Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hear me Roar

I should be happy.

This is the refrain I keep hearing from the older, bitter women contingent (the ladies who were my age in the 1970's and 80's). 12 weeks of unpaid leave (my company actually pays for 8 of those weeks, so I am 'luckier' than most) to take care of my child is more than they got. By the way, they also walked to school buck naked in blizzards, uphill both ways. They never complained.

Guess what? I don't care. I am going to complain. Because what I have seen regarding maternity leave in this country is an out and out travesty. Women returning to full time work SIX weeks after their child is born. According to the USA Today: "The United States and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don't provide paid leave for new mothers nationally, though there are exceptions in some U.S. states."

Wow. Way to get on board, U.S. You get a giant F (you) from this mother-to-be (Yo Shrub: I am talking to YOU Mr. Family values anti-choice. Who takes care of those babies when their moms have to return to work two weeks after birthing them??) Also from USA Today: "There have been several attempts at introducing paid maternity leave in the United States. The Clinton administration wanted to allow states to use unemployment funds for maternity leaves, but that was shot down by the Bush administration after opposition from business groups concerned with increased contribution to state unemployment funds."

In Sweden, there are 18 months of paid parental leave that can be split between parents (don't even ask about R's "package". Again he is "lucky" in getting two weeks. Most men get none).

Lucky Australians. Even though they do not have a mandated paid leave, they do have it better than us with one year of job-protected leave. We get a whopping 12 weeks. SO generous. You mean, just when my baby gets cute, I have to leave her?

So... The crones (did I mention I am angry?) do have a point. The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, did give us 12 weeks of job protected unpaid leave. And I suppose I am "lucky" that we can afford for me to take that. But what about the women who can't? What about the women who are not as "lucky" as me who have to return to their jobs immediately after giving birth. Where is the bloody outrage??

More USA Today stats: "out of 168 nations in a Harvard University study last year, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave, leaving the United States in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland."

This should come as no surprise given we also maintain the death penalty--another dubious distinction we share with few other "civilized" nations. I had no idea until recently that maternity leave in this country was so awful. Women should be doing no less than rioting in the streets. But many of the women above me seem to have adopted a "bootstraps" (read: bitter) mentality of "if it was good enough for me, its good enough for you." While the women younger than me don't really care because they figure somehow it will be different for them. They are right. It might be. Their partners may not make enough to allow them to float for a while. They may be even worse off than me.

What a shame that we live like this and that we accept this as the reality. What a shame that women have to choose between their careers and their children. We call ourselves civilized. We talk about family values. There is a tax "incentive" to have children. So where is the heart?

Let's tell it like it really is. We are not much better than we were 20 years ago in this regard. Personally, I am favoring a return to corporal punishment in the schools and cutting off the hands of thieves. If it was good enough for all of the generation before, it is good enough for all of us.

**** Let's get ANGRY ladies! This is a call to arms. The time for complacency has ended. Here is a post from Kristi on the same topic. Share if you have others...


Kristi said...

Amen, sister. I wrote a post about this before Isabella was born with many of your same points. It's so interesting to me that we have a President who is all about "family values" but who then does absolutely nothing to help mothers and fathers "value" their families when they start them. Disgusting.


My Wombinations said...

I read your post just after I finished mine since I was wondering if other people had the same feelings. It is so outrageous and I am so angry. I can hardly believe women have been ok with this for so long!

Steph said...

This has been THE issue discussed among my public health friends - none of us yet having to deal with maternity leave ourselves (though one is very close!). It's infuriating and completely outrageous especially when you compare the U.S. to other industrialized countries. I think it also has to do with the healthcare system in most other countries being socialized. That in and of itself is sign that a country leans toward societal thinking rather than 'rugged individualism'. It really does take a village.