I really don’t know how to tackle this subject, but it’s an important one that I feel needs to be discussed. Maternity leave, or lack thereof, in our country just doesn’t compare to other nations. Plain and simple. I know this is a controversial issue, and I rarely dive into anything political on here, so stick with me.
I’ll share my story first and then I want to share some stories I’ve received from woman around the world in regards to maternity / paternity leave.
When I was pregnant with my first child I was part-time at my news station in Birmingham. I chose part-time because my husband was living in Montgomery and neither one of us had intentions of moving to either city any time soon…so we split our time. I would come to Montgomery during the week and then he would travel to Birmingham on the weekends he wasn’t working.
When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wouldn’t get much maternity leave and I was okay with that. After all, I was only working 3 days a week. I don’t recall how old Luke was when I went back to work, but he was young…maybe 8 weeks. My employer left my return up to my discretion and my job was secure.
Fast forward to my daughter’s birth at a new station in Kentucky. I remember sitting in the HR office almost in tears while discussing my maternity leave. I was told I would get 6 weeks of paid maternity leave and if I had a c-section, I could get 8 weeks. At the time, I didn’t realize having paid maternity leave was a perk. To me, it seemed so short and somewhat insensitive. How would 6 weeks be enough time with a new baby? I debating not returning, but I was under contract and felt strongly about honoring that.
Six weeks rolled around, and it was time to go back to work. I started weening my daughter from breastfeeding because I knew it wouldn’t be realistic to continue breastfeeding as a reporter and anchor. Can you imagine being out on a breaking news story and having to pause everything to pump your boobs? Nope.
About 6 months after my return, I turned in my notice. News wasn’t exciting to me anymore. Burnout in local television news is high because the job is incredibly demanding and the pay is (typically) peanuts.
My last day on the news I bid my farewell and I never, ever, ever looked back. There isn’t a day that goes by that I miss it. And that’s exactly how I wanted to leave…I wanted to give it my all, which I did for 10 years, and then close that chapter of my life.
Today, I have this blog and social media and I couldn’t ask for more from a professional standpoint. From a personal view, I couldn’t be happier. I get to work from home (not always easy) but there is no where I would rather be. This is 100% the life I chose, and it’s important that I make that known first and foremost.
That being said, I don’t get maternity leave or any time off… anyone who is self-employed is in the same boat. And many in our country still do not receive time off even if they are employed outside of the home. That’s the reality we live in here in the United States.
Someone on social media asked me to write about this topic. Maternity and paternity leave in our country. It’s a controversial subject and a hot topic during election season. Will it ever change? I’m honestly not sure.
What breaks my heart is that some women are forced to chose between their career and their family. On the other hand, I know there are a lot of small businesses in our country that cannot afford to pay someone 6 months maternity leave. They just can’t afford it. So the topic remains extremely controversial.
I posed these questions on Instagram and I’m thrilled YOU weighed in!
- What country do you live in?
- Did you get maternity and paternity leave?
- If so, for how long?
Here are some of your answers:
- I live in the US. 12 weeks were available to me, but unpaid. My husband took 1 day, I was forced back early because of money.
- I live in Canada and I got 12 months of paid maternity leave. That was 5 years ago, it’s now 18 months.
- I live in Brazil and women get 4-6 months and men get 1 month of leave.
- I live in Germany. I took 9 months. After that time, my husband took 4 months and I went back to work full-time.
- I’m from Belgium, maternity leave is normally 15 weeks and paternity is about 10 days. For twins, you get 19 weeks… for triplets, our situation, I still got 19 weeks.
- I live in Canada, depends on where you work but we get a full year off from the day you start leave.
- I live in the US. 5-10 weeks as a business owner. My husband got 1 week off.
- I grew up in the UK, but here in the US I got 6 weeks at 60% pay and my husband got 6 weeks at full play. It’s crazy to me that there is so little time off.
- US– 6 weeks for maternity leave, and 6 paid weeks for paternity.
- I’m in Georgia, I would have gotten 6 weeks short term disability that I had to opt into. Or I could take 12 weeks unpaid FMLA leave. Being a teacher meant my entire contract for the year would have been prorated so we decided I would take a year off and save on daycare. My husband got 2 weeks of paternity and took one week of vacation. His work still bothered him about it.
- I live in Canada. I’m taking 16 months, I have the option for 18. My husband also got 8 weeks of paid paternity leave.
- I’m taking a year unpaid and we will switch to my husband’s insurance which is crappy.
- I live in the USA and get zero maternity leave for me but I do get to take my baby to work. My husband got 3 months of paid leave.
- I am a teacher, but my husband is an actuary and got 16 weeks of PAID leave!
- I live in the U.S. My husband got NONE. I got 8 weeks paid and ended up taking 12 weeks.
- I live in the US, no paid maternity leave for me because I’m self-employed. My husband is a pharmacist and got 2 weeks.
- I live in the USA and I didn’t get any maternity leave, my partner got 2 weeks.
- In Tunisia, it’s a month then for 2 to 3 additional months I’m allowed an hour a day to go feed the baby.
- I live in the USA. I had 12 weeks, 6 paid and I used 6 weeks of vacation time. Husband got 2 weeks of paid leave.
- In England, I got 3 months with 90% pay, 6 months of 50% pay and option for 3 additional extra unpaid months. Your employer cannot replace you and must leave your job open for your return.
- I live in Spain and maternity / paternity leave might get you fired.
- I live in the USA and I had 12 weeks and took 13 because I was on bedrest for five of those weeks. My husband received 16 weeks of leave.
- My husband got 14 weeks of paid paternity leave.
- USA, 12 weeks total. Only 6 weeks paid though, my husband got 4 weeks paid!
- Canada rocks! We get 18 months paid can split by parents 1st 35 weeks is for mom.
- I live in the U.S. I’m per diem so I don’t get maternity leave even though I work 30-60 hours a week. My husband doesn’t get anything because he hasn’t been at his job for a year.
Then there are the women who do decide to take time off of work and worry about the gap in their resumes. For them, I had a fellow friend message me this:
- I hate reading stories like this. I want women and men to know that even if they choose to take time off to parent, you can leverage that when you’re ready to re-enter the workforce. I’m in HR and when I see the gap or ask about it, we try to see how people have used that time. Parlay the fact that you’re a PTA parent/girl scout leader/ or even home manager skills. It takes a lot of skills to run and maintain a home. Even if you don’t feel like it, there are great skills that can help you transition into a new role. We are so much stronger than we know and much of the world gives us credit for. A good company and hiring manager will see the value.
A lot to digest, I know.
I want to hear from you.
Answer these questions for me or feel free to email me anonymously at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Where do you live?
- Do you maternity / paternity leave?
- If so, was it paid and for how long?
- Do you feel it was enough time?
- How would you change maternity leave in your country if you could?