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for most Americans, there is no real choice.
Nearly one in four mothers return to work two weeks after having a baby. That's fourteen days! (And
consider that nearly a third of labors end in C-sections). This, according to
of 2012 Department of Labor employees, which found that 12 percent took off a
week or less (!) and another 11 percent took two weeks off.
While the sampling was small (only 93 women) it jives with the larger
figures on mothers: Only some 13% of employees have any access to family
leave, according to the Bureau of
Labor Statistics (this includes caring for a sick family member). Of
course, it skews higher for high earners (1 in 5) with low earners bearing the
brunt of no leave (1 in 20).
A few states provide paid leave programs. A 2011 report "Leaves that Pay: Employer
and Work Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California" found that six years after the 2004 start of the California Paid Family Leave program,
businesses and workers reported positive effects. The study found "predictions that small
businesses would find it especially difficult to adapt to PFL were not borne
out; on the contrary, among the few employers that did report negative effects,
large businesses predominated."
So what's a new mom to do?
You could move
to Finland where maternity leave
begins 7 weeks before your due date, continues for four months after giving
birth, then get 70% of your salary for another five months? (Or most other
European countries, for that matter, which have better deals than the U.S.)
Understand that when it comes to going back to work, most women do not have a choice about it.
Or work at one of the tech giants—Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix—which all offer generous parental leave packages (generous for America, anyway)
But for moms, who don't have
much time to march on and are working, what can we really do?
For one thing you can support The Family And
Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY), a piece of legislation that would create a national
family and medical leave insurance program, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
You can also write letters to your Congress person urging them to make this matter a high priority.
And while it may seem obvious, come election time, vote. Vote for mothers and vote for families.
But more importantly, end the Mommy Wars. Understand that when
it comes to going back to work, most women do not have a choice about it. Most
women forced to return to low-paying jobs would probably give their eye-teeth
to stay home with their kids – especially in the first few months. And for
those who do want to return to work? Good for them, if they have the resources
to cover childcare.
Whether you're a SAHM, working mom, freelance mom or part-time working moms, we should all unite and take the energy we have fighting each other and get
the rights we deserve to take care of our kids.