Many countries in the developed world offer paid maternity leave to mothers. In the United States, though, that’s not always an option for women who work. Sometimes, they are put on state temporary disability programs. Even when employers do offer paid leave, they may require someone to have a certain length of service with the company before making it available. That can pose a challenge to women who are just starting out in their careers.
Another issue is the length of the leave on offer. Many women are able to step away from work for just a handful of weeks. In fact, research shows that mothers often benefit from spending more time than that at home with their baby. Women with lengthy paid maternity leaves are less likely to suffer from physical illness or post-partum depression. Their children seem to benefit, too. In fact, their babies have a lower chance of dying of SIDS.
In the US, everyone is able to take three months’ unpaid leave. This is a stark contrast to countries like the United Kingdom, which offer 12 weeks of paid leave. This alone may make a huge difference to a new parent’s mental health. A new baby also brings many new expenses, from follow-up doctors’ appointments to diapers, food, and clothing they will rapidly outgrow. Other countries do even better. Japan offers 36 weeks, and Estonia pays new mothers on leave for over a year.
Many activists and politicians, especially on the Left, would like to see the US join the ranks of these other nations. They believe that a national paid maternity leave would make a big difference in the family lives of millions of Americans. This is particularly true for the middle and working classes. Many executive-level women are able to take the time they need, and they can afford highly qualified nannies. The average American family, however, may struggle to juggle work schedules and vaccine schedules.
While maternity leave remains controversial in some circles, all the evidence points to benefits. A national maternity leave program is expected to remain an issue in Congress and at the state level. Of course, not every mother wants these benefits. But they would not be mandatory, rather just available.