Maternity Leave: Not A Vacation, A Necessity
November 12, 2023
In the United States, maternity leave is unpaid and inadequate. There are physical, mental and emotional health factors that affect mothers, they not only deserve the time but have a right to take care of themselves and their children. With the current state of maternity leave laws in the United States, it makes it impossible to do so. According to the US Department of Labor, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.
Maternity leave is a crucial period of time for a mother to recover from childbirth and provide the proper care and attention needed for the newborn- in other words, it is necessary for mothers. The postpartum period that occurs after childbirth has three distinct but continuous phases, according to The National Library of Medcine. The third phase of postpartum occurs gradually. The postpartum phase of childbirth can look different for women, but usually, it includes difficulty moving due to lacerations, depression, painful sore vagina, bleeding, and exhaustion. During this phase, muscle tone and connective tissue are restored, and it can take up to 6 months for the body to fully recover.
While it is clear that maternity leave is a necessity for parents, not everyone can afford to take unpaid time off, which ultimately sheds light on the issue of class, race and gender in the United States. The socioeconomic factors that determine who can take maternity leave are household income, poverty level, and insurance access. Usually, middle to upper-class, white, educated females have the security and financial stability to take unpaid maternity leave. This is not just unfair but is actively taking away a basic right from the rest of the demographic who are affected by the aftermath of childbirth.
Compared to other countries, the United States seems to be stuck in the past. In the United Kingdom, not only are mothers granted 52 weeks of leave, but all of it is paid. They offer 26 weeks of “ordinary” leave and if they need any additional leave, another 26 weeks is provided. In the United States, the sad truth is that this would be surprising to many women, although it really should not be, it is the American reality. Every so often, in the US they will improve the maternity leave laws, but it is never anything significant, beneficial or paid.
Mothers and parents in the United States are asking for the bare minimum: their given right to recover from a medical circumstance. They are brave as they go through this painful, intense and emotional experience, and contribute so much to humanity. They deserve at the very least a paid and longer maternity leave. It is long overdue for the United States to get on board with the rest of the world and understand that maternity leave is not a vacation but a necessity.
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