When you’re pregnant, you should be thinking about baby names, what type of crib you should buy and strollers. And sadly, many expectant mothers in the US seem to be more concerned about how soon after delivery they need to head back to the office.
As much as we pride ourselves on being one of the best and baddest countries in the world, as it stands, the United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave. With only 12 percent of non-government employees having access to paid parental leave — including the 41 percent of black women who have access to paid maternity leave, compared to 50 percent of white women who do — something’s gotta give. Moms-to-be have been looking for ways to find a solution that allows them to care for their newborn baby and take the necessary time to recover from labor and delivery.
One trend that seems to be on the rise is crowdfunding maternity leave. Folks are receiving donations that will help them stay at home for a period of time to care for their child. Turning to popular sites like GoFundMe.com, families are being gifted hundreds and thousands of dollars to help with their endeavors. It certainly does not equate to weeks away from your job — receiving your paid salary or wage — but it’s something.
The National Partnership for Women and Families highlights the benefits of paid family leave that include stronger health and well-being, and being able to better provide for your child. In addition, access to paid parental leave can help reduce the need for public assistance as mothers and fathers are less likely to need financial support to pay for their bills and immediate needs. It also encourages more mothers to return to work, which can translate to less company turnover.
When I first heard about pregnant women crowdfunding to pay for maternity leave, I was frustrated. (Hell, I still am!) I know there are new moms out there who pop out babies without batting an eyelash, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a big problem on our hands. We need paid parental leave, period.
When I was pregnant with both of my sons (I had one in 2014 and the other in 2015—crazy, I know), I was freelancing. I did my best to work around the clock so I could set myself up to try to have some semblance of “maternity leave.” (I recall turning in an assignment the day after I gave birth to my second child). Now that I work for a company that offers weeks of paid maternity leave, I’m beyond thankful, though the jury is still out on if I can convince my husband about having a third kid. Sadly, I have many friends who work for companies that offer benefits except paid leave to care for a new child.
Personally, I don’t think a parent is “irresponsible” for having a child and being frightened at the thought of not having access to this much needed company benefit, especially after he or she puts in countless hours each week to maintain productivity and expectations.
The fact that folks are crowdsourcing to pay for maternity leave — because none is available — shows there’s a major problem that needs addressing. What are your thoughts?