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On Maternity Leave and Work Culture in the US

By ceridwen |

I read three great pieces about parental leave and American work culture this week. All very much worth a look.


Over at Forbes Magazine Francesca Donner bemoans the pitiful parental leave options in America as she trudges through the final days of pregnancy.

Highlight: “So while our friends across the pond in the U.K. are clocking up a year of time off and even more in Sweden (plus paternity benefits) I’m sitting here trying to portion out my days so that I don’t lose one minute with my baby once I make the shift from mum-to-be to mum. With just 12 measly weeks on the other side, I’m reluctant to take even one day in advance of my baby’s birth.”

Also in Forbes earlier this year, a brilliant breakdown of how lame America’s maternity leave policies are compared to just about everywhere else in the world. (There are charts, it’s depressing.)


A Salon interview with Thomas Geoghegan, labor lawyer and author of Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life.  Geoghegan compares America and Germany in terms of economic growth, productivity and quality of life. Guess who comes out on top?

Highlight: ”Compared to our German cousins across the pond, we work 1,804 hours versus their 1,436 hours – the equivalent of nine extra 40-hour workweeks per year…. They have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, nursing care, and childcare…. [But] Aren’t we at least more productive by virtue of the amount of time we’re putting in? No.”


Paula Bernstein’s Strollerderby piece on the debate over whether the British prime minister should take paternity leave. Paula argues that he should and that more men in America should have/take that option. A significant number of fathers actually qualify for paternity leave in the US, but very few take it for a number of reasons including, possibly, the rat race work culture described by Geoghegan in the interview I mention above!

Highlight: “Is staying home with a baby just not manly enough? It seems that we’re sending modern men mixed messages — they should change diapers and be an involved parent, but not if it means taking time off from their job.”

photo: Mcdittx/Flickr

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About ceridwen



Ceridwen Morris is a writer, mother, and certified childbirth educator. She is the author of several books and screenplays, including (Three Rivers; 2007). She serves on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ceridwen's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “On Maternity Leave and Work Culture in the US

  1. ChiLaura says:

    How did I even click on this? I don’t know. It just raises my blood pressure. Oh, maybe I was hoping to see at least one counter-argument, but I know that babble can’t possibly ever see that what fiscal conservatives say *MIGHT* make sense! What everyone fails to mention is that all this stuff costs MONEY. Yes, yes, I’ve heard all the arguments that it comes out even in the end, between what we in the US pay in our income taxes and state taxes, etc., etc., and what Europeans pay. Whatever. I don’t need the government nannying me. Here’s an idea, people: If you’re working and you want a kid, live beneath your means before the baby comes, save your money, so that you can take some extra time off when baby arrives. Live with your choices! I’m so tired of people feeling entitled to everything, including the perfect life. It doesn’t exist. Get over it.

  2. Amy says:

    Wow chilaura, a bit bitter? Why can’t we strive for perfection, why can’t we strive for happiness? Wasn’t our country founded on the notion of seeking a better place? You’re “whatever” argument is very weak, if it does all come out even in the end, why shouldn’t we work less and have more opportunity to spend with our families and newborns?

  3. Citizen Mom says:

    I understand Chilaura’s point about responsibility, but fiscal conservatives are not consist in the application of their philosophy.
    Where were the fiscal conservatives when the Bush administration was proposing a war that we didn’t have the money for? And that had no clear time table?
    Where were they when Bush added a whole new department (Homeland Security) without somehow having to raise taxes? these people don’t work for free and those thousands of offices don’t fuel themselves.
    Where were these conservatives when the same government borrowed money from China, a communist nation, to pay for our early tax refunds, which we couldn’t really afford?
    Fiscal conservatives seem just fine with passing bills to borrow money if it means bombing people or enabling our federal government to violate our civil rights in the name of protection, but when it comes to promoting the real general welfare – families and women – only then do we have to tighten our belts and suck it up.
    I’ll only stop rolling my eyes when a fiscal conservative tells a republican president, “You wanna do this? Do it without borrowing money.”

  4. Emily says:

    Chilaura, you’re a moron. You’re so blinded by your xenophobia that you can’t possibly see what America isn’t getting right (which is a lot these days).
    “Conservatives” have co-opted and perverted the idea of personal responsibility. If you want to be personally responsible, educate yourself and learn about things beyond the scope of your tiny world. Clearly you have not done so already.

    On the topic at hand, it’s appalling that my husband will only have 1 week of paternity leave when I have my baby in Dec. He’ll be cutting into his vacation time to spend more time with the baby and I. Thankfully I’m a freelancer and can choose to take time off from without destroying my career.
    The first year of life is such a crucial time in a child’s development–it makes complete sense for parents to be home helping their child learn.

  5. flyjam says:

    my husband took three weeks of leave after the birth of each of our sons his idea, but a great one he helped me out and spent time with our beautiful new baby, i agree this country’s leave sucks!!!!

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