I can’t believe it has been 3 years since I wrote this little ditty on maternity leave. Even more, I can’t believe it has been 3 years since I wrote that little ditty and not a goddamn thing has changed in mandated federal family leave policies. Since 2012, I’ve gotten a second round at what I hoped would be a better maternity leave with my little girl. And while my second experience was better because I actually qualified for FMLA, it was far, far, far from what I should have been given.
In the year 2015, the United States is still the only advanced country that offers no universal paid leave policy. 12% of U.S. women have access to paid leave after childbirth. Twelve percent. The one proposal to make any attempt to fix this massive problem, the FAMILY Act, has been stalled in Congress since 2013. Some employers have taken the issue into their own hands, increasing family leave benefits to both their female and male employees. These actions are commendable for sure, but they are not enough. Outcry after outcry from the bipartisan public – both male and female, childfree and childfull – and we are still left with little change. How can a country that so willingly gives to other countries in the face of crisis give so little to its own? I will never understand.
It’s probably because the consequences of paid leave policies are becoming more clear. Like how, according to the New York Times, “paid leave does not necessarily help businesses — but it does not seem to hurt them, either.” Wow, that is a significant consideration. ::eyeroll:: Especially when we couple it with the fact that there is a correlation between better leave policies and mothers staying in the workforce and eventually earning higher wages. I can see the risk there, totes mcgoats.
So, you know what U.S. – we don’t need you. Yep, I’m saying it…. screw maternity leave policies. They are soooo 1988. Who needs them? Certainly not American moms, who we know can do it all and be it all in ALLTHETHINGS! We are super human and it’s time we just suck it up and deal. So, I’m putting it all out there, so everyone will finally just shut up about it.
Here are 10 reasons that the U.S. can take it’s non-existent paid family leave policies and shove ’em up its dirty diaper pail:
10. I have vacation time. And sick time. And disability insurance. I know, you might be thinking that those things are used for crazy things like – I dunno – vacations, being sick, or catastrophic events that render a person disabled. As if they are some type of “benefit” of being employed. Well, you would actually be correct…unless you have a uterus, and said uterus becomes occupied. Of course in that scenario, you must hoard all benefited leave time so that you can give birth. You couldn’t possibly need time off for anything else, right? I mean, let’s not be greedy here moms. Oh, and those who don’t get any or all of those things as a benefit of employment – obviously, they should just find a better job. Problem solved.
9. I need health insurance, because a human being has just sprung from my insides. And also, the new little human is required to go for a doctor’s visit like every 20 minutes. So obviously I will jump right back to work so that I can get my medical bills covered. Health insurance is that pesky little thing that costs me about $22,000 a year, that I also have to pay for fully out of pocket or through forfeiting that precious vacation time when I am out on any kind of disability leave. So I am indebted to you forever, oh my humble employer, for giving me the gift of maintaining good health which is totally a privilege and not a right.
8. I have to pay for all the things that my $22,000 per year health insurance didn’t cover. One might think that paying so much out of pocket for insurance would mean that health events are actually covered under that insurance. But – surprise!!! Still gotta pay 20%. Or some crazy $5,000 deductible. So, it’s time to make the donuts. Also, don’t forget to bring a donut to sit on since you probably still have massive hemmies. Doesn’t matter – you gotta work so you can pay more for the things that didn’t get paid for, under your policy that you thought would pay for it.
7. All post-partum women look like this within 24 hours. This is, like, totally realistic.6. I love to LEAN In. Working harder to prove myself so that I can make 78% of what a man makes for doing my same job, YES PLEASE! That’s my idea of a fun time. Obviously, if I just sit at the table, lean over the table, or jump on top of the table, I can improve this labor statistic that has remained stagnant for over a decade. I’ve just had a newborn baby, but my top priority is working harder for my employer who probably will not even pay me what I’m worth.
5. It’s my own fault that I didn’t prepare better for this life event. Never mind the fact that I entered adulthood saddled with student loan debt, that the job outlook for my generation post-college was shit, or that I purchased my first home and it immediately went under water in the housing market crash the following year. I make a good salary, but often still barely get ends to meet. Regardless, these economic events were all foreseeable in my crystal ball and had I actually had any sense I would have saved my pennies for the day I wanted to start a family. I should have started this when I got my first job at 15. Shame on me for getting pregnant without a 6-month emergency fund.
4. I need to pay for childcare. You know, the place my kids go while I work so that I can pay to send them to the place they go while I work. (Wait, wut?) According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), the price of childcare in the U.S. ranges from $3,582 to $18,773 a year ($300 to $1,564 monthly)….per child. Many countries subsidize childcare – like Sweden – but obviously if the U.S. isn’t going to do anything about the medical costs of having a baby or the legislation allowing you to recover from having said baby, they sure as hell ain’t gonna pay for me to get to have someone else raise the damn baby. And why should they foot the bill for that luxury? It’s not like I had a child so I could do something crazy, like rear it.
3. Who doesn’t need a boost to their immune system? I was feeling like I definitely had not been exposed enough in my life to awful ailments like hand, foot and mouth, RSV, and the stomach flu. Since I’m paying so much for my health insurance, the smart thing to do is to get my money’s worth by using it. Obviously. So of course, let’s put our kids all together for 9 hours a day so they can snot all over each other and we can pass germs back and forth through our young families. Once we have been exposed to eleventy-hundred diseases, our immune systems will be solid as shit. Unfortunately, I might not have an sick time to take since I used it all for my maternity leave so I hope you don’t mind when I come to work with these germs and spread them to the general public too. Don’t worry, it’s just building up your immune system.
2. Breastfeeding is really hard anyway. Like, it hurt and it stressed me out. So, really, thank you for forcing my hand by sending me back to work 6 weeks after giving birth when I had not yet been able to establish proper feeding with my newborn. Going back to work immediately made me produce about half the amount of milk, and before long I was drier than the Sahara desert. They make formula anyway, so who cares about allowing me the freedom to choose how I feed my baby. Ain’t nobody got time for so many pump breaks.
1. I’ve got a village. You know that old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child?” The second I had my children, people crawled out of the woodwork to shower me with naps and food and help and naps and…showers. I literally had to beat them back with a stick. They were all, “Please please, let me help you in this most difficult time of your life as you have just brought a little miracle into the world!” Or waaiiit…is that right? I was in a sleep deprived haze during those days, so I could be a little foggy on the details. But I’m pretty sure it was something like that.
So, there you go. I’ve now got the hindsight of 2 babies and 2 maternity leaves, and hindsight tells me that there is no reason we can’t just expect all women to step out for a lunch break, pop out a kid, and be back to work in an hour. These here are 10 logical and amazing reasons that we do not need any kind of “special treatment” for creating, introducing, and nurturing human life. As moms, we should just totally suck it up. Be resigned to the fact that our needs are irrelevant, unimportant, and frivolous.
Or maybe…and I could be crazy here… but maybe we can do something to change it?