Monday, September 21, 2015

Paid Leave in the U.S. - An Ongoing Issue

I've debated doing a post on this subject for a while now.  I love to be a place for you all to come for lighthearted fun, great products, easy recipes, and helpful tips; so I wanted to figure out a way to write this post without it sounding...well, negative.  You see, I recognize all of the good that comes with growing up in the United States. Yes, our country may have its faults, but I am grateful for the luxuries we have, and often take for granted: Like not having to worry about access to clean water (it's FREE!)  But, like any citizen, I do recognize our faults.  And, honestly, prioritizing our health seems to be something our country has struggled with for a while.  Now I'm not talking about fitness or obesity specifically.

I'm talking about our entire country's focus on monetary "success" at the cost of our health.  How many times have you been afraid to take a sick day when you legitimately needed it, because either your boss would be upset, or you would fall behind on your work, or you wouldn't be paid for the day?  How many times do people imply someone is lazy (or "milking the system") for taking time off to care for themselves when they are legitimately ill.  Even if it is "just" a virus or a bad cold.  Somewhere along the way, the land of opportunity seemed to forget that your HEALTH is the most important priority.  Because, after all,  without your health, nothing else matters.  All of that success, all of that recognition, that job title- it all means nothing once your health has severely deteriorated.

And even if health was a given, the corporate rat race should not be the main priority.  Now, yes, it is important to work hard, do a great job, and earn a living. I'm not saying having ambition or working hard is wrong. Not at all.  But, it should not take priority over all else in life.  You should not be expected to live for your job and only your job.  And you should not be expected to put your job before your family's needs. But many are.

 Having time to spend with your family is important.  Many of us parents know that, but, in the U.S., more and more companies are failing to recognize that.  And it's only making things harder and more stressful for not only parents, but for the next generations we are raising.  The generations who may not be getting the much-needed guidance from their parents because the parents are simply expected to dedicate most of their lives to a job in order to be able to put food on the table.

Now there are many, many issues that stem from this over prioritization of monetary success and expectation of work as the number one priority.  All are important.  But in this post I will be focusing on one of the issues we are most behind in as a developed country; Paid Leave.  Specifically paid leave for both women and men who have recently had a child.

Image: Popsugar
Its hard to understand exactly how big of a deal it is until you are in the situation yourself.  I was lucky enough to have been working for a company that not only supplemented some of my income during my leave, but also offered Aflac insurance at a discounted rate.  (Neither of which they legally have to do. ) So, although I wasn't getting my full pay, I was getting something.  But then I hear about women going back to work before the 6 week mark - some even going back after just one week- (for those who don't know,  most women are not fully healed before 6 weeks.  And most likely are still experiencing a lot of bleeding), my heart aches for them.  I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must be.  Not only is your body still a wreck, your hormones are crazy, and you haven't had much time to bond with this human being you just spent 9 months making, but now you have to place the child in daycare, with people you do not know.  Having no choice but to do that as a parent - at 6 weeks - is excruciating.  Throw in post postpartum depression, and forget it.  Not to mention the health effects it may have on the child (being exposed to a daycare setting with many kids, instead of being at home, when the immune system is still pretty fragile.)

For many of us in the U.S., it's the norm.  So to think of someone getting paid for maternity or paternity leave seems like people asking for handouts. Or like a huge luxury that should not be expected.  But the truth is, it's an investment.  An investment in the well being of not only the parents, but the children that will soon be the ones running this country.  The generation that will be in charge of not only their own future, but eventually ours as well.  It's a cost, but a cost that is well worth it.  Just think about it.  We invest in public education.  But until 1918, not every state required children to attend elementary school.  And in 1920 only 30% of American teens attended high school.  What's my point? This country didn't always provide free public education.  It wasn't always prioritized. There was a time when many in the U.S. didn't even see a need for high school. And now how many of us depend on it? How many of us feel it is an absolute necessity?

 For those who are still skeptical, take a look below at some of the facts.  You may be surprised.   I love our, country, I do.  But investing in its people's health can prevent a heck of a lot of issues, violence, and future spending. I'm confident it is possible. The U.S. is known for being a "superpower" after all.

The facts below are from Women's Health magazine.  Be sure to pick up the October issue for more information, personal stories, and ways to take action.

"In a 2013 survey of 38 countries, America ranked dead last both in paid leave and protected leave—behind smaller (and poorer) nations such as Latvia, South Korea, and Mexico. Many of those regions give new moms a full salary, some for up to a year."

"...Out of 183 countries, the U.S. is one of only three that promises no paid leave whatsoever (even third-world Sudan and the Congo offer something)."

" 40 percent of workers aren’t even covered by FMLA." (The unpaid leave the US does offer.)

"It takes about four weeks for the uterus to shrink from the size of a watermelon to the size of an apple, and six for vaginal tears or C-section incisions to heal."

"...Up to 19 percent of all new mothers will suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), one study revealed that those who clock 40 or more hours when their infants are 12 weeks old are 22 percent more likely to be depressed than moms who work less."

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