not it’s appropriate to do it in public. Stop judging the mother with her kid on a leash, and the one that lets her baby sleep on his belly.
How about, instead, we get on our government’s ass about giving us more time to do what we are meant to do – to just be parents.
I am writing to Congress on this topic – will you do the same??? Let’s show them that we are ALL mom enough and we deserve the right to be just that – moms.
Sign the Change.org Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/paid-maternity-leave-for-all-u-s-women
Read my follow up to this post here: Frankly, it’s really just easier to hire a MAN!