My husband’s cousin Khalif* is one of “those” co-parents. You know, the kind of co-parent who can frustrate the hell out of a woman? To the point where you get sick of hearing about his B.S. ways from his baby’s mother, and you contemplate kicking the crap out of his car, because he’s being such a jerk to the mother of his child.
In other words, he’s an asshole.
I didn’t always see him this way, mostly because he’s my family, and I wanted to view him in a positive light. In fact, I thought he was a great person in general, until I (by chance) talked to Shay*, who is the mother of one of his children. That’s when I realized that Shay opened her legs for the wrong dude.
When I first met Shay, we had a long “get to know you” conversation about our likes, dislikes, baby stuff, morning sickness, etc. Shay scored so many cool point with me during our conversation, that I thought that Khalif was an idiot for not locking her down. Seriously, girlfriend was the full package – not only was she pretty, she was thoughtful, she was well read, and she was educated.
The problem she was facing was the fact that she was (at the time) 7 months pregnant, and could not afford to take 8 weeks of maternity leave. In fact, she could barely afford the two weeks of maternity leave that she had planned for herself. Not that Khalif was helping her, because again, he’s one of “those” co-parents. The more she talked about setting everything up to make sure she was comfortable for two weeks after she had her baby, the more I realized that Khalif wasn’t really the problem.
Several weeks after meeting my new buddy, Shay had a healthy baby girl. But she still had to go back to work two weeks after having her child prematurely, and even I had to reassess who I was mad at when I learned that she had virtually no time to rest after giving birth.
It was so easy for me to be mad at Khalif for not helping Shay post-natal. But why? Even if she were to have a baby with another man, she’s still going to have the same problem – no paid maternity leave.
This is why paid maternity leave is so crucial to women, especially single moms. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, qualifying American parents are guaranteed 12 weeks of family leave to care for their new bundles of joy, but that leave isn’t always paid. Especially in Shay’s case.
What’s even more sad about this subject is that the U.S. is the only civilized country in the world that does not offer moms time to rest after they have a child. Having no time off after giving birth to baby doesn’t align with science, which shows that women who give vaginal births will have swollen lady bits for 2 weeks, and would need a total of 6 weeks to recover. We won’t even get into c-section scars that randomly opens while you’re sitting at work **not** recovering from child birth.
On top of that, it’s frustrating that a lot of people aren’t eligible to take FMLA. Cosmo reported last year,
Aside from the obvious issue of losing your income, another drawback to the FMLA is that a lot of people and businesses don’t meet the qualifications. In fact, according to a 2012 survey prepared for the Department of Labor, most worksites are not covered by the FMLA because they’re too small. Only 59 percent of American workers – and less than 20 percent of all new mothers – are eligible for the FMLA. This is due to the following regulations: You have to work at a company that employs at least 50 people who live within 75 miles of the business (yes, that is weirdly specific) and you must have worked there for an entire year. In that year, you must have put in at least 1,250 hours, not including paid time off or sick days.
There’s a lot wrong with FMLA, and there are a lot of cases that I could present that supports my argument, including paid maternity leave being one part of the solution to closing the gender pay gap.
But the fact remains that no new parent should have to look for a new job after having a baby, and no one should have to choose between working and having a family. If every other developed country has seen benefits to taking care of their workers who have children, then there is no reason why U.S. companies can’t do the same.
Unless they’re cheap, and didn’t plan to stay in business that long anyway. But that’s a subject for another day.
Educate yourself with the facts by watching the videos below.
*Khalif and Shay are not their real names.