It makes me sad, because I realize that if Iived in a different country, I wouldn’t HAVE to go back now. I’d have, quite possibly, another 9 months of time–paid time, mind you–at home with my new daughter.
I often have fought this sadness with a right-wing-ish, matter-of-fact pep-talk: I’m the one who decided to have this baby. It was a choice I made, and I shouldn’t ask anyone else (i.e., taxpayers) to pay for that decision. (Err, except…given the fact that right-wingers don’t want to ALLOW women the choice to have a baby or not gets us into a whole other kettle of fish. Another time, my pets.)
But after watching the brilliant John Oliver’s take-down of our country’s lack of policy around guaranteed, paid maternity leave, it struck me: yes, I chose to have a baby. But that baby will grow up to be a citizen of the U.S–part of our country’s future. And we’ve already established that we as a collective society care about our country’s future and put policies in place to ensure its success (like public schooling).
Without any guaranteed paid family leave, new parents can be financially left out to dry. By doing this, our country is turning its back on a public health issue. With no paid leave, many parents (specifically mothers) are highly stressed, both before and after giving birth. Stressed parents leads to stressed babies. Stressed babies can grow up to have serious health and mental issues.
I don’t want to be alarmist… I’m a big proponent of the idea that most kids are hardy little ‘weeds’— parents worry too much about whether or not their parenting is adequate, so I don’t want to fan the flames there.
What I do want to say is…there ARE health benefits, BIG ONES–to ensuring that new mothers (and fathers) have the chance to rest and bond with their new child without having to worry about paying bills.
What I want is to change the dialogue about maternity leave. I don’t want it to be about mothers and fathers and what they deserve. I want it to be about public health. Because when it’s framed that way (and I truly believe it should be) it really seems hard to argue against enacting some kind of policy…
What do you think?