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Politics and Princesses – US Paternity Leave Falls Short

Father And Baby
Politics and Princesses - US Paternity Leave Falls Short

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.

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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.

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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.


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Kristin McCarthy
About Kristin McCarthy 33 Articles
The proud mama of four little darling girls in devil's horns. After receiving a Masters degree in Special Education and teaching for a number of years I "retired" in order to stay home with the kids and devote my life to the wonders of domesticity. Somewhere in between scrubbing floors and cooking food that no one will eat I found my way into writing. When I am not busy folding laundry, vacuuming up dog hair and toys and keeping the kids alive I can be found writing on my snarky little blog Four Princesses and The Cheese or for other publications that are kind enough to tolerate me such as Red Tricycle, Suburban Misfit Mom, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Blunt Moms and BonBon Break.

3 Comments on Politics and Princesses – US Paternity Leave Falls Short

  1. Your weakest argument is ‘Everybody else is doing it!’ Lots of countries do a lot of things they can’t afford to do. WE do a lot of things already that we can’t afford to do.

    That said it’s wonderful when a company gives employees the option to have extended leave for important life events. I encourage that fully; as a product of a company that has calculated for itself that it wants to offer that benefit. I don’t encourage unfunded mandates that might ultimately cost jobs. -f

    • Mandating family leave for both parents invites companies to become the sex/child police. You, the company, hire a young bright woman, train her and very quickly she turns into an asset. She’s one of your best emplyees, worth her weight in gold and you are going to promote her and up her pay. This young bright woman goes out to have fun on a Friday or Saturday night, gets a little drunk, goes home with a guy who, a little drunk himself, doesn’t have the good sense to use protection. The young bright woman finds out a month later she is pregnant. Now if the young bright woman decides she is to keep the baby. So that company is now going to be mandated to pay for an employee that is not working for it for a long time in addition to losing all the work and value that employee provided. So what is a company to do. Mandate it’s young female and male employees not have children for a certain amount of time? Or better yet tell any prospective applicants that if there is any chance they are going to have children in the near future or think they will not to apply? Or better yet to have a company tell an employee who gets pregnant that an abortion would be wise. Because if the government mandates parental leave for both parents that’s what will happen and it will be an utter disgrace!

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