Often I get magazines for one thing or another, and I like to read them when I have a moment. Recently I got a copy of Working Mother. The magazine had a special edition about the 100 best companies to work for from the perspective of working mothers.
One thing keeps sticking with me. There are three developed countries who do not require companies to offer paid maternity leave: Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States.
Back up. Wait. Really? Why don’t we learn that in other places like we would learn about the Family Medical Leave Act? Do we really want to think about the fact that until 1993 we didn’t even really have something from the government to protect women while they take time off to have children?
At this point, that act guarantees only 12 weeks unpaid leave. Many families can’t afford that. Yet we think about how much time we can take off in terms of how long we can be gone from our positions. Americans must be workaholics. We’re not thinking about taking time off in terms of putting our family together on a schedule. Not considering the changes that will occur when the new bundle arrives. Not planning on discovering how their lives have to flex and going from there. No – it’s all about how much time you can afford to be out of your job.
Right- this shouldn’t be my rant. I stay at home. I don’t want to miss so many things about my children. I don’t have jobs that would pay me to be off since they’re based on my attendance and the students’. Then again, I have friends and acquaintances who tried or were expected to return to a full time schedule a mere two weeks after childbirth.
Why do we think this is acceptable? A woman hasn’t really recovered from the birth at that point. She definitely hasn’t had time to adjust to having a new life dependent on her. Many infants aren’t even close to having a schedule to allow either parent to have slept enough to be functional.
Sometimes I wonder if we know how much we’re missing. A friend of mine told me last night how she considers staying home. She knows there are more challenges with that – she and I speak often about how our lives are progressing. But she and her husband were on vacation with their young toddler and she realized how much she wanted to be part of her son’s daily life. Not that she isn’t – she spends quality time with him every day. She’s a great parent and so is her husband. Like many companies, however, she doesn’t have the flexibility to make her schedule less daunting. Some positions are like that. Many companies make them that way even if they don’t need to be.
Is it the workaholic nature of our culture that we feel this way about working and revolve everything else around that? Or is it that we don’t really value this part of our society except on an individual level? Our schools are falling farther behind and one look at Facebook will tell you how many adults can’t – or won’t – use anything close to proper English among “peers.”
Maybe I forgot we live in a capitalistic society. We follow the money – and right now it’s leading out of here because we’re not the best educated, not the most creative, not the ones to set the bar anymore. Do you ever wonder – what happened?