Kiss Goodbye To Baby Bonding

Becoming a mom is no easy task.

It goes without saying that it is truly a blessing, but for many women it can also be an overwhelming challenge. This is not about messy diapers, embarrassing tantrums at your local supermarket, or horror stories about the “terrible twos”. This is about the fear of changing your “work-gym-kickball” schedule into a near sleepless routine of feeding, swaddling, diapering and soothing. This is about seeing that “gym-ready” body turning into something that you do not really want to showcase during your next Cancun vacation.

One would think that at least this lifelong change comes with the benefit of time off from work with full pay. If you live in the United States, however, I am sorry to inform that you are out of luck.

There are at least 178 countries around the world that provide paid maternity leave for working moms. Germany provides moms with 14 weeks of leave with 100% wages paid. Austria, Netherlands, and Spain all give moms 16 weeks and almost full wages paid. Some countries like Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, and the United Kingdom go as far as giving a full year of paid maternity leave. Sweden gives an astonishing 420 days with 80% wages paid for mom and child bonding.

Looking at these numbers you may ask where does the United States rank amongst these countries, and the sad reality is that we are at the very bottom, with zero weeks of paid leave for new mothers.

In a ‘first world’, developed country like the United States, which serves as an example to the world on so many different levels and on so many other issues, it is unacceptable that paid maternity leave does not exist on a federal level. The first years of a baby’s life are crucial for the baby to bond with the mother and to have the best possible beginning for his or her new life. Without that dedicated time with a loving parent, it can become difficult for young children to reach the consecutive milestones that need to happen in terms of their emotional development.

According to Chaya Kulkarni, the director of Infant Mental Health Promotion, one of the most common misconceptions is that an infant is incapable of having their own thoughts and feelings. Interactions at an early age can help to develop their sense of curiosity and interest in exploring their environment. Additionally, these early experiences help with their cognitive development, language acquisition, and even with their own abilities of becoming a future parent. Kulkarni also mentions that the newest science has proven that “early experiences that babies have and the quality of those experiences actually has the potential to change the architecture of the brain”. Having a strong start in life is important to set up the next generation of Americans that will help continue to move the country forward in the future and who better than the child’s own mother to set up her baby for a successful life.

Undoubtedly, having a new baby also brings many new expenses, so it is also critical for the family to remain financially stable during this important period. Some fortunate couples are able to afford to live off of one salary, but the sad reality is that most cannot. The majority of parents struggle financially as they adapt to this new phase in life and carry the burden of paying for expensive daycare (which in some places can equate to taking on a second mortgage). As a last resort, some opt for other methods of childcare with uncertain or questionable standards. Since the United States does not have a form of paid maternity leave for new moms, families are forced to make difficult decisions to be able to care for their newborns. Not to mention, not having paid time off indirectly impacts the economy as cash flow is taken out of the system and families work hard to make ends meet. What should be one of the happiest and most memorable moments of a new family’s life can often be overshadowed by financial instability.

The president is aware and shows concern about the United States being the only developed country that does not offer paid maternity leave, but when is this going to change? When will that concern turn to action? Now is the time to bring the United States into the twentieth century with respect to supporting new mothers and new families with paid maternity leave. Google, as a pioneer company on so many levels, has done something about it. They now offer moms with 18 weeks of paid maternity leave.

Too bad it is so darn hard to get a job at Google.