Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yes, THIS

Ask and ye shall receive. An article from RH Reality Check detailing just how difficult it is for women to get family leave to have a baby.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that businesses with fifty or more employees provide up to 12 weeks of "job protected, unpaid leave" to employees who have worked for at least twelve months minimum for said employer.

For businesses with less than 50 employees, there are no federal mandates of any kind. As the article states, in this case, "Employees do not need to be given leave to care for a sick child, after the birth of a child, to care for a sick or dying parent; they don't even need to be given a minimum number of paid sick days."

I know there are some women who are able to work right up until their water breaks, and we all hear the stories of women giving birth and then getting on their laptops an hour later while still lying in the hospital bed. But just because *some* women are able to do this, doesn't mean this is ideal or even possible for the majority of women. In fact, I'm willing to go so far as to say that if you DO think all women should and are able to work right up until their water breaks and should be able to get back to work no sweat... then you are being classist.

Women who are able to do this (and hey, good for them) are usually high level female managers,executives, or politicians.

Do you think most women who work retail or in the service industry can work on their feet for 40 hours a week, drive to work and back every day during the last few weeks of pregnancy? Oh, and how much time are employers willing to give off for all the prenatal appointments required?

I've never been pregnant but here is what I know: being pregnant is extremely hard on your body. Your body changes in every single way possible - it's a whole lot more than "aw, my stomach is getting bigger!" and these changes are not comfortable in any way whatsoever and would probably make working on your feet for long periods of time very very miserable or next to impossible.

This is all BEFORE the baby is born. Women need time to establish a breast feeding relationship with their baby. And from what I hear, babies need to nurse what, every three hours?? (If anyone who has been pregnant before is reading this & I'm saying anything wrong, please feel free to correct me). Yet having to go back to work 2 days after giving birth would make this kind of hard. No, not everyone chooses breast feeding but a multitude of studies have shown that in most cases this is best for both baby and mom (unless the mom can't breastfeed for some reason). Yes, I know you can pump too. But women who are "on the clock" often face hostile employers who don't allow breaks for this. Plus I heard it hurts like hell to pump especially if you have small breasts (YIKES!).

Also, as I've said before in another post, most day cares don't accept infants until they are six weeks old, so where is that six weeks of time off going to come from if you haven't worked full time at a company with 50 or more employees for at least 12 months?

I have also heard that some recovery time is often needed when women pass a 5-10 pound human through the birth canal (Shocking!) And if a woman has had a C section - which is almost 1 in 3 women here in the US - I've heard it can take up to 6 weeks for the body to heal and recover. All the more reason why maternity leave is desperately needed.

According to the Washington Post, "One hundred and seventy-seven nations -- including Djibouti, Haiti and Afghanistan -- have laws on the books requiring that all women, and in some cases men, receive both income and job-protected time off after the birth of a child." Women who get paid leave here in the US are rare. Women who get unpaid leave are lucky. But with this economy, who can even afford to take 12 weeks unpaid leave??

I don't think you have to identify as feminist to think that something is wrong when many, many other industrialized nations give women (and men!) paid family leave and women here are lucky to get unpaid leave, if they get leave at all. Especially when 80% of American women give birth by the time they're 40.

I'm excited for female politicians being able to influence policy regarding this, no matter what side of the aisle they're on. However, it's my hope that the conservative women who have been in the news lately support the policies that help women.

"Lawyer, blogger and suburban city council member in Northeast Ohio, Jill Zimon, calls this case "critical" and " a "real test" for conservative, female political candidates around the country"

"It's exactly these kinds of cases that right-of-center female political candidates must address and come down on the side of the pregnant worker if they want to be seen as women who support women. If [Meg] Whitman, [Nikki] Haley et al cannot express outrage at such decisions, then they absolutely do not deserve the support of women who are genuinely interested in having more women in political office."

If you read this blog, then you probably have figured out by now that I don't agree with fighting for legislation that would make abortion illegal and force women to give childbirth against their will. I'm not tagging this post as abortion though because that's not what this post is about. However, I do want to add that if you ARE fighting for that legislation, I would hope that you are also a strong supporter of policies like expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act that help women to have children AND be able to care for them and financially support them.

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