Amber tells her story in New York Times and writes about the steps she took to try to avoid her son’s fate. The new mom reached out to her employer to request extended maternity leave, but was denied. Now she asks,
“Should parents have to play this roulette with their weeks-old infant? To do all they can possibly do to ensure that their baby is safe, only to be relying on a child-care worker’s competence or attentiveness or mood that day?”
“Why, why does a parent in this country have to sacrifice her job, her ability to provide her child with proper health care —- or for many worse off than me, enough food to eat — to buy just a few more months to nurture a child past the point of vulnerability?”
My husband and I actually asked those same questions when we became pregnant with our first child. Like Amber, I also asked HR about an extended leave and they told me that they didn’t offer that option. My only choice was to quit my job.
By the time my maternity leave ended, our daughter was two weeks shy of turning 3-months-old. Rather than send her to daycare immediately, her Dad took off an additional few weeks.
Since I worked the evening shift, I’d drop her off late in the day, which meant she’d only spend a few hours at daycare until she was about 8 months old.
Some thought it was a waste of money paying an entire day of child care, only to have her there for a few hours. But we had peace of mind and that was priceless. We later carried on the same routine after the birth of our son.
I can’t say that our plan saved our children’s lives necessarily, but we felt better considering we were unable to take an extended leave. To be honest, it just blows my mind that there are so many other parts of the world that offer parents the chance to stay home longer with their baby.
According to payscale.com, Sweden offers 56 weeks paid leave at 80 percent of citizens’ salary, and an 13 additional weeks paid at a fixed rate thereafter. In some central European countries, the standard maternity leave is three years. Adoptive parents and same-sex parents get parental leave in the U.K., Canada, France, and Sweden.
The United States doesn’t have mandated maternity leave benefits, although companies with over 50 employees are obligated to offer 12 weeks of unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The only exception I’ve ever heard about are NYC teachers who are able to take up to 4 years leave. But the caveat is that they may be placed in a completely different district when they’re ready to return to work.
As far as Amanda is concerned, she says our culture should demand that parents be allowed to spend more time with their babies without being forced to place them into someone else’s care prematurely, and I couldn’t agree more.
She also hopes that her tragedy will prevent other parents from suffering the same fate, and is already demanding change with the launch of a website called www.forkarl.com. The site has links and contact information for government representatives and presidential candidates, allowing people to voice their opinion on family leave.
How long was your maternity leave? Did you request more time off?