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Do You Have Paid Maternity Leave?

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A mother walks her daughter and infant down a quiet Boston street.

Rob Dugger, Co-Founder, ReadyNation:

Our policies actually actively discourage parents from being able to take care of their children when they’re very young. They may instinctively want to do it, but we don’t make it easy for them.

Ann Waterman Roy, mother (in scene):

That way! No, you silly girl! That’s not the way we go, we go this way.

NARRATOR: Ann lives in Boston. She gave birth to little Sylvie just four months ago.

Ann Waterman Roy, (in scene):

Can you reach it?

NAR: She faced the same difficulty most American parents face from the moment their baby is born.

Ann Waterman Roy:

There was no paid maternity leave, but I am allowed to use sick and vacation time to get pay while I’m out. There’s no pay just for being on maternity leave.

Ann Waterman Roy (in scene):

Hey, are you awake now?

NAR: Every major economy on the planet guarantees paid maternity or family leave—except the United States. The result? 40% of new mothers return to work by the time their infants are only three months old—some because they want to, most because they have to.

Ann Waterman Roy (in scene):

There you go! What’s that? Who are all these people?

NAR: This is little Sylvie’s first day in child care. She will be here for eight hours until Ann returns from work.

Ann Waterman Roy (in scene):

Here we go, sweetie.

Ann Waterman Roy:

I am going to miss my baby. I’m a little bit more of a human being in this last month so I get to be actually awake and aware of the fact that I’ve got this amazing little thing who’s starting to smile, and giggle, and coo. I’d love to spend more time with her. It’s just phenomenal to see every day something changes and something’s different that she couldn’t do before. Or we notice that she’s crying in a different way now, that it’s louder and her coos are, they sound different than they did a week ago. And what does that mean? I don’t know is that vocal chords? Is that something different? I don’t know what it is but it’s, it’s exciting to see her do something more every time. So you can just her little brain working, “What? Oh, ooh!” As a mother, it’s kind of the thing, the little things that make you go, “Oh! yay!”

NAR: If Ann lived 250 miles north in Quebec, Canada, she and her husband could share 9 months of paid leave; in Germany, 14 months; in Hungary, more than 2 years. With the exception of three states, parents in the U.S. are guaranteed only 12 weeks of unpaid family leave, and then only if a parent has worked for a company of 50 or more employees for at least a year.