United States – Teaming with Opportunity, Exuding Emptiness

Okay, considering my last post, I need to add an incredibly huge addendum: even though we lived in a strangely messed up society, we are still so much more fortunate than a vast majority of women across the globe. American women have access to so many opportunities than women in many parts of the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia have ever had. However, that being said: it boggles my mind that a country with so much wealth, health, freedom and intelligence is still so lacking in social measures. I heard a story on NPR this morning that described the U.S. Army’s policy on maternity leave. Women soldiers who are, in some cases, putting their very lives on the line for their country, are only allotted the DOD’s minimum amount of leave time after birthing a child: four months. While this is certainly a longer maternity leave than many women in our country take, considering the gravity of a female soldier’s line of work and potential sacrifice, I would have expected more.

According to Wikipedia, other countries boast incredibly supreme parental leave programs following the birth of a baby compared the good ol’ US of A. For example:

Sweden: 18 months of paid maternity leave per child, pay split between state and employer
Estonia: 18 months paid leave for mother, starting up to 70- days before baby’s birth. Fathers are then allowed paid leave (amount of time depending upon wages) starting in the third month after the baby’s birth (at this point, pay is received by either mother or father)
Bulgaria: 45 days 100% paid leave for mothers prior to baby’s birth, 2 years paid leave following the baby’s birth and the option for an additional one year of unpaid leave. After the completion of this time period, the woman’s employer is required to have her previous job available to her.
Canada: Mother receives 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, paid through the Employment Insurance program. An 35 weeks paid leave split as desired between two parents.
UK: 39 weeks of paid maternity leave, the first six weeks paid at 90% of full wages, then prorated from there. A total of 52 weeks of maternity leave may be taken while job is held for woman.
Afghanistan: 100% paid leave for 90 days.
China: 100% paid leave for 90 days.
Congo in Africa: 100% paid leave for 15 weeks.
Burundi in Africa: 12 weeks leave at 50% pay.
USA: 0 paid weeks for mother or father. 6 unpaid weeks for mother and/or father, if they work for a participating employer, and have worked for that employers for the preceding 12 months and have accrued at least 1250 hours of work time.

I see this as so much more of an issue than just supporting women as they recover from childbirth. It is about supporting the entire family. Allowing parents and their children adequate bonding time following a baby’s birth. Allowing parent and child to establish bonds of trust, love and adoration that deepen the foundation of relationships that will last a life time.

How can we, as a culture, scratch our heads in wonder at the growing rates of depression, anxiety and divorce when we so poorly support families in their most vulnerable early years? How can we expect to set an example in the world beyond our shores when we are raising a generation of robot children—poorly bonded with their parents for lack of sheer time, growing into older children, teens and eventually adults that are still struggling with the basic tenants of connection, compassion, and empathy? How can we expect our children to develop these qualities if they are not embedded through direct example from the very beginning?

When I consider other cultures—cultures that are rampant with poverty, violence, illiteracy and disease, yet still manage to maintain ties to the tradition of cultivating family, I am saddened by the loss of this tradition our melting pot society has suffered.

The United States is teaming with opportunity. It is also exuding emptiness. Talk to any social worker, school teacher, or family counselor and they will tell you the same thing: we are, as a nation, showing signs of emotional detachment. So how can we reverse this tide? I say, start from the very beginning. According to Wikipedia…the rest of the world already does.

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