I don’t know if you know this but when Australia passed a parental leave law in 2010, it left the U.S. as the only industrialized nation not to mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns. In fact, in at least 178 countries around the world paid leave is guaranteed for working moms, while more than 50 countries provide wage benefits for fathers. The United States, along with Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Liberia are the only countries in the world that provide no type of financial support for mothers, according to a study done by McGill University’s Institute for Health and Social Policy.
I am not sure why this is. Why is the U.S. the only nation of almost forty industrialized countries not to have paid maternity leave, and one of only four countries in the world not to do so? The list of countries with paid parental leave is staggeringly long, and it includes some nations we probably wouldn’t assume would be in the group of those who mandate maternity leave. They include Yemen, Cambodia, Syria, Myanmar, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, and China. Obviously all of Europe, all of the Americas, all of the Asian countries, and all but two countries in Africa keep their babies with their moms and many with their dads for a significant period of time at such an important point in life.
Why does this incredible country not do so? It can’t be because we believe there’s a biological reason that it’s better this way. We certainly don’t hold it’s better for our newborns to be separated from their mom and dad soon after birth.
Christians can’t argue there’s a scriptural reason why we don’t have parental leave, as if God would ever be on the side of infants and their moms being separated soon after birth and newborns be placed in child care as soon as necessary.
Neither can there exist any longer a legitimate economic reason for refusing nationwide to support keeping mothers and/or fathers together with their infants. After all, all around us are countries that have instituted parental leave and their economies haven’t crumbled or even sagged.
But as surprising as this is, you know what’s even more surprising to me? It’s that American moms are not pushing for maternity leave. It’s surprising and strange that financially supported maternity leave isn’t even a conversation in the life of our country. It’s at most a whisper. Why aren’t moms and dads advocating for parental leave? Why are we so far away from where the rest of the world is when it comes to recognizing how important the mother/father-infant connection is to the health of the newborn, the family, and ultimately the country as a whole?
We shouldn’t be. This should change and we should support keeping moms together with their precious babies better than we do presently.