I was thrilled to hear an introduction on the NPR syndicated news magazine, Here and Now, about Penelope Leach’s new book Child Care Today, Getting it Right For Everyone. You can listen to Robin Young’s interview of Dr. Leach here. But, if childcare is not an issue that currently affects you…don’t click away so soon. The issues brought to light during this interview go WAY beyond interviewing childcare providers and day care centers.
While Leach discussed her somewhat changed opinion from a decade ago about whether or not the best place for a child is in the home with mom (as opposed to being in a childcare setting) the larger take home point that caught my attention was her remark on our country’s dismal maternity leave policy.
This is a topic I have written and spoken about on many occasions…the fact that, out of all the industrialized nations around the world, the U.S. has THE WORST maternity leave policy. That is to say, we basically have NO maternity (or paternity) leave policy.
Sure, individual employers offer individual maternity leave plans, and there is that thing called the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 that can be used during the postpartum period…but only for a relatively short period of time (up to 12 weeks) and if the woman meets a variety of qualifications (see link above). Oh, and the woman receives $0 during her leave if taken under the FMLA. This is down right embarrassing, especially when you consider countries like Sweden and Norway that provide federally funded maternity leave for 12-13 months at 80% of the woman’s full time pay.
As Leach and Young discussed this fact, and the difficult position it places U.S. families in who need their double income to make ends meet, an excellent point came forward: the fact that our country can’t get it together enough to provide a significant, federally mandated parental leave act (notice I said parental…dads shouldn’t lose out either…) equates to the fact that we, as a nation, do not value enough the role of the parent, the importance of parent-baby bonding, and the dignity those roles and processes should otherwise maintain.