Parental leave – taking time for baby

So…it’s that time. With only about three months to go until Arthur makes his grand debut, we’ve been discussing the question of parental leave (also known as “who gets a summer staycation with the baby?”)

Brian did a Boot Camp for New Dads over the weekend, and the moderator of the session suggested that the new dads look into provisions for paternity leave as they have changed somewhat over the years. We spent part of Saturday afternoon poring over the Ohio Revised Code, et voila! – parental leave. According to Ohio law, parents (bio and adoptive) are eligible for six weeks of parental leave beginning with the child’s birth or granting of custody in adoptive cases; the first two weeks are unpaid and may either be worked or supplemented with vacation time/other paid benefits, then the remaining four weeks are paid at 70 per cent of the parent’s base pay. Parental leave is incorporated into FMLA leave rather than stacked, allowing parents to continue for six more weeks of unpaid leave or to use the remaining FMLA as necessary.

Before I jump onto my soapbox, I just want to point out how fortunate I am to work where I do. All other things aside, our maternity leave policy is great (by U.S. standards): six weeks of full pay, plus the opportunity to stack paid vacation before or after those six weeks. When Arthur comes I will be able to stay home with him for nine weeks, during which I will keep my employer-provided health insurance, and after which I will return on a part-time basis. (We decided the daycare question…) 

That being said, the question of parental leave as a whole in this country makes me so…angry.

As I said, I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t have to go to my boss, employee handbook and ORC printout in hand, to argue that I am entitled by law to spend a minimal amount of paid time at home recovering and helping my newborn adjust to life outside the womb. No, that unhappy task falls to Brian. But really, why should any parent have to jump through hoops and gear up for actual battle for a few short weeks of being with their new family? Why should any mother feel forced to cut the bonding process short to save her paycheck, before she may even be physically (let alone psychologically) ready? And why should any father have to choose between the opportunity to bond with his newborn during those early weeks and to help his partner through the recovery process and the ever-present financial needs of the family?

This 2011 map from NPR color-codes maternity leave in countries around the world, showing that the U.S. ranks in the lowest category (0-90 days), while the Huffington Post posted this article and slideshow in May 2012 – once again, the U.S. falls among the worst countries for maternity leave (and is not among the 50 countries that provide paid benefits to new fathers). These reports look at the federal level, and don’t take individual states’ legislation into consideration (given that I’ve already pointed out that Ohio does have a limited parental leave provision); however, in May 2012 the National Partnership for Women & Families released a second edition of “Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help New Parents” in which they awarded a point score and letter grade to each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for their efforts to expand on existing federal legislation.

Two states – California and Connecticut – received an A-, the highest grade awarded. Eight more states received weighted B grades. Everybody else? Struggling…

Ohio got a solid D.

It may be time to move to Eastern Europe…

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