Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that having a child changes everything. It shifts your priorities. It changes the way you look at life, the world, and your place in it.
Unfortunately, though, not all employers are willing to accommodate the many profound transformations that occur when an employee becomes a parent — and that has led to some pretty egregious oversights that U.S. labor laws have yet to sufficiently redress.
For example, despite proclaiming itself the leader of the free world, the great, shining example of human rights across the globe, the U.S. remains the only industrialized country not to guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers. That said, if America is to retain its moral standing in the international community, then mandated maternity and paternity leave for all workers in the U.S. must be instituted immediately.
Why It Matters
Despite opponents’ claims to the contrary, paid leave for new parents is not a mere luxury, or a desirable, but optional, perk to be offered by employers who can afford it. Rather, mandated leave is an attribute of the human right to enjoy safe and healthy work environments and conditions.
Simply put, paid leave supports the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of all concerned. Women who have just given birth, for instance, face numerous physical and psychological challenges in the postpartum months, from physical pain and fatigue to postpartum depression. New mothers need time at home to recover not only from the pregnancy and childbirth, but also from the physical demands of caring for a newborn and infant.
However, it’s not only about giving a new mother time to recover in mind and body from having a baby, it’s also about giving new parents the time and space to bond with their child. This is why mandated leave needs to apply both to new biological mothers and also to fathers, adoptive parents, and domestic partners.
Infants need ample time with their parents because it’s in these first formative months of life that essential foundations for learning and socialization are built.
New parents who are able to stay home with their infant without fear of losing their income or their job can focus their entire attention on nurturing and teaching their little one. This paves the path to healthy future development.
For instance, children begin to hone their communication and socialization skills in preschool and this positions them to advance and thrive in their primary and secondary schooling, which, in turn, fosters the transition to higher education.
But success in preschool often begins in the nursery, with engaged, attentive, affectionate parents who have the time and resources to shower their infant with love and care in the critical first weeks and months of life.
Without paid leave, however, not only are far too many infants deprived of much of this bonding time with their parents, but our nation as whole risks perpetuating the social and economic inequities which currently plague it. For example, studies show that 81% of new moms without a high school diploma are not given paid maternity leave.
In other words, the issue is often one of class. More affluent and educated parents often have greater bargaining power when it comes to securing a job or negotiating for benefits. But poor and working-class parents, especially those without an education, often must take what work they can get. It’s not only the parents and children who suffer but also entire communities who must endure the consequences of an entire generation of children growing up without the strong foundations they should have enjoyed in infancy.
Mandated maternal and paternal leave is not a choice but a necessity. If the United States is to retain its status of moral, political, and economic leader of the free world, then it must join all other industrialized nations in guaranteeing this right to its workers and the children who are our nation’s future.
This blog was printed with permission.
About the Author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside. When Dan isn’t working on new content, you can find him with a coffee cup in one hand and searching for new music in the other.