Parental Leave

Kris and I have spent a lot time talking about his paternity leave because despite not having one, he still must submit a formal schedule at his workplace.  So it basically comes down to how much of his vacation and sick leave we want to use for this earth-shattering, life-altering period of our family’s life.

Things are pretty dire out there if you’d like to stay home and take care of your new child for a little while.  The United States is now the only industrialized country that doesn’t require employers to offer paid time off to new parents.

Some findings which alarm:

  • According to research by economists Sara Markowitz and Pinka Chatterji and published in 2008 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, women who return to work soon after the birth of a child are more likely to get depressed than other mothers. They’re also less healthy: According to the study, longer maternity leaves are associated with improvements in mothers’ overall health.
  • Mothers who went back to work before the six-month mark were less likely to tickle, play with or cuddle their infants than those who returned between six and nine months after giving birth, according to a 2006 nationwide study by Child Trends, a research group.
  • In an article published in the The Economic Journal in 2005, researchers found that infants whose mothers had 12 weeks of maternity leave or fewer had lower cognitive test scores and higher rates of behavior problems at age four than children whose mothers had longer leaves.
  •  Research shows that “ten-week paid maternity leave was associated with a reduction in infant mortality rates of 1–2 percent; a twenty-week leave, with a 2–4 percent reduction; and a thirty-week leave, with a 7–9 percent reduction.”

Though I am at home, Kris also deserves to be with his family (and support his hobbling, hemorrhaging, hormonal wife) during this time.  Parental leave is something everyone should enjoy/endure.

Something brilliant from Ann Friedman for New York Magazine:

“So here’s a radical idea: The only way for both women and men to get ahead is to make parental leave not just paid, but mandatory. That’s the only way to fully destigmatize it. Sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out. In countries where workers must take a certain number of days off per year, vacation time is expected. Normalized. There are no social penalties for taking advantage of the policy, and it applies to all workers — not just those lucky enough to have forward-thinking employers who have read the studies about how vacation time improves worker productivity. Mandatory parental leave wouldn’t just make life easier on moms and dads, it would improve health outcomes for babies.

Expanding access to paid parental leave would help, sure. But given the professional pressures at the top and the economic pressures at the bottom, it’s not going to drastically improve the situation for parents. We need a reset button. Have a kid? You’re automatically off the job and collecting a standard amount of parental leave, whether you’re a father or a mother, a biological parent or an adopter. I know it sounds like a pipe dream. But, as Mayer put it, successful people like to “stay in the rhythm of things.” The best way to ensure all working parents can do that is to change the rhythm.”

I like pipe dreams.

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2 thoughts on “Parental Leave

  1. So true and so frustrating. I’ve been reading a lot about the French way of life lately and I’m fascinated with not only the quality of healthcare offered to mothers and babies (like home care visits!! and some female-body retraining that happens with actual healthcare professionals and is prescribed by doctors!!!) and their amazing government-subsidized, government-regulated, quality, affordable daycare. It would be incredible to have those kinds of services available here in the States. Speaking from experience, 12 weeks is not a long enough maternity leave, but all we could afford (I could have requested up to 6 months, but the rest would have been unpaid once my vacation and sick leave time was depleted). At least in your case, you are lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom, and I hope your husband can enjoy as much time with you and the babies as possible. I’m with you – I like pipe dreams. And maybe by the time my now 3-year-old daughter has her own children, the tide will have turned….

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    • I definitely think there’s hope for change:
      According to a survey of more than 3,400 adults conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation and Time in September, 62 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of evangelical Christians believe that businesses should be “required to provide paid family and medical leave for every worker who needs it.” With support even higher among Democrats, it’s hard to think of another issue that unites so many voters but remains so perennially neglected.

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