U.S. Parental Leave: Why is no one still fighting this fight?

I’ve started a new petition to the White House. We need 100,000 signatures by May 31st. Be a voice to create change: Sign it now! 

paid maternity leaveI was really hoping that when I had my second child, I wouldn’t have to write about this subject again. But either my husband and I work too fast, or our government works too slow. I’m going to go with a dark horse and say it’s probably the latter.

Yahoo! recently announced that they are expanding their maternity leave policy to give birth mothers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and 8 weeks to fathers and adoptive, surrogate or foster parents. While this is definitely a good thing and a step in the right direction, I’m kind of left feeling the way I did after my state passed gay marriage laws. Meaning, the excitement was partially eclipsed by that feeling of ‘Way to do the the right fucking thing that should have been happening all along, aholes.’

Side note: WTF makes a birth mother more important that the others? Okay yes, a body needs to heal after labor. But we also get 9 months of extra prep and/or bonding time over fathers, adoptive and foster parents. And we don’t have to deal with the emotional baggage of surrogacy. Sooooooo, what’s up with that?

By now, we all know that this company is run by a woman who gave birth and returned to work before her body was even capable of taking a regular shit again. (And yes, sorry if you didn’t already know, it’s really hard to do a number two after squeezing a human out of your number one.) Not that she had to worry about that, since she can afford a lifetime supply of Colace and she probably has more private bathrooms in her office than I do in my home. I bet one is located right next to the nursery she had built for her newborn. (A far cry from the rest of us, who are left begging our employers to provide us a private space that is NOT a bathroom to pump breast milk throughout the day.)

And so I’m left wondering, what prompted her to decide just 9 short months later that her employees deserve 8 times the amount of time she took off for the birth of her own child?

Maybe it was the bad PR she got for telling her employees that they were no longer able to telecommute. (Queue hate mail and ricin letters from working moms!) But I do have to say, WTF to the parents that claim telecommuting allows them the “flex schedule” they need to have their children home with them and yes, how dare this crazy CEO lady threaten that. Speaking from experience, I’d love to see the productive employee that can take care of a young child AND work at the same time. As a former exclusively remote employee for 3.5 years who also happened to get screwed by her telecommuting status giving her company the impression that they could illegally withhold her right to FMLA, I say: Impossible. And if you think you’re doing it, you’re the employee that all of your coworkers are trash talking behind your back because you’re not pulling enough weight. Sorry to break it to you.

When I was pregnant with Charlie, as soon as anyone found out I worked from home they would – without fail – respond, “Oh, that’s so great you have that flexibility with a new baby?”

Uhhh, what?

My former company required child care even though we were working from our homes – they were smart enough to realize that there is no way you can work an honest day while also tending to a small child. If companies assume otherwise, they’re doing telecommuting wrong. Or at least to their disadvantage. Just look at the data: Mayer did, and that’s why she made the decision she did. It is not possible to parent and work at the same time and do it well – that’s doing two full time jobs at once.

So retract the claws on that subject, working mama bears. And if you don’t believe me, just ask the stay at home moms, they’ll tell you – being “just a mom” all day IS a full time job. And then ask the working moms, who will remind you that they do not only their full time job, but they also keep working at job #2 as Mama when they get home. (So really, if you add that all together, maybe working from home while also having your children at home with you would be like doing THREE full time jobs?)

But, maybe this change to parental leave policy was Mayer’s way of saying “Hey moms, sorry I failed you as the Working Mom Poster Child by setting a ridiculously unattainable bar for the rest of you to try to reach by taking a 37-second leave, and then taking away the one thing that kept you sane by allowing you to shower on your lunch break and get your laundry done while also working. Let me throw you this bone instead.

Regardless, it’s about time there were more Yahoo!s and Facebooks and Google, Inc.’s around this country. It’s about time more states join the likes of California and New Jersey. NEWS FLASH: Paid family and medical leave is not a controversial topic. 73% of Republicans, 96% of Democrats and 87% of Independents support a universal policy. Washington: Get the fuck on it!!!

I’ve criticized Marissa Mayer quite a bit because I feel like, whether she “signed up for it” or not, when she accepted the position of CEO of Yahoo! she also became the spokeswoman for working moms. And with that spotlight and microscope comes a certain social responsibility and need to acknowledge that her actions reflect on every single other working mother out there. And at first, she took that opportunity, wrapped it around her son’s bum, and let him shit all over it. She – and Yahoo! – could have trail blazed a new path and initiated social change. Instead they gave us a big ol’ Eff You and put business needs ahead of children and parents.

But at least she is doing something now. Better late than never.

I said it a year ago, and I’m saying it again: we need to fight for parental leave rights. It has been almost 12 full months, and I’ve written blogs and letters that at least 190,000 of you have read. I’ve signed petitions, sat for hours on the phone with the Department of Labor, been contacted by lobbyists, local news outlets and an NBC national news program. And still, not a goddamn thing has changed.

In 5 short months, I’ll be giving birth to my second baby. It’s probably too late for me, but it’s not for future mothers. If you have a uterus or know someone who does, please be a voice for this. Whether you’ve decided to populate said uterus with another human being or not, it makes no difference. This isn’t just a woman’s right. It’s a family right. It’s our children’s right. It’s a human right. The law as it is exists today is not right. And it needs to change.

I’ve started a new petition to the White House. We need 100,000 signatures by May 31st. Be a voice to create change: Sign it now! 

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