Thursday, September 25, 2014

The DOL's Lead on Leave

Have you seen this video yet?  

The United States is the ONLY industrialized nation without paid maternity leave.  The Department of Labor has a new campaign to take the #leadonleave and encourage employers to offer paid maternity leave.  

I don't get paid maternity leave at my job.  As you know, I am a teacher.  My employer will grant you six weeks of maternity leave, but you have to use your sick days if you want to be paid.  They will ONLY pay you for six weeks of leave, even if you have more.  My first child was planned accordingly.  I had him in July and the first day back to school for teachers was the day he turned six weeks old.  I would've been able to take an additional six weeks of leave (due to FMLA), but I would've had to take that time unpaid even though my summer pay is for the work I do during the school year.  Doesn't make much sense does it?  My second child was born in April and I was able to use four weeks of my (paid) sick leave and have the rest of the summer off with her (paid), had I chosen to go back this school year.  I can't complain because I know there are many women out there who get no maternity leave.  My example just shows the discrepancy between businesses in America.  

Paid maternity leave should be a given in this country.  A mother should have time to bond with her baby without having to worry about how they are going to pay the bills.  The University of Maryland found that a longer maternity leave significantly lowers the risk of postpartum depression.  According to the study, "the more leave time from work that a woman takes after giving birth-up to six months-the better protected she will be from experiencing post-partum depression."  (  In my opinion, a father should get paid paternity leave as well.  One study found that a "lack of paternal involvement was a significant predictor of the intensity of the depressive symptoms of the mothers."  (  

I breastfed both of my children.  I had to start pumping almost immediately with my son just to be able to store enough milk for my return to work.  I also pumped the entire school year.  It was very stressful trying to figure out where I was going to pump that day.  I was only able to pump once a day during my 30 minute lunch.  A hands-free bra was a lifesaver, but figuring out where to pump, get my lunch, get set up, start pumping, eat, put myself back together, store the milk, and give the parts a quick rinse ate up every second of those 30 minutes.  Teachers don't have the luxury of taking a break whenever they start feeling full, if you know what I mean.  And, if you've ever breastfed, you know that stress is not good for a nursing mother.  I was fortunate enough to have a good milk supply, but I can definitely imagine how difficult it would be for someone to continue pumping if they didn't have a good supply and had to go through that every single day.  With five years between my babies, my school changed quite a bit, and one of the main things I was worried about (when I thought I was going to go back this school year) was even finding a place to pump.  One of the two offices I had used before was turned into a bathroom and the second was an office for an outside preschool company.  Neither were good pumping locations anymore.  There was literally no room in my school.  Pumping in my classroom would not have been an option either, as the classroom is used by students when there is indoor recess.  Just thinking about it gave me stress.  Luckily I don't have to worry about it now, and my "horns" are now very rarely used.  

I guess I've kind of gotten away from my point.  If companies were to give paid maternity leave, mothers would be more bonded to their babies, they would have an excellent start to a breastfeeding relationship and be more encouraged to continue once they do go back to work, children would be healthier, and instances of postpartum depression would perhaps be lessened.  Healthy children and lower instances of postpartum depression would equal less time off from work for the mother once they do return.  I would imagine a company offering paid maternity leave would also have higher retention rates.  To me, it sounds like a win-win.  What do you think?  It's time to take the #leadonleave.  

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