Many Austin moms may not be aware that the United States is the only high-income nation in the world that does not have a federally mandated paid maternity leave program. Put simply: if you’re pregnant and working in America, you have no legal right to paid maternity leave. Put shockingly: women in Afghanistan, who can’t drive, by the way, get 13 weeks of paid leave. Huh?!
What’s your opinion about maternity leave?
American women (and men) are starting to voice their concerns over this inequitable situation. Blogs have been written, studies have been done, petitions have been filed. Unfortunately, nobody in politics wants to talk about another “safety net” program, especially after the controversial roll-out of Obamacare. The fact that the U.S. Congress is almost 80% male doesn’t help, either.
But we moms understand the criticality of bonding with our newborn babies. We have surprised ourselves with our unexpected talents nurturing our children. The notion that any woman should be denied the opportunity to properly care for her child because she had to return to work or lose her job is especially maddening to many of us. So while the issue may not be prominent in the media, it doesn’t mean it’s not important. And as moms, we are the ones who should be framing the discussion.
We need to have an opinion.
As a single working mother of two, I am especially keen to ensuring that women of all means and circumstances are positioned for success – especially after baby. I believe the best way to advance the topic of paid maternity leave is to encourage discussion on the key points of debate. Imagine yourself talking to a congressperson or senator about maternity leave. What would you say about the following issues?
- Should there be stipulations for how long a woman works for her employer before and/or after her due date to trigger leave benefits?
- Should a woman get 100% of her salary regardless of how much money she makes?
- Should the benefits of maternity leave be identical for each child that a woman has? Could the duration of leave and/or the paid benefits be reduced with each consecutive child?
- Should the policies for maternity leave be established at the federal level or at the state level?
- Should funding for maternity leave come from the government or from employers?
- Should the discussion of paternity leave be done in conjunction with or separate from maternity leave?
It’s a lot to think about!
Which is exactly why we moms need to start thinking and talking now. When the time comes for active debate about this critical issue, we’ll be prepared with well-thought out opinions.
Janis Powers is an Austin-based writer, consultant and entrepreneur. Her novel Mama’s Got a Brand New Job tackles the working mother conundrum through the eyes of a smart, fun professional mom. Janis blogs for The Huffington Post, consults to the healthcare industry, and vacations with her kids in far-flung places like Iceland and New Zealand.