Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Shame on us

Has always suprised me how complacent our country is regarding
the benefits for working Mothers and maternity leave. I remember
what a big deal it was made of when the maternity leave rights were
extended from 6 weeks to 8 weeks. I wasn't even a mother yet
and I thought, it will be a big deal when it's 6 weeks to 6 months!

Even the so called "Family friendly" political parties have not only
done nothing for the cause, its not even on the radar screen. And its
not just small business owners. I worked for the largest radio company
in the country in Minneapolis and there was NO paid maternity leave.
None. I remember
bringing my children up later shortly after my son was born and my
daughter was just 2 and later being told "Don't bring your children here"
One of the most vile things I had ever heard. But no surprise. Given
the rough and tough, single or divorced atmosphere of the majority of
the staff.

My best friend happened to be the Business Manager. She decided to
take matters into her own hands as she was appalled and embarrassed
by the lack of benefits. She got me a single member plan under the
company for few weeks paid maternity leave and it saved us from
complete disaster. She's now a big wheel in San Francisco and still a
great friend. She'd have done it for anyone too, not just me. She just
wasn't aware of it until I became pregnant. We have along way to go.
Great book on this matter is "Price of Motherhood" - shocking really
how much we are punished in this country for becoming mothers. What
a message it sends! Here's excerpt from article I came across
that at least makes
an effort to finally show where real truly have put our Family Values:
at the bottom. - Mother's don't just accept it. Speak up! Jill

In Santa Fe, N.M., Linda Strauss McIlroy, a first-time mother, is trying to get used to the thought of soon putting her 2-month-old boy in day care so she can get back to work.
"It's hard for me to imagine leaving him," she says. "Just not being with him all day, leaving him with a virtual stranger. And then that's it 'til, you know, I retire. It's kind of crazy to think about it."
Across the border in Vancouver, British Columbia, Suzanne Dobson is back at work after 14 months of paid maternity leave.
"It was great," she says. "I was still making pretty good money for being at home."
Across the ocean, in Sweden, Magnus Larsson is looking forward to splitting 16 months of parental leave at 80 percent pay with his girlfriend. They are expecting their first baby in a week.

The United States and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don't provide paid leave for new mothers nationally, though there are exceptions in some U.S. states.
Australian mothers have it better, however, with one year of job-protected leave. The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act provides for 12 weeks of job-protected leave, but it only covers those who work for larger companies.
To put it another way, out of 168 nations in a Harvard University study last year, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave, leaving the United States in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.
How did it end up this way?
"In Canada, Dobson's feelings about her son, Gavin, and the country's maternity leave rules are a better fit.
"I don't think I would have been ready to hand him over to anyone at six months," Dobson says. "At 12 months, he's a little person, and he can kind of tell you what he wants and doesn't want."
There have been several attempts at introducing paid maternity leave in the United States. The Clinton administration wanted to allow states to use unemployment funds for maternity leaves, but that was shot down by the Bush administration after opposition from business groups concerned with increased contribution to state unemployment funds.

A bill introduced in the House by Reps. Pete Stark and George Miller, both D-Calif., would establish a fund that would replace 55 percent of pay for workers on FMLA leave. Contributions to the fund would come from employers.

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