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OP-ED | What Moms Really Want For Mother’s Day

by | May 6, 2015 6:00pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Child Welfare, Health Care, Jobs, Opinion, Nonprofits, Poverty


As Mother’s Day approaches, many of us shop for a thoughtful gift to show the mothers in our lives a special token of appreciation. Perhaps flowers, chocolate truffles, or a blooming plant for her garden.

But most mothers would sacrifice a new charm bracelet for laws that support their ability to better balance work and family. Mothers dream of things like affordable and available child care, equal distribution of caregiving responsibilities, jobs that pay a livable wage so they afford groceries and rent, and workplaces that support their dual roles as breadwinners and caregivers.

One policy with a chance of success in Connecticut that would be a true gift to mothers is paid family and medical leave.

Paid maternity leave, one facet of this larger policy, is not just a liberal European trend. The United States should be ashamed that is the only advanced country that does not provide some form of paid maternity leave for new mothers. Most African countries’ policies average between 12-14 weeks of leave at 100 percent of wages and Puerto Rico’s policy has been in place since 1942.

For parents, the first 12 weeks of a baby’s life are the most demanding. Never mind that women are still recovering from birth, often surgery, with health issues of their own. In the following weeks, parents are still figuring out the needs of this tiny new person in their home, struggling with feedings every couple of hours and disrupted sleep patterns.

Earlier returns to work create tremendous stress for parents, but most have no choice. How long can you afford to go without a paycheck? The financial pressures to return to work before a mother is physically or emotionally ready are unavoidable in this country, and place even more stress and anxiety on new parents.

After all, without enough income to pay for a family’s basic needs, parents struggle with affording critical items like diapers. Even though diapers are a necessity for every infant, they are not allowable expenses under state or federal assistance programs. With an adequate supply costing $18 per week, families who can’t afford this expense are more likely to have babies experience negative health consequences like dermatitis and urinary tract infections. It’s also linked to parenting stress and depressive symptoms.

The “baby-blues” condition can be more frequent and serious than it sounds, sometimes resulting in actual depression. According to the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, there is a direct relationship between the length of maternity leave and the risk of postpartum depression. At six weeks, 12 weeks, and six months, women who were still on maternity leave had lower incidence of postpartum depression than their peers who returned to work.

Shorter maternity leaves also present a major obstacle to breastfeeding. In a survey of new mothers, about half said their employment had an impact on their baby-feeding decisions, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy. Mothers who return to work before six weeks are more than three times likely to stop breastfeeding than those who return later. Meanwhile, the health benefits of nursing are widely known: breastmilk has antibodies that help the baby fight viruses and infection, babies have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, trips to the doctor, and hospitalizations, and mothers may recover more quickly and easily from birth.

In California, where paid family and medical leave was created more than 10 years ago, the median duration of breastfeeding doubled among new mothers who took paid family leave. With positive impacts as clear as these, the question is: why wouldn’t Connecticut follow suit?

Paid family and medical leave has positive impacts for the economy, too. It lowers the unemployment rate, decreases dependence on public assistance, prevents the risk of foreclosure, and lowers turnover costs for employers.

In a country that widely espouses the sanctity of “family values,” why have we failed to recognize our moral obligation to support brand new human beings entering this world, and the women who birth them?

Let’s save the tulips and jewelry for another day. On Mother’s Day, let’s show mothers our true appreciation by creating a society that genuinely supports the needs of new mothers and babies.

Catherine Bailey is the chairwoman of the Campaign for Paid Family Leave.

Others who have signed onto this editorial include: the Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave, Connecticut Parent Power, Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, The Diaper Bank, MotherWoman, National Organization for Women Connecticut Chapter, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, and Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(20) Archived Comments

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 6, 2015  6:50pm

Give a socialist an inch…

The Family Medical Leave Act wasn’t enough?  Now it has to be PAID time off?!

Do you have any experience running a business???

And you’re gonna pimp Mother’s Day for your cause???

CT just gets more and more business unfriendly.  You act as if people and businesses don’t have the choice to LEAVE the People’s Democratic Republic of Connecticut.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 6, 2015  6:53pm

“The United States should be ashamed that is the only advanced country that does not provide some form of paid maternity leave for new mothers.”

Attempted Shaming…the silver bullet in every Social Justice Warrior’s ammo can.

posted by: whatsprogressiveaboutprogressives? | May 7, 2015  7:42am

I’m curious if this is her full time job and if so who’s paying her salary and funding the Campaign for Paid Family Leave. Then again , I may not want to know.

posted by: Christine Stuart | May 7, 2015  10:27am

Christine Stuart

Um, to the obviously old clueless male commenters, who make me want to end the use of comments on the site every day, we are the same women raising your children. In order for those babies to survive and thrive they need their mother. They need our milk and warmth and nurturing. Babies need your attention constantly every day. So take your “toughen up” attitude and shove it. I did “toughen up” and now I’m back at work approving your stupid comments while pumping the food my baby needs to survive.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 7, 2015  10:40am

Christine,

The current unpaid version of the Family Medical Leave Act gives you EVERYTHING you say you need in your comment below.

I just object to FORCING an employer to pay for your “I want it all and someone else should pay for it” attitude.

I do salute you though for having the journalistic integrity to ignore your obvious view-point bias and approve comments that fall within your Terms of Use.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 7, 2015  10:45am

@Christine…

re: you’re “old white male commenters” comment.

You’re only half correct in my case.

And if I had made a similar comment regarding MY opinion of the personal traits of some of the people you give Op-Ed space to, would you have printed it???

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 7, 2015  10:49am

*gives Christine a standing ovation*

I did the same thing, buckos. Went back to work, pumping milk for my kids while running the finances of a multimillion pound sterling agricultural and manufacturing business. AND GUESS WHAT. In the UK women DO GET PAID TIME OFF for maternity leave. And we had single payer healthcare. So perhaps you guys who just go to work and come home and still want to opine on how women should “toughen up” could just go crawl back into your caves?

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 7, 2015  10:51am

@Christine

...and if your family’s personal financial circumstances do not allow you to be a full-time stay at home mother then perhaps you might consider giving more column-inch space to discussing the outrageous taxation in CT and WHY a middle class mother HAS to work in CT.

And if your family’s personal financial circumstances DO allow you to be a full-time stay at home mother, and you choose to work anyway, then it’s really all about you and not your children.

posted by: Christine Stuart | May 7, 2015  11:07am

Christine Stuart

Biff,
Yes, I violated my own commenting policy. Guess what? It’s my site so I can. Also I’m self-employed so when you’re self-employed there’s no one who can fill in for you when you take leave. I’m not advocating for paid leave. In fact, that’s why short-term disability insurance exists. Couldn’t afford to do that though because then you would have no where to spew your silly nonsense. You should be thanking me instead of criticizing me.
Christine
PS Deleting all of these comments by the end of the day because it’s just silly to waste my time

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 7, 2015  11:07am

Biff,

Dude you a funny one. Twist up a fatty, grab a beverage, and go sit on the stoop and watch the neighbors. That would be more time worthy for you than typing comments in your underwear.

HST

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 7, 2015  11:34am

Actually Doc, I’m in a suit, waiting to call on my next customer, while I advance the fortunes of my small business.

Cheers!

posted by: Christine Stuart | May 7, 2015  12:04pm

Christine Stuart

Also, Biff please don’t assume I want to be a stay at home mom. Not for me. Doesn’t make me any less of a mother.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 7, 2015  12:19pm

Can I nominate Biff Winnetka for the Most Offensive N00b Commenter Award for his sexism, misogyny, hyperbole and lack of actual facts in pretty much every comment?

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 7, 2015  12:22pm

BS Biff.

posted by: dano860 | May 7, 2015  1:52pm

I wish we had this when my children were young. We both commuted from Woodstock to Hartford and East Hartford, at different times, so we car pooled in different vehicles. The children were at a sitters and I would pick them up 5 days a week, she dropped them off in the morning. Having paid time off for her to be with them would have been real nice.
As Chritine said, you can pay for an insurance but that’s pretty pricey. In the end it boils down to the dollars either the employers or the States. If it can be made abuse proof I would support it today. As I’ve said in the past,these bills require thorough vetting and scrutiny before they hit the docket but few do.
If we’re going to study things in this State a few test cases on this subject may be in order.

posted by: justsayin | May 7, 2015  8:33pm

Another opinion article to further someone’s crusade, silly crusade. Christine it takes two to make a baby, then even us clueless males can raise the kids. Formula, diapers and love.

posted by: ocoandasoc | May 7, 2015  11:31pm

Paid family leave for moms would be great. For dads, too. The only issues are making it equitable, making sure it isn’t abused, and figuring out who pays for it. But… those are pretty big issues. There is no feasible way to meet those three issues by making businesses pay the freight. We would need a new Federal program on the scale of social security and medicare. Call it “family security” perhaps. Employees and employers would pay into it through withholding and then make claims which would be administered through a huge new Federal agency. Perhaps a better way to do it would be to allow working folks to have a tax free savings program – sort of an IRA – that they could pay into through withholding and then withdraw when their child is born to augment lost family income. Combine that with significant tax credits for the parents for the first year or two of their child’s life.
I have to add, however, that there seems to be a reluctance on the part of young parents these days to do it “old school.” My mom quit work shortly before I was born and didn’t go back until my youngest brother was 10. And my dad never made more than $150 a week. My wife took 10 years off to raise our kids… and I worked 55 to 60 hours a week to keep us comfortable financially. Both my parents and my wife and I did without a lot of things to make single-income parenting possible. I see a lot of young couples today who want to have everything their parents have right off the bat. They start with their college loans, then run up a lot of debt and staggering monthly payments for rent/mortgage, expensive new cars, furniture, premium cell phone and cable TV plans, restaurant meals, vacations, etc. Then they say it’s unfair that one of them can’t afford to quit work for a while to concentrate on raising the kids. Living on one income CAN be done. There are families in every community that are doing it. But it is a choice that you have to make, and a lifestyle that you have to adopt. (And this is not a gender thing; despite what you see on TV sitcoms, men are perfectly capable of being stay-at-home parents and the number that do is increasing every year!)
My favorite approach to the dilemma is the one my sister-in-law chose. She started working for AT&T in high school and went full time when she graduated. Right after she became pregnant for the first time (at the age of 35) AT&T decided to cut its workforce dramatically. She stunned her boss when she announced that rather than taking a three week pregnancy leave she would retire. Her 19.5 years of service by her due date qualified her for the early retirement option the company had just started offering and she began collecting pension checks just after her first child was born.

posted by: Christine Stuart | May 8, 2015  11:45am

Christine Stuart

What European company has failed because they give their women several weeks and months of maternity leave? In Great Britain it’s 52 weeks.

posted by: M_Dietrich | May 8, 2015  3:37pm

M_Dietrich

I love your comments here, Christine! In addition to the fact that paid family leave has not caused businesses in other countries to irretrievably breakdown, there are businesses here in the U.S. who offer some form of paid family leave - and are actually successful and profitable companies! Who would imagine it?

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 9, 2015  8:22am

Are you losing the debate?

Shout “Misogynist”

And you silence (or try to) the opposition

Ending the argument

Allowing you to claim victory

*A public service announcement from America’s feminists.

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