I thought I was done in my previous post, but it turns out I’m not. I can’t leave this topic alone.
The United States (and Australia) needs to implement a paid parental leave policy. It has been attempted several times, and shot down each and every time. Why? Because businesses are scared of the possible costs in instituting such a program, and they worry that they will lose workers due to paid time off. Also, the rich fatties up in Congress are so far removed from the average American family that they have no idea of the financial struggles a child can produce. I’m sure W would love to see women returning to the home to raise their children (if they’re married, Christian, and not gay, that is), but you can bet he’s not going to provide the funding to make it possible.
Businesses worry that paid leave will cost them, both in money and employees, yet the opposite has proven to be true. The more parental leave benefits a company offers (paid time off, flex-time, telecommuting, etc.), the more likely the employee is to return to their job, and less money and time will be needed to hire and train new employees. Amazing, eh? You take care of your employees, and they will reward you with loyalty!
Now, the American society will inevitably ask the ever important question: what’s in it for them? Sure, providing longer and paid leave will help those who are having the children, there’s no doubt to that. But why should we have to pay for others to stay home with their children?
Much of the answer to that can be found in this document. There are plenty of studies confirming that breastfed children have many long-term benefits from breastfeeding, including stronger immune systems. Women who can establish and continue a breastfeeding relationship with their child will require less sick time to care for their children when they are older. Children will miss less school. And women who are given plenty of time to recover from childbirth will be able to resume their duties with fewer long-term health issues.
Also, forget No Child Left Behind – the truth is that many of our children, especially those in poorer areas, are being left behind in large numbers. Paid leave demonstrates that we as a society care about the well-being of our children. It recognizes that children are the future of the country as the future workforce, and should be considered just as important as today’s employees and employers. If children feel valued, it will likely help their emotional and cognitive development, hopefully resulting in improved grades in school and less teen crime.
However, the United States tends to not think in this kind of way. We focus only on the short-term gain and not on the greater long-term benefits. Even though mothers (and fathers) are raising that next workforce, our labor as parents is considered worthless. There is no immediate benefit from a mother taking a leave from her career to help establish a solid foundation for her children. There is no immediate benefit from a mother choosing to breastfeed her child, and therefore needing a private space to pump at work. An educated woman who chooses to stay home with her children is considered a loss to the economy instead of a benefit for the economy to come.
As mothers, it’s time to step up and defend who we are. Queen of Spain was right: moms are the “in” thing to discuss right now. So let’s use that platform to demand some notice of what we do, and force people to realize that as a country, we are failing our future generations at the moment. We need a national paid parental leave policy. We need greater time off from our jobs to spend with our newborns. We need parenting to be given just as much respect and value as a job as we do doctors, teachers, CEOs, and congressmen. We need a way to help those moms who have NO CHOICE to finally have that choice.
Some of you may have seen MomsRising.org. If not, go there and get involved! (If you’re in Australia, you can also go here to get involved in your country’s fight for paid leave.) If you’re in the privileged class, use that privilege to help your fellow woman. If you are a woman with no choice, speak out about it any chance you get.
It reduces me to tears to know that there are so many mothers out there who want so much to be there for their children, but feel they can only half-ass it because they have no choice but to work. My own mother was in that situation, and I still hear the guilt in her voice when we are together. She has nothing at all to be guilty about.
*deep breath* OK, I think the rant is finished. For the moment.
Ladies, I think we have some work to do.