The need for parental leave during pregnancy

Image courtesy of flickr.com.

As our world continues to progress, many people, especially women, have been fighting for equal gender rights in terms of reproductive care. Many citizens believe that reproductive care focuses solely on a woman’s right to an abortion, but it also includes the fields of health care such as cancer prevention and pregnancy rights. Many countries such as Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, Estonia, Bulgaria, Chile, Japan, Norway, Lithuania, and many more offer high paid parental leave, with Estonia having the highest amount with 86 weeks of paid leave. When discussing the topic of paid parental leave, this includes both mothers and fathers. The United States of America is one of the few countries that does not offer paid parental leave for men and women. 

After a couple has a child, the amount of responsibilities the parents have to deal with are suddenly overwhelming, especially with newborn infants. Even with hiring a nurse to help take care of the infant at first, there is still much that these new parents need to learn in order to properly take care of their infants in the future. Many parents also want to dedicate their time to personally raise their child even with the help of a nurse and/or a nanny. Because the United States is one of the few countries that does not offer paid parental leave, parents often struggle with taking care of their new infants while also making enough money to support themselves.

Despite the fact that the United States does not offer paid parental leave, many people are still okay with fathers heading back to work soon after their child is born to continue supporting their family while the mother receives paid maternity leave and stays home to care for her infant. However, the US does not even guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers trying to care for their children. 

Ever since the beginning of time, it has been as if women are penalized for having children. Up until the 1970s, employers were allowed to fire women from their jobs simply for being pregnant. According to an article written by the American Civil Liberties Union, future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was fired from her job while pregnant with her daughter Jane in 1955 just because of her pregnancy. When she was working as a professor at Rutgers Law School, she made sure to hide her pregnancy with her son James for as long as possible in 1965. Thankfully, because of the progressive beliefs held by Rutgers, Ginsburg was not fired even after she was forced to reveal that she was pregnant to her employers. 

The topic of paid parental leave does not just focus on women, but men too. Our society typically assumes caregivers are women, and therefore the fight for paid paternity leave is much less understood than the fight for paid maternity leave This notion itself is sex-based discrimination against a man. 

Today, men want to be part of raising their newborn and do not always want to head off to work immediately after their child is born. However, because of the lack of paid paternity leave, men are usually required to return to work soon after the birth of their child in order to support the family, but women have been growing sick and tired of being viewed as the constant caregiver in the family. For example, former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama worked as a lawyer, and because of the lack of paid parental leave, brought her daughter, Sasha Obama, to a job interview in her stroller. Michelle Obama got the job, proving to the American public that being a parent in no way should disrupt work ethic.

“People should definitely be compensated for parental leave. While there are laws in place like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there should be better communication about the benefits received by the employees about parental leave,” Joshua Charleston (’20) said. 

There should be some amount of paid parental leave to give both mothers and fathers time to adjust to having a newborn in the house and to learn how to properly raise their children. As a feminist, I recognize the importance of treating women equally and not condoning them for having children. The lack of paid parental leave in the United States ultimately shames both women and men for having children, as if having children is a burden on their work ethic. 

“I think that the U.S. is supposed to represent freedom and equality. It is supposed to offer the chance of equal opportunity to everyone, but by neglecting to offer paid parental leave, we are restricting all parents, especially women, from having the same chances as others. Women’s pregnancy rights are already restricted so much, and by not offering paid parental leave, that restriction extends to not only women but men too, along with the child they are trying to support. All parents need the opportunity to raise their children so that they can grow up in a loving and supportive environment, not one that is constantly constrained by the limited and not to mention the unpaid amount of time off that is offered to parents,” Teagan McDonough (’20) said. 

However, it is also true that implementing a paid parental leave to our country requires intensive planning and effort to make sure that the economy and jobs do not suffer as a result. According to an article on slate.com, Republican United States President Donald J. Trump introduced a plan to promise six weeks of paid maternity leave for mothers whose employers did not already provide it during his 2016 presidential campaign. While there are flaws to this proposal (as this plan does not include men and is therefore discriminatory), this plan still displays the start of a partisan agreement between Republicans and Democrats on the topic of pregnancy rights. Hopefully, a better partisan agreement for pregnancy rights concerning both maternity and paternity leave will be introduced in 2020, as this plan, while a start, is not sufficient. 

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