By Michelle | December 5, 2012
I don't know if you heard, but word on the street is that Kate Middleton is pregnant. That's right, Christmas has come early for the palace peepers and they could just about shit. If you don't keep up on all things "Kate and Wills", you may be wondering what this means for the rest of us. The answer to that question is, absolutely nothing. It literally affects that majority of the world in no way. Yet still, apparently internet searches have spiked 18,305%, proving that the rest of the free world leads extraordinarily boring lives.
Unfortunately, it was a horrible case of hyperemesis gravidarum that thrust Kate's early pregnancy into the limelight. Puke has never seemed so pretty! Personally, I was lucky that I never once threw up while knocked up. So it's true that I can't really empathize with Kate's current condition. But that one time I almost gagged myself with my toothbrush was really bad, and thanks to those genetically modified daycare stomach bugs, I have puked more in the last 12 months than ever before in my whole entire life...so I have sympathy. If the reports are correct, her condition is even worse. Pregnancy can be a bitch like that.
The exciting news is that Kate is so rich and so famous, she will probably be receiving the best care available across the pond. (So you don't have to lose sleep tonight or anything.) Even though living in the spotlight may have huge pitfalls, it's safe to say that Kate's entire pregnancy, birth and parenting experiences will be much better than most of us American's - excessive vomiting and all. And not just because she's so rich that she shits out shillings. Well actually, yes, that is why. But apart from that, if you think about it, just about every Brit mother is at an advantage to us Americans. And if Kate was just some working-class pregger instead of 'the Dutchess', she'd still have a leg up. Because guess what those mamas get that we don't?
Ding, ding, ding! If you guessed mandated family leave, you win One Million Dollars! (Do you accept personal checks? If you could wait until Friday to cash it, that'd be great.)
I've learned a lot since the last time I got all high-horsey about this subject. However, due to 'budget restraints' and the government's general lack of ability to do a goddamn productive thing, not a whole lot has changed. The United States is still one of just 3 countries lacking a mandated family leave policy. Don't fret though - we are kicking ass when it comes to maternal mortality, with an increase of more than 50% in recent years. Oh...wait....
On top of that last stellar statistic, 8 out of every 1000 of our children under the age of 5 will die, and we rank about as low as possible when it comes to breastfeeding. I don't know about you, but being the 25th best country to raise a child really makes me proud to be an American.
The last time I wrote on this topic, the biggest push-back I got was from people like my old buddy, John, who - like many Americans - argued that he was sick and tired of paying for people to freeload. While I understood the basic logic behind John's muddled, chauvinist and offensive comments (Why should I have to pay for you to procreate when I can just hire a man???), it was obvious to me that a social program such as family leave didn't necessarily have to be the equivalent of what are considered some of the country's biggest failures.
Oh how I wish I had found this Rutger's University study, Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public, to back me up back when John was all up my ass.
The study shows that "... women who take paid leave are 39 percent less likely to receive public assistance and 40 percent less likely to receive food stamps in the year following a child’s birth, when compared to those who do not take any leave. Not only is paid leave associated with fewer dollars in public assistance spending, it reduces the chance that a family receiving public assistance will increase its use of public funding following a child’s birth."
“While we have known for a long time about the maternal and infant health benefits of leave policies, we can now link paid family leave to greater labor force attachment and increased wages for women, as well as to reduced spending by businesses in the form of employee replacement costs, and by governments in the form of public assistance,” says author Linda Houser, an affiliate fellow of the Center for Women and Work an assistant professor at Widener University. Professor Thomas Vartanian, Bryn Mawr College, co-authored the report.
And for good measure, I'd also like to throw in that, as Forbes Magazine states:
- "Paid family leave acknowledges and addresses a reality that directly impacts every business and, therefore, should be planned for strategically, uniformly and deliberately;"
- "Paid family leave is NOT a tax, but income replacement insurance program funded by employees at minimal cost and"
- "We are paying for a cost for caregiving already, albeit indirectly and inefficiently."
HOLD THE PHONE! You mean there are benefits to a mandated family leave policy? You mean the other 175 countries were offering that benefit for a reason? Weird.
After I wrote my first post on this subject, I noticed a ramping up on the interwebs of articles being written in support of paid family leave in the U.S. Or, at least agreeing with the sentiments that it's bullcrap that we are the only wealthy nation that treats mothers with such blatant disregard. Maybe it was just a coincidence, or simply that I was interested in the subject so these articles began to catch my attention. Either way, I am taking credit for inspiring this conversation because it makes me feel way more important than I really am.
So why am I ranting about this again? Because, no one seems to be doing anything. I received a lovely rejection letter from Senator Olympia Snowe in response to my first letter, which, in so many words, told me not to hold my breath for any kind of family leave mandate. It seems this whole "fiscal cliff" debacle is creating quite the diversion to allow our government to do absolutely nothing about our #firstworldproblems.
But now is the time to unite. Mothers and fathers across the U.S. need to realize, this affects us all. It affects us as citizens, as taxpayers, as mothers, as fathers, as children, as caregivers. Every mother deserves the right to care for her child. Every parent deserves to be cared for in their ill or dying days. The loss of our job should not be held over our heads as we care for ourselves and families... family should come first - not in theory, in reality.
It would be easy if we all had the resources of the Dutchess of Cambridge, and every other pregnant celebrity that the American public seems to go nuts over. But we don't. Maybe, instead of seeing the value of motherhood through star-studded goggles, our society should realize that it's not the Kate's and the Marissa Mayer's and the Jessica Simpson's and the Beyonce's that need so much fucking attention. It's all of the amazing mothers and fathers, all around us. And we all deserve the right to put our families first.
If you agree, click below to write your local government: