Lately I’ve become fed up/annoyed/disgusted with our current system of maternity leave here in the “land of the free”. Plain and simple, even in a progressive state like California the maternity leave system isn’t good enough.
Initially when I embarked on the headache of dealing with maternity leave (well over a year ago) I felt thankful that I live in California, a state where you can get 3 months paid (plus another month before the birth), and almost another three months unpaid leave… but at a risk of not having the same position you left.
Did you know that Canadians get a whole year? Just look at Europe and what they provide women there. In the UK women are entitled to 12 months’ maternity leave (and the first six weeks they receive 90 percent of their original pay. Italy offers 22 weeks at 80 percent pay — and that’s just for the moms. Dads? They get 3 months. (See more stats here).
So going back to the whole “Women Can’t Have it All” discussion and to a point that Anne-Marie Slaughter made, you know the one where she says that there needs to be support for women and families before there is ever true equality in the workplace? Yeah, well, I couldn’t agree more.
Why this rant now?
Well, a friend of mine just went through trying to figure out the whole nanny thing and going back to work thing, and while I have no idea what her emotional state is with it all (but I’m sure I could take a guess), it’s reminding me how I felt about going back and how there really is not support for women and nursing mothers. Companies say they provide this, and by law they are supposed to.
I personally found the going back to work environment less than supportive. My company didn’t have a “mother’s room,” only a wellness room. Which meant that men could use it too. You’d be surprised how many men I had to wait for, interrupt or argue with so I could use the room that I had booked (regardless if I booked it or not, by law I had priority over them). More often than not they were rude and annoyed by me (not lying). To avoid the confrontations, I took to the women’s locker room to pump and had to deal with at least one woman a day telling me there was a wellness room, and then explain to them the situation with the men napping in the wellness room. It was appalling at the minimum and the response from HR was absolute complacency (I was asked to get the names of the men and report back… I’m sorry? Come again?). Again, this was my experience and while I’m ranting a bit, but my point is that it’s extremely unfortunate that even in 2012 I was up against all this (at a Best Place to work company nonetheless).
Getting back to my point and to where I am now… If I had been given a year or even 9 months to spend with my little one, I would have definitely gone back and had the energy to do so. Breastfeeding would have been way less stressful and I wouldn’t have needed to be pumping so often to keep up my supply. I (probably) wouldn’t have gone back and left. I (likely) would have had the focus, the determination and drive to go at it again with a healthy amount of time with my son. Now that I’m consulting again I couldn’t love working more.
I just hope that more women have the support they need and are encourage to stay in the workforce if that’s what they want. AND I’m a firm believer that if women are given the time to adjust to motherhood and to adjust to their little one, they would be less likely to leave the workforce (if they are even able in the first place) and they would be more likely to perform above and beyond because when they do return, they’ll make every second count.
There are so many options and both the government and many companies aren’t supportive. If the government supports it suddenly we have a socialist president. If a company supports it, they take a huge hit financially — however there are options if you get creative.
- Longer leave times are the obvious first choice. However, this takes money and governmental and company support.
- Bosses/HR being supportive up front and not pressuring new moms to return and being sure to share and discuss all options vs. ignoring them or telling the mothers to figure it out with a 3rd party agency
- Companies offering new mothers to return part-time for the first few months back. This could actually be the best solution and create a win-win situation for both company and mom. The company wouldn’t be out an employee and the mom wouldn’t be out the money.
There needs to be a continued effort and reform to the American maternity-leave system to support women in the work-force. And while I could be kind and say we’re doing good with what we have, I could never lie because we’re not. It’s simply not good enough.