Lack of Parental Leave Ranks U.S. With Under-Developed Countries

Leslie Carol Botha: This ‘War on Women’ is an attack on all fronts – lack of parental leave, gender pay inequity, reproductive rights, infertility – is it no wonder that women struggle on a daily basis?¬† This is not the world we would have created for ourselves.¬† Whatever men have against women, I just wish they would get over it and realize that equality and partnerships are much more sustainable than power and control.

We’re Not Sick or on Break; We’re Having a Baby

Women’s ENews

By Christina Caldwell
WeNews commentator
Friday, June 22, 2012

It’s time to do something about the lack of paid parental leave in the United States. Does anyone realize that this deprivation leaves us in the company of such under-developed countries as Papua New Guinea and Swaziland?

ELBA, Alabama (WOMENSENEWS)–As I look ahead to giving birth for the first time, I find myself, strangely, thinking about the new parents of Papua New Guinea.

And those of Swaziland.

And the United States.

Credit: Nathan Gibbs/nathangibbs on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

For all of the differences in all our millions of lives we have one thing in common: Out of 181 countries studied by Harvard and McGill, we are the only three countries with no paid parental leave.

I currently work for an organization that is listed as, not one of, but the No. 1 business in the country for providing optimal employee benefits. So I was shocked to discover I had no paid parental leave.

Yes, I can take 12 weeks off, which I understand is way more than many parents get. But it’s all unpaid.

A human resources manager says I can combine my sick leave and vacation leave for the time I will need to take off. Since so many workers go without paid sick days or even vacations, I hate to gripe. But pregnancy and infant care aren’t sicknesses. Nor are they vacations. They’re draining and important times for couples to get their families off to a good start.

My partner’s employer takes a different approach. His job allows him to take unpaid leave for family bonding. Bravo! But he must use a sick day to be with me during delivery and then immediately send the human resources office documentation that proves the birth really did occur on that day.

Unaffordable Option

Even with proper financial planning, few parents can afford to take unpaid leave. So parents who are lucky enough to have sick leave and paid vacation, like me, wind up using it all up. All my sick days will be spent on my pregnancy. Then all my vacation days will be spent after delivery in “diaper city.”

But even this kind of patchwork won’t hold together unless everything goes just right.

One young woman I know went into labor six weeks early. She’d been counting on those six weeks to accrue a bit of leave. Instead she delivered her premature child on Thursday and had to be back to work that following Monday morning while her baby was still in the hospital.

That kind of story is repeated all over the country. And even when things go as planned during the pregnancy and delivery, millions of men and women must return to their paid work too soon after their child is born, simply because they can’t afford to take time off to care for them.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.