For arguably one of the most powerful countries in the world, the US is seriously lagging behind when it comes to maternity leave.
The law states that new mothers are entitled to just 12 weeks maternity leave, and there is no obligation for this to be paid.
Unsurprisingly, this falls short of what you might expect from one of the world’s wealthiest counties. The International Labor Organization recommends all women should be entitled to at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Some companies in the US are leading the way and offering decent packages for new mothers and fathers. In particular, the competitive tech industry seems to be falling over itself to offer decent parental leave packages for both mothers and fathers.
While this is great for the professionals who work in that industry, it’s not representative of the wider job market in the US. The 12 weeks of maternity leave guaranteed by US law does not apply to all women. In fact, around 40% of workers do not qualify for the leave.
Sadly, many new mothers find themselves facing just 12 weeks of leave after the birth of their babies. This leave is unpaid, so some mothers are forced back to work early, simply because they cannot afford three months without pay. Going back to work so early means that many new mothers are trying to juggle breastfeeding and work. Returning to work so soon after the birth of a baby can be heartbreaking for the new mamas, and some women have been getting creative to try and stay home with their babies a little longer.
For families on low incomes, it can be near impossible to save money whilst paying rent, bills and food costs. These families are simply unable to save extra money to cover unpaid durations from work, and that means many are forced to cut short their maternity leave. To try and buy a bit of extra time with their newborn babies, some new mamas have started crowdfunding to raise money to cover the cost of their maternity leave.
Crowdfunding Maternity Leave
A quick search for ‘maternity leave’ on crowdfunding site gofundme brings up over 1,300 results. One gofundme campaign entitled “Laura’s Maternity Leave” states: “We had a solid gameplan in place for Laura to take time off when Arwen was born, but between car repairs, child support stopping suddenly, and other miscellaneous unexpected financial troubles we are in a tough spot.”
The campaign raised $1,500, and the couple updated the page a month ago to add: “Laura and I are overwhelmed by the amount of support in just a few days. Our family thanks you all, we plan to pay this forward once we are back on solid ground. Again thank you all.”
There are hundreds more families like Laura’s asking for help on the site. Whilst it’s great to see members of the community stepping up to help these new families enjoy those first few weeks together free from stress, a change in employment law would be a much better solution.
Women planning for the arrival of their baby should be able to do so safe in the knowledge that they will be allowed paid time off to spend with their newborn. Having a newborn isn’t easy, and it can take weeks to recover from the birth. If you have a c-section, doctors recommend a six week recovery period. You’ll need time to get to grips with breastfeeding, time to bond with your baby and time to adjust to life as a new family. Any mama will be able to tell you how vulnerable they felt during this time, and that’s without the constant threat of falling short on rent.
If you’re based in the US and would love to see all women offered paid maternity leave just like many other countries, write to your congressional representative about this issue today. Change only happens when people demand it. The US and Papua New Guinea are now two of the only countries failing to offer paid maternity leave to new mothers.
About time that changed, don’t you think?
Recommended Reading: If you live in Australia, you can find out more about what paid parental leave you’re entitled to here.