We’ve all participated in a really interesting dialogue over the past day regarding federally mandated paid maternity leave for employees of the federal government. I think many of us were surprised by the views of one commenter. Frankly, I’m still reeling from this idea that what constitutes true family values is one parent quitting their job all together and staying home full-time with their child once the child is born. It seems that this is a convenient way to side-step paid maternity leave, in the view of some, by instead just accusing parents of outsourcing the care and raising of their child by daring to return to work.
Of the many flaws in this argument, KT readers commented on some of the most important. The reasons we parents, and frankly most readers of KT are women, so let’s just keep it simple and say women – return to work after having a child vary. For some, we have no choice financially. For others, we need the health care, for others we have worked for a dozen years, earned many degrees and going to work is an outlet that helps us be better parents because we, too, deserve to challenge our brains in a way that a child cannot. For others, it’s because they need the financial security if they aren’t sure of their marriage.
The point is – in this day and age – most women return to work after they have a child. Deciding to bring a child into the world is the most amazing, life altering decision that one can make. And frankly, only those who have not yet known the joys and true love that comes with being a parent, could simplify an argument against federally mandated paid maternity leave to this: it costs an employer too much money.
What has our society come too if the added expense to an employer of paid maternity leave outweighs the importance of a skilled and diverse workforce? What has our society come too if the added expense to an employer outweighs the importance of the critical weeks post-birth for a mother to learn to breastfeed and care for her child, on top of the time the body needs to physically recover from the trauma of birth (and trust me, it’s trauma), and for the child to learn to bond and feel loved by his/her mother – if the added expense to a business is more important than that?
And what does it say about how much value our country places on the importance of family if we do not make paid maternity leave mandated?
Like it or not, women are the only ones that can give birth and breastfeed a new baby. Women are the ones that need to physically recover from a pregnancy and a birth. And women make-up half of our nation’s workforce. More girls than boys are going on to college, and women are keeping pace with men in medical school, law school and business schools. And yet, to not offer women federally mandated pay for maternity leave – just tells us that we still are not as important as men.
That is what this is about. Let’s not make this about family values = stay-at-home moms. Or lack of family values = not picking Nordstrom shoes over tending to your child all day. Or the worst one I read so far is this – forced paid maternity leave means more women will lose their jobs and more children will not be fed by their parents because a business can’t take on the added expense.
Scare tactics and intimidation doesn’t work any more. Is any one really going to buy that? Or better yet, we don’t care.
Yes, small businesses will be faced with challenges greater than larger businesses if this country mandates paid maternity leave. But guess what – that’s what happens in an open and free society where life happens outside of work.
And so, to anyone who is still following this trail – I will say this – we need to keep up the fight. There is a reason why every other developed nation in the world values and funds paid maternity leave – it’s because women are valued and important in those countries.
Meanwhile, over here in the good old US, where we HAVE SPENT BILLIONS on a war in Iraq against an enemy that we essentially created by going in there to begin with – over here – we can argue that the added expense of funding paid maternity leave outweighs the benefits – and those people can wake up and still face themselves in the morning.
I can wake up and face myself each morning because I understand family values, I am instilling them in my child even though I go to work every day and because I intend to teach her that women are just as important as men, which is why I will keep blogging my face off about the national disgrace of no federally mandated paid maternity leave.
So stay tuned kittens, we’re not done with this subject until we get what we deserve – at least 8 weeks paid.
And then we move on to state funded child care and universal health care.
Or we can just move to really any other developed country and receive what we deserve- but then America wouldn’t be so great without us. Now would it?
I think that come Election Day, this must be a critically important issue to all of us, which is another reason why I am an Obama Mamma.