Studies show having time off to recover, without worrying about money, is key to maternal and infant health, and so much more.
“My experience of having a child was so destabilizing,” says Clarissa Doutherd, now the executive director of Parent Voices Oakland. “As a new mom running my own business, paid leave was not an option. The pressure to immediately go back to work, for survival, moved to the center, instead of caretaking for my son and ensuring he was healthy.”
Within months of her son’s birth, Doutherd’s independent bookkeeping business had folded and she found herself without a home or stable employment, and with a sick baby. “I couldn’t just bond with my child and I couldn’t take time and enjoy him. It was very isolating. He had many health issues in those early years, and I have no doubt my stress, and inability to be with him was a factor.”
The birth of a child should be filled with excitement and the natural worries that come with caring for a newborn. But for too many families in the United States, this time is weighed by heavy economic burdens. After delivery, parents are torn between providing the best care for their child versus earning money to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Mothers push through postpartum pain and ignore doctors’ recommendations by returning to work too early. An investigation featured in In These Times found that about 25 percent of women in the U.S. return to work within 10 days of delivery, a time when they are still literally bleeding.
It’s not like this in other countries. Of the 193 countries in the United Nations, the U.S. is one of two (along with Papua New Guinea) that does not provide paid leave for mothers. Brazil provides 17 weeks. Norway provides 25 weeks. The United Kingdom provides 52 weeks—a full year.
Mounting evidence shows the social and economic benefits of paid leave. Paid leave increases women’s labor participation and boosts overall gross domestic product. And paid leave is an urgent health issue. It carries many public health benefits for moms and children, including reducing postpartum depression and improving breastfeeding initiation and duration. Paid leave is an urgent health issue.
Continue reading in Slate
Originally written by