Toon: QwikBaby "Baby Plant" Seeds!
Click to enlarge
For a country that trumpets its "family values," the U.S. comes up laughably short on parental leave. We've been the worst industrialized country in that department for a while, as this piece in USA Today detailed in 2005:
Out of 168 nations in a Harvard University study last year, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave, leaving the United States in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.
The pitiful Family and Medical Leave Act only guarantees 12 UNPAID weeks of leave (for workers at larger companies.)
Companies have discretion to offer more leave (and pay for leave) if they choose to—but fewer and fewer make that choice. A recent study by the Families and Work Institute found that "far fewer employers provide full pay during the period of maternity-related disability, today at 16%, down from 27% in 1998."
It's part of a national trend towards cost-cutting and crappier workplace benefits (of course, these things should be provided by the GOVERNMENT, but gosh, that might be too SOCIALIST). More details here and here:
"I had my son on Thursday and, on Monday, I had to go back to work," said Selena Allen, a 30-year-old mother who was working at a non-profit agency near Seattle when she had a baby five years ago.
No paid maternity leave for Allen meant leaving her premature son, Conor, in the hospital for weeks without being able to care for him.
"I was an emotional wreck, I was devastated, but in order to feed my family, I had no other option," Allen said.
P.S. On a feminist note, I of course support a good long period of paid parental leave for parents of any gender and sexual orientation (including adoptive parents!), not just maternity leave or leave for heterosexual couples. I certainly don't want to encourage any policy that implies childrearing should be women's work, or that only women should stay home with kids, etc. Just to be clear and all...
P.P.S. A reader on Flickr notes that my cartoon reminds him of a creepy-sounding Czech movie called Otesánek (Little Otik). Eeek! I'll have to check it out.