Unless you are living under a rock, chances are you’ve been exposed to the Occupy movement that has spread across the United States in recent months. According to the Occupy Wall Street website they are fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. Their fight is a noble one, they are passionate about their cause and standing up for what they believe in peacefully. Do I want to grab my tent and join the cause? Probably not, but it does make me think about what I’m passionate about and what I would be willing to stake my tent for.
There is a major problem in this country that no one is protesting about but lots of moms are talking about: maternity leave in America. Our leaders and prospective politicians build campaigns on “family values” platforms and they aren’t afraid to clearly define their positions on heavier, more divisive issues such as abortion or what defines a marriage. Yet, somehow, the importance of moms and the issues that surround us seem to slip through the cracks.
Members of congress are more than happy to collect their tax payer funded pensions long after they leave office. Money well spent, anywhere from $41,000 to $85,000 per elected official per year beginning at age 62. Meanwhile, American moms work harder, juggle tasks and accomplish more in one week than most politicians do in a lifetime. Why is it that we, who are raising the future leaders of this nation, are getting the short end of the stick?
Did you know that the United States is THE ONLY industrialized nation that does not mandate paid leave for parents of newborns? Did you know that just a few of the countries offering a fully paid maternity leave include Mexico (12 weeks), Malawi (8 weeks) and India (12 weeks)? That’s right, while senators enjoy a cushy retirement on our dime, moms across the country are breaking their backs to care for their newborns without much support and/or time before being thrust back into the workforce 12 weeks or less after giving birth. If you are a mom, you know that any time with your child is precious but in terms of bonding with your child, 12 weeks seems minuscule.
Would you like more time off work? You may want to pack your belongings and consider a move to Sweden. According to a recent NPR story, Sweden has some of the most generous leave laws in the world – and the government not only considers the mother, but also the father. Parents are allocated a total of 480 days per child, which they can take any time until the child is 8 years old. They can share these days, although 60 are allocated specifically to the father. And they are entitled to receive 80 percent of their wages, although this is capped at a certain level. It seems that this little Scandinavian country is light years ahead of us on this issue.
Even when you remove the monetary factor out of the leave equation, we still pale in comparison to other countries when it comes to the number of weeks we give new moms to bond with their babies. In the United Kingdom and Australia moms can take up to a year of leave to bond with their newborns. In fact, our nation trails behind Russia, most of Europe and many African nations when it comes to the amount of leave time that we give new mothers.
People are filling the streets, protesting and risking their safety all across the nation to stop corporate greed. Aristotle Onassis once said, “If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning.” Money is just that, it’s money, you can’t take it with you and in the end it has no real meaning.
Now, being a mommy, you can carry that forever in your heart. Time with your child, that holds true meaning. If you’ll excuse me, I need to make a picket sign, it seems I’ve found a cause I can truly stand behind. Will you join me?