Unpaid maternity leave is a sad reality

I love those days when I find similar articles, ideas, and inspiration from different sources. If you have read my blog over the past few months you will see a trend of blog posts about women not being given paid leave after having a baby. It was not something I knew much about until my sister and friends started having babies and didn’t resonate as much until Chris and I started thinking about having a family one day.

As I get older and older, a certain political issue may have a different meaning to me. Once you own your own home you start to look at different laws and legislation differently then when you rented. As you endeavor towards different aspects of your life, your world view expands or maybe contracts (although I hope it only expands). Our country’s unpaid maternity leave standards is something that I still do not understand. How does it show a woman (aka a mother) that not only does her contribution at work matter, but it matters that she (and her husband) take time to take care of their newborn and not worry about paying the bills for those first few ever so important days and months of their baby’s life?

This is why I loved finding these two videos today as a response to Mother’s Day and unpaid maternity leave. The first is actually a clever campaign video from Hillary Clinton. She is right when she says: “It is outrageous that America is the only country in the developed world that does not have paid leave.” and “We can do a lot if we do it together.”

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The below video, from John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, gives his take on America’s unpaid leave policy for women. It is quite hilarious. He shares different examples of women and when they go back to work, and the fact that they get 12 weeks of unpaid leave. I love his comment about the woman who had a baby on Friday and went back to work on Monday. He says: “You have definitely got everyone’s bullshit ‘what-I-did-over-the-weekend story’ beat.”

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Another great line is at 10:30 into the video: “Get the f#$% back to work. Seriously. Because you can’t personally afford to take the time off you want, we are going to need you to bring your exhausted ass back to work and show us that can-do attitude that moms are famous for.” It makes a statement while also being funny.

Do you need a vacation intervention?

Americans, we have a problem. We do not know how to stop. I am one of the biggest offenders. We do not know how to truly go on vacation. This CNN article from last fall “Americans taking fewest vacation days in four decades” is quite scary. In 2013 Americans were only taking an average of 16 days off a year (about 3 weeks). For someone who has not been at my company long enough to accrue a large number of hours that does not seem so bad, but when you compare it to the average of other countries where Austria has 35 days a year (7 weeks of vacation or almost 2 months).

This is not a new topic, but it is one that I think as Americans we need to constantly revisit. Why do we give up our vacation? Why do we check into work while we are supposed to be relaxing and recouping from our day-to-day world? Some folks want to show their commitment to their jobs and company (I do not have that problem, my commitment shows regardless if I take some time off). Others might be addicted to the buzz of the distraction. My reason? It takes to damn long to catch up on emails and work when you get back from vacation. You need a vacation to catch up after being on vacation. Often it is easier to keep your inbox cleaned up, clear out the junk for a bit of time while you are away. So maybe I have a problem.

When start-ups and tech companies are granting unlimited vacation I think — amazing! Yet, then I also wonder, will you have so much work and feel so strapped to get shit done, that you never take it? Having never worked for a company with an unlimited vacation policy, how do they make sure folks play fair and use the time in a balanced way? Have we become over productive as a society? Or is the rise of unlimited vacation policies a way for companies to have their employees work hard and play hard. It has to be much hard to manage when a company grows to the thousands to hundreds of thousands. Does it only work for smaller companies? How would such a policy feel to you?

I am worried about myself and my fellow Americans. Do we take enough time for our spouse? Our kids? Our larger family? Do we explore new cultures? Do we go and sit our butts on a sandy beach and fall asleep never worrying what is happening back at work? Or do we go on vacation and constantly check in? Never turning off our mobile devices and never truly focused on the rest we so grossly deserve. America needs an intervention!

This video from Visa, while an ad to go and spend money on your Visa card is spot on.

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