Monday 7 February 2011

I showered every third day - Momsrising

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I spent a fair amount of time daydreaming about what maternity leave would be like: Leisurely walks in the park, spending time gardening in the back yard while my baby slept peacefully in her bouncy seat, restful hours spent cuddling a smiling gurgling cooing baby. 
The reality was nowhere near that picturesque.  
My leave was a 12 week blur of sleep-deprived baby care. I maybe showered every third day, was lucky to get three hours of sleep in a row and considered it a red letter day if the dishwasher got unloaded. I did spend hours upon hours walking around carrying my baby because the minute I stopped moving she’d start screaming.  Parenting is hard work.  And I was convinced I was doing *everything* wrong.   
But I felt beyond lucky that on top of all my new-mom worries, I didn’t have to spend any time worrying about money or my job because unlike the majority of new moms, I had paid family leave.   
Yes, I was lucky.  The United States, unlike 177 other countries, doesn't guarantee any paid leave for new moms after the birth of a child. [1] In fact, in the U.S., 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave -- so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs just when they need them most. [2]  
Right now MomsRising and our national partners are working with members of Congress to introduce paid family leave policies so that all new mothers (and fathers) will have access to paid leave after the birth of a child, as is the norm in the rest of the world.   We need your help!  It’s not enough to share raw data with policy makers, they need to hear about your experiences.  
Let’s show our elected officials how important paid leave when a new child arrives is for moms and families: Share how having--or how NOT having--paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child has impacted your life:
Why take the time to share your experience? Your voice is powerful. When MomsRising members share their stories it makes a real difference.  Just in the past few weeks alone, our members’ stories have appeared on ABC World News Tonight, CNN, PBS and in President Obama’s speeches.  
And our stories are more important now than ever because times have changed, but our public policies are stuck in the 1950s.  Now three-quarters of moms are in the labor force, the majority of families need two working parents to make ends meet, and for the first time in history women comprise half of the entire paid labor force.  Put those facts together with the fact that over 80% of women in our nation have children by the time they're forty-four years old, and you can see why this is a priority issue.  It's past time for our public policies to catch up with modern realities. 
 *Can you take a moment to share how having - or how NOT having - paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child has impacted your life? What did you--or your friends or family members--do when a new child arrived? 
Why is paid family leave so important? 
The fact of the matter is that paid family leave after the birth of a child helps give kids a healthier start and gives families the economic security they need to stay out of poverty at a critical time--and at the same time it can benefit businesses’ bottom line.  This saves everyone--from parents to taxpayers to businesses--money in the long-run. 
That's right.  Studies show that paid family leave after the birth of a child combats poverty, gives children a healthy start, lowers infant mortality by more than 20% [3] and helps lower the wage gap between women and men. [4] 
Yet, in the United States, only 49% of mothers are able to cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave. And 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave -- so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs just when they need them most. [5] No wonder having a baby is a leading cause of "poverty spells" in our nation! 
In addition, a number of studies have shown that maternity leave has a positive impact on how long women breastfeed and thus on the long-term health of the child and mother.  This is important because major medical authorities recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for their first six months because of significant health benefits for both mother and child. Despite the government's Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding goals, only 13.6% of U.S. infants are exclusively breastfeeding and only 43% are breastfeeding at all at six months of age. [6] Recently the U.S. Surgeon General called paid family leave policies important for families and babies’ health – linking the ability of new moms to take paid leave to increased rates of breastfeeding.  [7]   
Paid family leave isn’t just good for families – it also benefits employers.  A recent study of the California Paid Leave program showed that most employers found that the Paid Family Leave had a positive effect on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover and employee morale. [8] In addition, paid family leave helps level the playing field for many small businesses which wouldn't normally be able to afford leave since the majority of legislative proposals for paid family are paid for by small employee paycheck deductions and NOT by businesses.  It's a win-win. 
But while 177 other countries have some form of paid leave for new moms after the birth of a child, the U.S. isn't one of them, an omission that sets up our families for failure. [9] 
Help us educate members of Congress about the importance of paid family leave after the birth of a new baby.  Share your experience here: 
*And please forward this to at least three friends you think might like to share their experience too. 
Together we’re a more powerful voice for women and families.
-Ruth, Kristin, Donna and the while MomsRising team

P.S. Want to get more involved with MomsRising?  We're seeking volunteers who will work with us to bring more moms together online and through local events.  Learn more and sign up here:

[4] Waldfogel, Jane “Understanding the 'Family Gap' in Pay for Women with Children," Journal of Economic Perspectives 12, no. 1 (1998), 137-156      

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