Is Maternity Leave Important? Essay

When it comes to Americans, kids are some of the most precious things on Earth. The thought of kids warms people’s hearts and make them smile for at least a moment, they are a great distraction from all the horrible things in the world. Unless they are yours, then life gets real very quickly. When kids are first born the parents tend to cry tears of joy and they feel a love that they have never felt before, but they only get to enjoy this moment for a little while. About 4,000,000 babies are born every year according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, and with this many babies there are mothers that are feeling a ray of emotions. They feel happy but scared, most mothers plan the best that they can to be prepared for a baby but some just cannot plan as much as they would want to. New mothers want to be around their babies as much as possible but America has one of the worse maternity leave deals there is leaving mothers to pay for babysitters and/or daycare if the father is not around or cannot get off work to take care of the kid.

In 1993 the Family Medical Leave Act was passed on February 5, 1993 by President Clinton. It was a U.S law that said Employers who had 50+ employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 weeks. You have three months to get your baby used to your smell, your touch, your face, and how you feed them. You also have three months to get them used to drinking out of a bottle and not seeing you as much because you must go to work to make money for the family. This law also applies if you decide to adopt a child. FMLA in the U.S is one of the least generous maternity policies compared to other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Some countries give up to a year of paid maternal leave off with 100% of the wages paid which is a big difference from 12 weeks with no pay at all. You would think that you would instantly want to work in the country with more time off and pay but that might not be the most beneficial thing to do.

“On the one hand, it helps mothers (and fathers) who desire to work and raise a family do both (Mennino & Brayfield, 2002)” (Hofferth & Curtin, 2006). The American Dream is to have a steady job, get married, and have kids, maybe a white picket fence but normally not, so given the opportunity to fulfill that dream is probably one of the best feelings in the world. Seeing that you are given so much time before the birth to just stay home and take care of your body as a way to prepare for the birth is an amazing thing. You decorate the baby’s room, throw a baby shower if you want, and think up of names. You know you plan to go back to work soon after you have the baby so you should figure out how you are going to keep the baby as healthy as possible and possibly if you and your partner (if you two are still together) will rearrange your hours at work to take care of the kid unless you are paying for a babysitter. It seems like the perfect life but everything is not all roses and sunflowers.

On the other hand, to the extent that it encourages women to exit the workforce for an extended period, maternity leave may reduce women’s economic status and opportunities (Schwartz, 1989).” (Hofferth & Curtin, 2006). There is a bond that cannot be broken between a baby and their parents, and if you cannot separate yourself from them quickly enough to be able to go to work and focus you will not go back at all. If given a year or even six months of paid leave you will become extremely attached to the kid and so used to being around them all the time that be gone for even a couple hours will feel miserable. That length of time as well as the security of the money paid for being on leave will make you very comfortable in a way that you will not go back to work. As you are out on leave your wages are going down because of the decline in your job skills and experience, if women quit their job they lose firm specific skills and experience. “Although there is some evidence that lengthy periods of maternity leave may harm the overall position of women in the labor market (Ruhm 1998), there is also evidence that such policies are associated with better health outcomes for children, perhaps because of longer periods of breast-feeding (see Winegarden and Bracy 1995; Lindberg 1996; Ruhm 2000a; Berger et al. 2002)” (Berger & Waldfogel, 2004).

This has an impact on father as well that is often looked over for a couple reasons. One being in America it is not common for men to take time off to take care of the child since most have been raised to be the “breadwinners”. They are used to having to be the provider, as well as the overall connection between a father and child is a lot different than a mother and child so it is easier for them to go back to work soon after the baby is had. In a 1983 study, out of 119 companies less than eight percent had taken any leave. The most inclusive study was done by the Families and Work Institute in which, 1,395 fathers of newborns from Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin were sampled. Employees who had babies before the legislation and after were both sampled. Among the former group, 70% of fathers took some leave after the birth of their babies and among the latter group, 75% of the new fathers took some leave (Seward et al., 2002). Even with these high numbers pre-legislation fathers only took 3.7 days off while post legislation took 4.7 days. Out of those 75% only 22% of them used formal parental leave days. In Southeastern Massachusetts between 1988-1991 on average 124 fathers took 5.3 days leave, but still parental leave days were rarely used. Vacation days were used 51% of the time, personal days 44% of the time, and sick days 17% of the time (Seward et al., 2002).

All in all, women who were employed before birth are working quicker post birth than women who were not. Women who were employed pre-birth, those in jobs that provided leave coverage are more likely to take a leave up to 12 weeks but return quicker after 12 weeks. Fathers rarely take parental leave and for the few who do it is less than a week and is also taken through other methods (sick days, vacation, personal day, etc.). From the following information maternity leave coverage is related to leave as well as the length of time that a new mother stays home after birth.

I see America as more as an individualism based place because everything is pretty much up to you to manage. We have been raised in a place where you do not get rewarded for having a baby, if you have one you get some time off and in that time, you better figure out what you’re doing. There is a possibility that you and your partner are both working or you are a single parent in which case you have a little less than three months to get someone to take care of the baby and get back to work because you need to make money to provide for your child. This to some seems unfair and cruel but America has gotten so used to being all about work and no play that if we were given more time it probably would not be utilized.

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