A woman spends nine months carrying a child. It's safe to say many women don't get that much time to stay home and bond with their baby once he or she is born. I've talked to a lot of women who have had to go back to work after just six weeks home. Six weeks...seriously? That's ridiculous. Let me break it down for you the way I see it. During the first two weeks after birth, your body is so beat up from being pregnant and labor that you can just about function. Add the duties of mothering a newborn and you're just a hot mess looking for your next caffeine hit. So, that leaves four weeks to bond with your baby. The only bonding you're doing is with their diapers and spit up. During the first month babies basically eat, sleep, and poop. It's not until they reach that three month mark that they become more interactive. That's not to say you can't bond with them before then, but all the fun stuff happens later...just in time for you to go back to work. Other women I've talked to are lucky enough to get around 12 weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but don't get paid for the entire time. That leaves many to deal with the tough choice of losing money or losing time with their child. As many people struggle to earn a buck, many have to choose cash over their child if they want to keep a roof over their heads.
That is a sad scenario for such a world leader as the United States. I was reading that the U.S. and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don't give moms paid leave nationally. Some states have different rules though. One article I read (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-07-26-maternity-leave_x.htm) talked about a woman in Canada who got 14 months of paid maternity leave! That's amazing and something that I think will never happen here in the good old U-S of A. The article also talked about a couple in Sweden who was splitting 16 months of what they call parental leave at 80% pay. And"Czech" this out....I read that in the Czech Republic all mothers can decide to take 2, 3, or 4 years of maternity leave! The state supports them during that time period. That would never fly in the U.S. There are also other countries that have generous maternity leave policies. Wikipedia actually breaks it down in a nice chart. Here's the link if you want to check it out (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave).
So, where did the U.S. drop the ball? Do we not value a mother or father's time with their child? Would the children in this country end up better if they had more time with their parents before being shipped off to daycare or some other caregiver? No one truly knows, but here's my two cents. No one is going to love or take care of a child like a parent, unless of course they are abusing them or on drugs or something. No one is going to instill the values you want your child to have better than you. Unfortunately, we live in a country where things like that are not valued (then we wonder why some kids have so many problems and are so screwed up). If we did, more women would have access to paid maternity leave to give them time to bond with their children when they are most vulnerable.
I know some women who would cringe at the idea of two or three years maternity leave. Some women just itch to get back to work because staying at home just isn't for them. But, they should have that option. Right now so many women don't have the choice to take the time off or leave it and to me that is just not fair.