United States is a super power in the world in many aspects. However, there is one area in which it fails like any undeveloped country: the absence of paid maternity leave policy.
When I first moved to the US in 2005, I was 24. I was single and had no plans of having children, yet I thought there was a maternity leave policy similar to my home country Colombia, back then 14 weeks. Soon enough I learned, when one of my best friends had her first baby, that the Family & Medical Leave Act in general only guarantees that a woman won’t lose her job for 12 weeks, but if she wants to get paid, she had to accumulate paid vacation time.
In other words, unless a new mom worked for several years without taking any time off, she must return to her job before her newborn looses her belly button.
Based on this, when I read in the news about a new increase in maternity leave in Colombia at the end of the year, I reflected about the American life style and understood why, compared with other countries, more women in the US decide to stay home.
My husband and I are entrepreneurs which benefited me tremendously when I had my son. I was able to stay home with him until he was two, and once he started preschool I returned to the work force gradually, from part time to full time, presently.
This subject kept going around in my mind and last Saturday I read an interesting article in a Colombian newspaper. The article discussed a study in 2011 about the effect 100% paid maternity leave had on young working women.
The data reveled a couple factors that merit consideration. First, even though a long maternity leave benefits the health and well being of new mothers and newborns, it can also generate a professional obstacle for women in the reproductive stage of their lives.
Employers might see young women as a liability more than an asset, influencing the decision–making process when choosing between two candidates, one male and the other female.
The second is a projection as the collateral effect on an already aging population. The “punishment” placed on young women could make them delay their plans of procreating until they reach their professional goals. The problem is, if success comes slowly, it will will also slow down the wings of the storks as fertility decreases dramatically with age.
The reasons behind the paid maternity leave are honorable and necessary. The bond between new mothers and babies in their first months of life is priceless. Nonetheless, employers have a right to decide which path to choose as labor regulations increase. The Trump administration has engaged in this subject contrary to typical Republican views.
I am not saying the US should adopt Denmark’s 52 weeks or Sweden’s 420 days maternity leave policies. But it is worth it to find a middle ground to allow more women return to work without a broken heart.
Thank you for reading and sharing.