Would You Skip Taking Maternity Leave?Hannah Chow |12, April 2015
Skip maternity leave? Are more women doing so these days? The renaissance days are definitely over. Men are no longer becoming what their fathers were and women are no longer staying home with the children. Work ethic has a new definition for millennial wives and mothers. Many women choose to work right up until they go into labor and go back to work as soon as their bodies allow them to. No more three-month maternity vacations for all mothers out there. In fact, for some, going back to work sooner might be just the vacation they need from a screaming little one at home. For others, returning to work sooner is far from idyllic.
The United States is one of the few countries in the world that is not required, by law, to provide maternity or paternity leave for their employees. Many companies are willing to offer unpaid maternity leave for employees but companies offering paid maternity leave are hard to find. According to the United States Department of Labor, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Employees get to continue their group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if they had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to 12 work weeks of leave within one year for the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth.
Times Have Changed
According to Christopher Ingraham from the Washington Post, "In the early 1960s, fewer than half of American women were working at the start of their pregnancies, and only about 15 percent continued working until a month before their due date." He continues by comparing those statistics to today's working woman and says, "In the mid-2000s, by contrast, about two-thirds of women were working through the beginning of pregnancy, and over 50 percent were still on the job a month before their due date." Many women choose to work up until their due date as to save vacation time and FMLA leave for after the baby is born. Do you ever wonder how many women have gone into labor while at work and finished their shifts?
Real Stories from Working Moms
Rhema is a working mother that lives in the Midwest with her daughter who is now two years old. Other than taking maternity leave after her daughter's birth, Rhema has not been absent from work. Juggling work, her daughter, and home life is a constant in her life. "I went into labor at work," she says, I worked half of my shift and then left. As far as maternity leave, six months would be ideal and having the option to go up to one year with lesser pay. I only had 12 weeks."
Amelia is a working mother that also lives in the Midwest with her husband. Her son is now 18 months old. "I think there needs to be flexibility," she says referring to maternity leave, "There is no one size fits all." Amelia responded to what, in her opinion, were the biggest misconceptions about working mothers. Her thoughts were that whoever started the myth that working mothers can be fabulous homemakers, great employees, and super star moms is just absurd. She believes that you have to compromise in certain areas while still making most of it work. "Some people think that working moms are too distracted or spread too thin to do a good job," she says, "On the contrary, I've taken my new afore mentioned skills into the workplace and I feel like they have made me a better employee. Yes, I'm tired. No, I can't put in a 60-hour week like I may have done in my younger and childless days. But I will put in my 40 hours and maximize my time while there. Mommy doesn't play around."
The United States paternity laws affect fathers in a similar way to maternity laws affecting mothers. If an employer does not offer paid paternity leave as part of employee benefits, fathers are either taking off of work unpaid, forced to use vacation time, or not paid at all. Many new dads have to go back to work within a few short days of meeting their newborn. Some employers believe that if they are physically healthy to work, then they must come back as soon as possible. Because fathers do not go through the laboring, delivery, and recovery parts of having a child, ninety percent are back to work within a week.
Nearly seventy percent of women in the United States are working up until labor and delivery, returning to work within three months or less of giving birth, and using vacation time or sick leave to do so. The title, "Working Mother," is a commonly used and recognized label for most women these days. Is it necessary to give up a career to have children? American women don't seem to think so. They cope by getting enough sleep, eating small meals to maintain stamina, and exercising all nine months of pregnancy. The choice to be a stay at home mom is not an option for everyone. In cases where mothers are required to work, they are making the best of it and doing what they can to stay in their current positions.
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