Thursday, April 19, 2012

Having a baby in the United States, probably not a good choice?

I came across this article today from a friend about an Australian company and their incentive for women employees who return from maternity leave and come back to their jobs.  In summary, the company offers not only 14 PAID weeks off after the baby is born, but they also offer double, yep you heard that right, DOUBLE pay for 6 weeks when the woman returns to work as a means to retain their employees.  As mentioned in the article, this is on top of the already Australian government policy that offers women either 18 full weeks of pay at minimum wage or the amount of a $5,400 'baby bonus' per child, whichever is greater.  

Holy goodness.  

The article also mentioned that the United States is "one of just four countries in the world without a national law requiring paid time off for new parents."  Seriously?

On further digging, I found a chart of parental (typically maternity) leave listed by country, and what is covered of your salary.  That link is here.  I highly recommend that you check out the link, because what I found was astonishing, but altogether somewhat not surprising at the same time.

Our country does not value mothers.  It does not value fathers.  It does not value parenthood.  For so long our country has been dependent on the 'melting pot' idea where the means of growing our country was through new citizens, in addition to the highly capitalist society that values work, work, and more work with no focus on the family or actually what is good for the workers.  (Insurance in general is another indicator of the second part, but that is a WHOLE other issue, don't get me started there!)

I was so, so, so lucky with little man in that I took time off for 12 weeks to be with my son.  Many women and families do not even have that option, which truly saddens me.  Not only was that the time I spent learning who my child was and learning how to care for him, but it was spend bonding, cuddling, loving him.  It was spent establishing good sleep patterns for him, establishing my milk supply to feed him, establishing our relationship in a calm environment where I wasn't so extremely stressed out because he was up every hour all night long and I knew I had to tough it out at work the next day for 10 hours.  

But, it certainly was not easy on our finances.  I paid into short term disability for at least a year or two before I was pregnant, and then during my pregnancy.  Since I had a vaginal delivery, my wages were covered at 60% for 6 weeks, or so I thought (8 weeks for a c-section).  But, wait, they have a two week 'waiting period.'  So, you are only paid for 4 weeks of pay, at 60%, but only after you pay for short term disability, which, by the way, you also have to have set up BEFORE you find out you are pregnant.  

That leaves you to your vacation time.  If you have vacation time, you can use it when you're on maternity leave.  But that only applies if you accrue vacation/sick/paid time off, which a lot of people do not.  So, if you do have vacation time, and you use all of it to help cover your bills while you are on maternity leave such as feeding your family, having a place to live, keeping your home heated or cooled or supplied with running water, that leaves you with NO vacation time left when you return to work, which happens to also be the perfect storm... no vacation time + a newborn entering the wild world of daycare disease = an unhappy mama who either has to send a sick child or take further days off, not only putting herself in financial risk, but also likely angering her workplace.

It is a terrible, terrible situation.    

I have long desired to move somewhere more mother/baby/family friendly because of these facts, but I never will.  I won't because all of my family is here, all of my friends are here, my jobs are here.  I like where I live.  It is just so unfortunate that to have a child, you have to suffer.  And really, that is not putting it lightly.  

Compared to all the other countries that provide AT LEAST 12 weeks paid up to 60% automatically without having to do anything but pay your taxes (which, by the way, if you look at the wikipedia link above, is OVER one hundred and thirty other countries), we are suffering here as mothers, fathers, and children here in the United States.  

I don't know what the answer to this is, because I think to enact something like this, we need either a heck of a lot more women (and women who actually HAVE and CARE about family) in our government, or a huge shift in thinking by the men in our country, which is highly unlikely to happen.  

But please, if you feel so inclined, share this post.  I was, as I mentioned before, astonished to find out just how much other countries offer and how little the United States does.  People need to know about how our country treats family in relation to a direct comparison of how other countries value and uphold families.  This applies to all women who are or will become mothers and all men who are and will become fathers, so almost everyone!  

I guess the token response here is put in a letter to your government officials in regards to this problem, but there has to be another way to be heard.  I'd love to hear ideas in the comments, as this cannot be something  I am facing or saddened by alone.

2 comments:

  1. Getting to know more people in the US has made me truly appreciate where I live. I am in Quebec in Canada, if you look at the chart posted above we have a specific plan different than the rest of Canada which applies to both employees and self-employed people.

    While it still involves financial planning, I am so happy that I was able to spend a year home with my son. We had a lot of trouble breastfeeding in the beginning and it took 2 months of hard work before it really took. I think often about how if I had had to go back to work soon after his birth that I would not have been able to devote that time and both of us would have missed out on that wonderfully bonding and incredibly beneficial experience.

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  2. Sadly, I dont think our country will change anytime soon. America does not have a declining birth rate, like so many of the countries that offer incentives to have children. Therefore, our government doesn't yet find is necessary to value mothers and fathers.

    It so sad. Women deserve better, men deserve better, and most importantly babies deserve better.

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