America, We’ve Got This Maternity and Paternity Leave Thing All Wrong

Parent Penguin
Photo Source: ajoheyho via Pixabay. Licensed under CC.

As I ran downstairs to grab a quick bite to run back up to my office, I gave my daughter a quick kiss and a hug and thought to myself, “man, I sure am lucky that I am getting to experience this.” We are so fortunate. With one of us staying at home to care for our six-month-old and the other getting to work primarily from her home office, we count our blessings every single day.

Sure, it was a huge adjustment to move to a single income family, especially on the heels of some major urgent expenses, but I cannot say enough how worth it that adjustment really is. Just being able to hear the sounds of my baby girl down the stairs helps make my work day brighter. But, we are a very fortunate family and that is not lost on us.

Most families with newborns are getting up at the crack of dawn, scrambling to choke down a pot of coffee, shower, workout, figure out lunch, get their kids off to school and/or daycare, jumping out into the world for a long, stressful commute, only to work from their offices and undo their mornings 10-12 hours later. If they are lucky they make it home in time to put their children to bed.

America, what is wrong with us?  Granted, there are some employers with extremely generous maternity and/or paternity benefits, but those seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Shouldn’t we want to raise our families? Wouldn’t an employee who is able to spend time with their newborn knowing their job is secure, return to work to be happier, more productive, and ultimately positively impact their company’s bottom line?

Would we not be a better society for the long-term if we were better able to focus on raising our children in their first year of life rather than trying to figure out how to balance family and career? Would we not be a better society if we didn’t have to choose one over the other?

Those are a lot of questions. Good ones, if I do say so myself!

Additionally, for those that choose to make the leap, we should not have to worry that we are damaging our future professional “marketability” by taking ourselves out of the workforce for a while to focus on family. But, that is also a very genuine concern.

Anyone who thinks that being a stay-at-home parent is easier than a full-time job, has likely not spent much time being a stay-at-home parent. At the risk of sounding cliché, being a stay-at-home parent is THE ultimate full-time, on-call, 24/7, no-relief-in-sight job. And I bow down to the stay at home moms, dads, and guardians. The work you do is amazing. Thank you.

America, maybe we really have lost sight of what is important. Sure, there are political soundbites about this during every major election, but according this report, the U.S. is one of four countries that does not require paid maternity leave.

Yes, we have a lot of things to focus on and this is just one. But, to build strong future generations, we must be present. Presence should begin at home wherever and whenever possible. Let’s let our moms, dads, and caretakers do the important work to build a solid future for America.