The United States is what many have often considered the leader of the free world.
Despite this title, the U.S. has had countless indiscretions to tack onto its reputation. Perhaps one of the greatest unspoken offenses is against families, particularly mothers.
We consistently see inequality portrayed in the media, all horrific and rightfully discussed, but seldom does the media cover the United States’ utter lack of sufficient healthcare for mothers.
Every other developed nation mandates a paid, lengthy maternity leave. Some countries, such as Norway, offer 49 weeks off at 100 percent of the mother’s salary.
The U.S. offers zero weeks of mandated paid leave, and many employers simply give mothers the eight-week minimum unpaid leave.
Other U.S. employers abide by a six-week paid, six-week unpaid standard.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) initiated in 1993 classifies pregnancy in the same category as temporary disabilities, rather than offering protection for pregnancy as a whole. The clumped categorization lowers leave time and offers no promised pay.
Fathers, same-sex couples and adoptive parents are not guaranteed any leave under U.S. law.
Economically speaking, not offering mothers a paid leave not only completely disservices mothers who cannot afford to take unpaid leave, but also has proven to damage businesses’ income.
The Labor Market Theory explains that women in the labor market who are offered extended paid leave are more likely to happily return to their place of employment and continue successful work, as compared to women who are on unpaid leave.
This means women who have to take unpaid leave are less likely to return to work. Fewer employees means less revenue generated for a company, less diversity and thus lowered success.
Additionally, countries such as Canada have laws which assure all mothers will be rehired after taking maternity leave. No such laws exist in the Unites States.
Maternity leave is not only necessary economically, but developmentally for both the infant and the mother.
Studies show children with poor mother– child relationships are more likely to have self-regulation and esteem issues and are less likely to trust others.
Studies done in northern Europe noticed a trend in higher academic success rate in relation to time spent with their mothers in infancy.
The data showed adequate maternity leave lowered high school dropout rates, increased financial earnings before the age of 30 and increased college attendance in children.
Furthermore, mothers who do not take leave suffer from physical implications, such as increased risk of heart disease.
Another point worth considering is the lack of affordable childcare offered in the U.S. Mothers are expected to promptly return to work after giving birth, putting their children into daycares.
This requires a high income, meaning many families are unable to afford childcare.
The U.S. is also currently experiencing a terrifying trend in maternal mortality rate. In 1987, only 7.2 women died per 100,000 births. In 2018, 17.8 mothers died per 100,000 births.
A declining trend in maternal health, paired with increased technology, makes little logical sense and even less moral sense.
The U.S. additionally has one of the largest female labor forces in the developed world, with more than 50 percent of the workforce made up of women and mothers.
At the same time, the U.S. is facing the threat of a declining population because women are choosing to have fewer or no children.
Decreasing the size of the next generation is a risk the U.S. simply cannot afford to take. Empowering young women and mothers to speak about their experiences and injustices can help advance future policy.
As a woman, and possible future mother, I am appalled by the lack of care mothers are given.
If the argument of purely treating mothers as equals doesn’t fully convince the U.S. government to change its policies, countless other statistics back the advancement of maternal healthcare.
The lack of coverage offered for all parents only helps to enforce gender stereotypes and damage family relationships.
By offering a paid leave beginning with mothers, we can advance positive sentiment, healthcare, economics and society.
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