Lawmakers finally recognize the U.S. ranks last among developed countries when it comes to parental leave. New families can finally get the rest they need!
Recently law makers in Washington, D.C. passed new legislation regarding Parental Leave Policy, and thankfully it is a step in the right direction. This new legislation grants working parents, both full time and part time, eight weeks of paid leave at 90% of their full weekly wage. That is eight weeks to care for a new baby, an adopted child, or a foster child. Way to go Washington! Some major cities and states, San Francisco and New York State for example, have also addressed the Federal slight that is Parental Leave.
Even with some cities and states addressing the needs of families to care for their children and themselves during critical times of development and bonding, the United States remains in last place among developed countries when it comes parental leave laws. That’s right, the United States remains the only developed country without a guaranteed paid leave for new parents. That is just a tad bit jacked up considering we are a nation that prides itself on family values. We have long considered ourselves progressive in terms of human rights. As someone who has worked while trying to raise a family, let me tell you first hand, that is difficult even under the best of circumstances.
Mothers with postpartum depression need help.
You are running on empty all of the time. No one is sleeping, ever. The baby is not sleeping, you are not sleeping, your leaky boobs are not sleeping. There is no rest. Your body has just been through a war and you are now making a desperate attempt to resemble a normal human being while meeting the demands of a newborn, and sometimes more children as well. A human just left your body through a gaping hole, your blood pressure is going bananas, and you’ve lost buckets of blood in the process. Postpartum hormonal adjustments are not a cry for pity, they are a scientifically backed phenomena.
Postpartum depression remains the most common complication following childbirth, with approximately one million American women suffering from this affliction. Many suffer in stigmatized silence. It’s a grueling, self deprecating experience, and I should know. I have suffered through it, twice. I’m not sure how a woman is expected to go to work for 8-12 hours a day when her mind, body, and soul barely allows her to shuffle to and from the mailbox for the first few months. Toss in the additional stress of not having any paid leave, and the possibility a spouse who must work during this time, and you have a real shit storm of a start for many new families.
Only 9% of American companies offer paid paternity leave for employees.
Even with postpartum depression and anxiety, I was luckier than most. As a teacher, I received eight weeks of paid leave. My husband was only able to take his regular paid days off, which wasn’t much. Some dads can only take a few days off after the birth of their little ones, leaving their squalling, needy baby, and equally needy and battered partner, to fend for themselves. Parents who are fostering and adopting get the whammy as well. We recently watched our best friends add a fourth child to their family. The process was tedious and time consuming. There is barely time to attend to the most important thing in your world, raising your family. The only time-off our foster friends had was time accrued from years of dedication to their jobs.They made it work, but the system surely did not facilitate the process. Bottom line: Too few companies voluntarily offer much needed leave for men.
And yet we wonder why the family unit struggles in America. We debate the topic of mental illness. We muse over the rise in infanticide, suicide, divorce, depression, and unrest. Ensuring new parents paid time off to adjust to parenthood will not solve any of these problems, but it can certainly help families gain a solid footing for the beginning of one of life’s most demanding and rewarding journeys.