US Maternity Leave- HOT TOPIC

*This is The Good Mama’s 2nd monthly HOT TOPIC. Be sure to check out the first hot topic on Extended Breastfeeding

Us maternity leave laws hot topic via

Today is Labor Day- a celebration of the American worker.

Yet, what about the American working mother?

The United States is the only Western country to not provide any form of paid maternity leave, and one of only two countries in the world (The International Labor Organization Report).


Now, the laws as they stand don’t affect me personally since Good Papa and I decided I was going to stay at home before W was born. We are very fortunate that we were able to make that decision.

Some mothers and fathers do not have a choice.

In fact, the mothers in most need of paid maternity leave are the least likely to receive it (Center for American Progress).

Mothers may have to go back to work immediately because they cannot afford to take any time off. We all know how expensive those tiny humans can be!


US Maternity Leave Laws Hot Topic via

Hot Topics Debate Question

Should the United States provide working mothers with paid maternity leave?

I understand why many Americans are hesitant to adopt other countries’ practices regarding maternity leave. Who really wants to pay more taxes? I don’t want the government to have too much control.

Take a look at the small business owner. They need and depend on all of their workers. They might be left stranded if all of the women workers decide to have babies at the same time. Didn’t you know? Pregnancy is contagious! 

I mean, really, women should just plan better. If you know you can’t afford to have children, why would you have one in the first place? I guess accidents can’t happen. 

Despite these arguments, I think the US needs to address the issue and make a change. Let’s face it- working parents aren’t going anywhere.

Yes, it may cost money up front, but I think it’s important to note that we end up paying for it regardless.

Imagine a pregnant woman working a low income job that does not provide any paid maternity leave. After she gives birth (hopefully she was able to take a day off to give birth), she has this brand new baby to care for, she needs the money to provide for her child, but she is getting paid so low that she can’t even afford child care services. What is she to do?

She ends up quitting her job and has to accept government assistance instead. Over 50% of workers worry about financials when taking unpaid leave in the US (FMLA Survey). Isn’t it better to be proactive as opposed to reactive?

Ultimately, I think providing paid maternity leave is in the best interest for our country. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be forced to decide between family and providing for them. Unfortunately, there are mothers out there in our country making that decision every day.

Should we just forget about them and say, “tough luck?” Or, should do whatever we can to help those precious, little ones start off on the right foot?

After all, it’ll be our babies running things in future America.


Readers, let me know what you think! Do you agree with me that the US maternity leave laws need an update? Or, are you content to have the government stay out of your business? What type of leave did you or did you not receive? Let me know in the comment section below.

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  • Megan Gilbert says:

    I was very lucky this second time to have 8 weeks of my maternity leave paid in full by my employer. It allowed me to take an extra 4 weeks of unpaid with her because I could. Had it not been paid I would have been back pretty quickly. So I am all for it!!

  • Melissa says:

    I think there are a lot of things that people might benefit from, if only the government required companies to provide it – dental insurance, paid maternity/paternity leave, etc. However, I don’t like the idea that the government just starts requiring companies to do things some of us think would be nice. While I may sound like a cold hearted jerk, what we need in this country is more people taking responsibility for their lives and playing a more active role in shaping the world around them. Yes, I think if you are planning to have a baby you should be prepared to cover the time you take off or have some kid of plan in place. I think if you have an unexpected pregnancy , then you have 9 months to save or figure out what you’re going to do. You might have to go back to work quickly, and as much as that sucks, we are all making tough decisions in this life. Additionally, I think that if paid maternity leave is important to us as a society, then we should be putting pressure on companies that can afford to provide it to do so. But I prefer to go the free market route… I know I’ll be in the minority.

    In full disclosure – I do stay home with my daughter, but we are not wealthy. We make a lot of sacrifices to live the life we have chosen and it’s not always easy.

    • Melissa- Thanks for your comment. Though, if paid maternity is important to most people in society, why can’t we vote for representatives to pass laws to mandate it? We can have mothers put pressure on employers to give paid maternity leave all they want, but they risk getting fired. I agree that people should be taking responsibility for their actions, but we are talking about people who already have jobs. They are already trying their best to take responsibility. Why is it so wrong to keep encouraging them?

  • MaryKay says:

    While I think providing paid maternity leave is a good thing, and I’d like to think I’d provide it if I was an employer, I don’t think it should be mandatory.

  • Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    I took my 12 weeks with my first son and barely made it through my first day back. I was a hot mess. It’s definitely too soon to be leaving a baby that young.

  • Marya says:

    I (as a CAnadian) have always felt bad for my American friends. I absolutely LOVE my year of mat leave and couldn’t imagine being at work earlier. Also, I’ve had 3 preemies, and some of them have been in the hospital up to 9 weeks, which would never work if I didn’t have leave (and having had 3 preemies in the best NICUs and not paying a cent for it makes me incredibly grateful for our healthcare system…won’t hear me complaining about taxes… ) 🙂

  • Kori says:

    Honestly, I think that we (as Americans) are behind on maternity leave and especially in comparison with European countries. But, at the same time, I think that a business/company should be given the option to opt-out or opt-in for paid maternity leave (and longer paid maternity leave, for that matter). I think too, having some kind of regulation (ex. having to have worked for a company for so many moths before being able to have paid maternity leave- separate from vacation/sick time) would be key.
    Kori recently posted…Rethinking My Blog (Again!)My Profile

  • bri says:

    I am not a mother yet, but I do think there should be a set standard that employers must follow to provide maternity leave to mothers who choose to take maternity leave.

  • Tamika says:

    Yes, I agree that all mother’s should get paid Maternity Leave. This is how we will bring our families back together again. Thanks for bringing this important topic back to the table once again.
    Tamika recently posted…Goodbye August…..Hello SeptemberMy Profile

  • I’m torn on this issue. Personally, my husband and I make sacrifices so that I can stay home with our family. I know not everyone has this option. I’m not a big fan of the government encroaching any more into my life. It didn’t do so well with the whole Affordable Care Act, so I really don’t want it to have any more power. But, I think new mommies need to have more than six weeks with their new babies before going back to work. I think more discussion about this issue needs to happen.
    Deborah @ mommycrusader recently posted…Caramel Apple SlicesMy Profile

    • Deborah- I definitely agree with you that more discussion needs to happen on this issue. I’m not a huge fan of giving the government too much power, but I think in this case it will be better for our country overall.

  • Maggie says:

    I think the us is so behind the times in some situations! I received unpaid medical leave when I had my little one and we barely survived!
    Maggie recently posted…Meal-Planning Monday 101 vol. 2My Profile

  • Jeanette Mays says:

    Guess I am glad I had my daughter while I was in the military. I had paid Maternity leave that did not take away from my vacation time.

  • Thats rough! We’re in Canada, and since I dont work my husband got off 9 months paid – it really should be a standard thing, especially for working mothers to be able to spend time with their babies!

  • I have thought of this topic often. My in-laws in Finland not only get family leave when they have a baby, they also have an option of staying home subsidized by the government for the first year. The benefits they can get are too long to list. On the flip side they have huge taxes. recently posted…Rainbow Spaghetti Wall: a Fine Motor AdventureMy Profile

  • Alana says:

    Please forgive me if I offend anyone. It is not my intention in the least. But I would really like to share my opinion and a few facts. The US is the ONLY first-world country that doesn’t have compulsory paid leave. Based on an article from 2012, the US, Papua New Guinea, Swazitland, Liberia, and Lesotho are the only countries who don’t have a required, paid maternity leave. If you’re worried about the cost to business, in the US businesses who offer parental leave report lower turn-over, lower training costs, and their employees report higher job satisfaction. It may make you antsy to think of the government making any business do anything. In terms of cost to the individual, I think it needs to be looked at as an investment in the individual child, the family, the community, and the country. According to Wikepedia, Maternity leave substantially increases child care which profoundly impacts the health of the child. Mothers on leave allot extra time for care which allows them to better monitor the health of their child. They become attuned to their child’s health needs and are more effectively able to respond to any medical circumstances. – Studies have concluded that an additional week of maternity leave among industrialized countries reduces infant mortality rates by 0.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.
    – There is a positive correlation between maternal leave and the duration of breast-feeding.
    – Mothers who are not engaged in employment are more regularly able to participate in breast-feeding.
    – Similarly, access to maternity leave also has the ability to accelerate cognitive and behavioral development.
    – mothers on leave mothers are able to allocate substantially more time towards the educational and cognitive development of their child.
    – They can invest more time in generating intellectually stimulating environments and promoting healthy avenues for exploration.
    – longer exposure to maternal care is correlated with a reduction in problematic behaviors such as disobedience, defiance

    Here is an article about paternal leave. I could write more, but I’ll stop here.
    Alana recently posted…How to Wrap Your Head Around Two Under TwoMy Profile

    • Alana- Thank you so much for your comment and your resources. I agree with everything that you have said. I really don’t see how requiring paid maternity leave would be anything but positive for our country. I understand the fear of too much government, but, in this case, the pros most certainly outweigh any negatives. I think we’re only hurting ourselves if we continue on this path.

  • I hesitate to suggest the government do anything else that is mandatory. However, I think businesses should have policies in place to give new mothers options. We are definitely behind the times on this. I have specifically talked with teachers, who should “really” have their babies during the summer… and a mom who just adopted two little ones internationally, redefining maternity leave. Definitely a hot topic. Thanks for your thoughtful input.
    Traci@tracesoffaith recently posted…The survival of this summer businessMy Profile

    • Traci- Yes, I have a few teacher friends who try to plan it out so they can have their babies at a specific time. My fear is that if we don’t have anything in mandatory in place, business will continue to do what they are doing and not provide paid maternity leave. There are plenty of companies that do, but there are many that do not. Thanks for your comment!

  • this is a great topic that hits close to home for me in many different capacities. with both of my pregnancies I worked up until the day before delivery, actually day of with my second and he was past due by 2 days, and was not granted any type of paid maternity leave. I used myPTO time and then had nothing after that. luckily I was able to stay off for a little while because I had planned ahead and saved as much as possible and used tax return money to compensate myself for while I was off. now as a single mom I am faced with the dilemma of working versus paying for childcare which literally takes up my entire paycheck if not more, so I almost lose money by working. luckily I’m surrounded with family support and am not having to work right now but when I do I am looking at night shift because it is the only possible way my paycheck be worthwhile and not all go to child care. it’s a very real and very frustrating struggle no matter what your situation looks like. great topic and I am certainly in support of changes being made!

    • Rachael- Thank you for your comment. I imagine that must have been really difficult for you. That’s wonderful that you had such a great support system. I worry about mothers that do not have such support systems like you.

  • My maternity leaves were all unpaid. As much as I would have loved a paid leave, I don’t expect it. Businesses should have the right to decide what perks they will provide.

  • Erica says:

    I can remember going to work when my oldest was less than two weeks old. We just couldn’t afford for me to be out of work any longer than that. I’m all for some kind of paid maternity leave – or even a buy in system kind of like insurance where women could put x number of dollars into a program and have their employer match it over time to prepare for a future pregnancy/maternity leave.
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  • I agree. It seems like it’s way more expensive in the long run if women aren’t paid maternity leave. Why pay more and make a person struggle? Pay the maternity leave, so the woman can care for her child, and for herself! Then once she does return to work, her body and mind will be ready for it. And the baby will have had a much better start.
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  • Samantha says:

    I agree it would be wonderful to have paid time off, but I don’t think business’ should be required to do something- the money for that has to come from some where. I have 6 children and after the first went back part time. I took 12 weeks off, unpaid. I’m fortunate my schedule if very flexible. However, I choose that. We too, as a family, make sacrifices for me to be home more. We can’t compare only this to other European countries- we have a higher maternal and infant mortality, obesity, and other health issues. Do we also want the increased government control they have? you can’t pick and choose. Melissa posted a great comment above.
    Samantha recently posted…Breastfeeding Tips from Local Moms!My Profile

    • Samantha- Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that you can’t pick and choose. I would rather have more government control though than no paid maternity leave. I just think it’s better for our country overall. And, it’s not just European countries that have paid maternity leave. We are seriously the only country in the world minus one that doesn’t have some kind of paid maternity leave.

  • I was a stay at home mom with my first two and now I work from home, so thankfully, I was not at the mercy of an employer. I have people who work for me as contractors and there is no question… they can take all the leave they want or need.
    Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM recently posted…When People Walk Away From You, Let Them GoMy Profile

  • Sojourner says:

    This topic makes me so angry. I have a seven week old, and like you, I’m fortunate enough to be able to be a stay at home mom, however, I am so disgusted by this country’s policies when it comes to both maternal and postpartum care as well as leave. How it is that struggling developing nations have more resources than the United States of America when it comes to providing paid leave to female and male (for that matter) workers who are new parents is baffling. It clearly lies in priorities as in women and children are not a priority in this country (clearly evidenced by the education system…) I will stop my rant here, but I am disturbed and embarrassed by the fact that the US is the only developed country not to fund any sort of maternity leave whatsoever. FYI-If you really want to get annoyed, google what both mothers and fathers get in Canada, England and the Netherlands- grrrrrrrr….

  • Maryann says:

    I think it’s a wonderful idea in theory, but I have a hard time asking employers or the govt to pay for my choice to have children. That money has to come from somewhere.
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  • Amber NElson says:

    It is a hard topic. I took maternity leave and then never went back to my job.
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  • I definitely think they should offer paid maternity leave. I was blessed with being able to stay at home with our first too. I worked all the way up until and my company didn’t even qualify for FMLA because it didn’t have employees. So even if I did want to stay and take an unpaid maternity leave, my job wouldn’t be guaranteed. Def sad to see many friends have to go back to work so quickly!
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  • Ai says:

    I didn’t have to make this decision either because we switched to a single income family halfway through my pregnancy. But, I do know many families, who have had to make this tough decision. It’s hard to imagine, having to leave your baby home shortly after giving birth. Your emotions are already going wacko, and having to go back to work too soon won’t help that at all.

  • Melissa says:

    Tricia – it’s n

  • Melissa says:

    Not just the moms who have to apply pressure. Assuming this is an issue we all care about, we all have a reaponsibility to try to change the companies. Like, when a CEO comes out saying he’s not pro-gay marriage and tons of people boycott and protest (a la Chick-filet). Not that I agree with that situation necessarily, but my point is that it wasn’t only gay employees who took action. Also, you can’t fire someone for being pregnant, and I’d be surprised if someone got fired for making a request…
    If the majority in society want our representatives to pass that law, then it should be passed. That’s how our government works, obviously. But I don’t want that law, nor do I want many other laws that are passed. And that’s okay too, that’s how our government works, we don’t have to agree. I’m absolutely not saying I don’t think companies should provide paid maternity leave, I think they should. I just don’t think passing a law solves the real problem – not enough value is placed on family, and motherhood. The law would fix only a symptom under the guise of solving the problem. So, agree to disagree, Tricia.

    • Melissa- Yes, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree! I think that the fact that mothers/fathers aren’t given any paid maternity leave just shows that not enough value is placed on family and motherhood by our country. If we all believe family and motherhood is important, than we should do something to put laws in place that ensure that working mothers can have enough time to take care of their newborns. The problem with the Chick-fil-a example is that the protesting and boycotts didn’t really do anything to make a change. As far as I know, they are still in business. We can put all the pressure on companies we want, but that’s not going to do much to change their policies. I really think paid maternity leave would ultimately save our country money and help to increase family values. I guess we will see what happens!

  • I do too!!! Its a cruel world out there for people with no support!

  • Terri says:

    here in Canada we get 1 year maternity leave, myself when I was on mat leave, I was lucky enough to be able to take a 2 year leave( we were just financially able to), I agree moms need to spend more time with their kids
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  • Taralyn says:

    Definitely a hot topic! Thanks for linking up to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party. I have pinned your post to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Board
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  • I was not able to function when I went back to work after my maternity leave I luckily was able to quit a week later and stay at home with my kids. I can’t image have more than one child and going on maternity leave, I couldn’t do it with one!
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  • Finland provides 9 months maternity leave. And you can stay home until your youngest child is 2 years old and recuperate your job back. You get a porcentage of your pay for all the time you stay home. And I’m proud of it and consider it my right as a woman.
    Joanna Sormunen recently posted…Chaucha Kings – Ecuadorian MusicMy Profile

  • Nicole says:

    Hey Tricia! I think the way our government spends money is simply absurd. Why is it right to pay a Mom to quit her job completely (not maternity leave but to quit as you mentioned, like many have to do!) yet when our soldiers come home injured and unable to serve we throw them on the streets? It’s completely backwards. Honestly, I don’t like to be political but I’m more than fed up with our current government. The hand outs need to stop. It makes much more sense for individual corporations to work in some form of maternity pay. It should be more of a movement on behalf of company owner than a government payout. I think we need less government. The government needs to support business owners, instead of sucking them dry to pay low life drug addicts to live in free houses and drive around BMW’s with their drug money. Sorry I went off on a tangent. I’m simply fed up of working so hard, paying a sickening amount of taxes to see low life people living off my hard earned money! But I do support Moms and agree that we should support maternity leave.
    Nicole recently posted…Top 5 Solar Powered Gardening AccessoriesMy Profile

  • I believe both parents should get maternity leave, whether for a birth child or an adoption. But that may just be wishful thinking at this point… 🙁
    Emma @ P is for Preschooler recently posted…6 Benefits of PlaytimeMy Profile

  • Ana says:

    Definitely agree that the law needs a good update — being a mother is such a tough and demanding job. It’s crazy that we are one of the only countries that doesn’t have extended maternity pay!

  • Lauren Tamm says:

    This is an interesting debate, and I’m not entirely sure I have the right answer. After my son was born, I went back to work after 12 weeks maternity leave for only 1 day per week. I worked for about 3 months and then my husband was going away to school. We both decided that having one parent at home full time was in the best interest of our family. I commend all the women who continue to work. It is such a tough balance. We are very fortunate that we can afford for me to stay at home full time. It’s made all the difference in our family life.
    Lauren Tamm recently posted…Dealing with Baby Sleep Disruptions – Part 2My Profile

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  • For authorities, among whom there are very few family people, it’s hard to learn that mothers also work (for their children and husbands) as shrinks, teachers, cleaners etc.

  • US maternity leave is certainly a hot topic, and for good reason. Unlike many other developed countries, the United States does not have a federally mandated paid maternity leave policy, leaving many new mothers struggling to balance the demands of work and family.

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