America is the so-called land of opportunity. Yet the most fundamental of maternal rights are largely ignored by the country with the highest maternal death rate in the developed world. Indeed, the United States remains the only country in the developed world that does not require employers to offer paid leave for new mothers,
The striking lack of social and structural support for mothers and families in the US was recently highlighted by The Guardian’s special report “The Motherload”. US mothers and fathers shared their stories, as did those who had moved there from other countries.
“This fear of being relegated to the sidelines [at work] can impact women even before the birth of a child. I personally suffered a miscarriage earlier in the year. I returned to work after taking minimal time off and didn’t tell any of my colleagues. I was afraid if my management knew I was trying to have a baby I would immediately be pigeonholed and overlooked for opportunities. There is something particularly traumatic about sitting through work meetings while miscarrying your child and knowing you can’t tell anyone about it,” said Sarah from New York City.
“I have a perspective to offer as a British person who had their first child in the UK, then moved with my family to the US where we had our second. The contrast was shocking. Attitudes, lack of parental leave, the cost, everything,” wrote Julian Ehrhardt, New York, who is the founder of Pledge Parental Leave.
One new mother expressed her dismay at having to return to work a mere six weeks after giving birth. “I am totally dreading having to go back to work in five weeks, when my daughter will still be so little. And my husband has had even less time with her, she was born on a Friday and he went back to work on the Monday. I can’t help comparing my experience to my friends in England who are able to take at least six months off to be with their babies,” said Cecilia from LA.
What is maternity leave like in the country where you live? What is your employer’s policy? Di you think it is fair or unfair? Share your story with us!