Women in the United States, as of late, have gotten the relatively short end of the stick. Amid the Republican-led tirade against Planned Parenthood, the repeatedly threatened abolishment of abortion and the gaping wage disparity, the issue of paid maternity leave tends to fly under the radar.
Perhaps not as controversial as the previously mentioned “hot ticket” issues, the U.S. lags behind nearly every country in the world as one of only three countries that do not mandate time off for new parents. The U.S. comes in dead last in a Pew Research Poll looking at paid maternity leave in 41 countries, with a grand total of zero weeks guaranteed. Estonia topped out at 87 weeks, just a bit more than one and a half years.
In an his first address to Congress late last month, President Donald Trump took it upon himself to offer a silver platter forward to Democrats: affordable childcare and paid family leave.
“My administration wants to work with members of both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents that they have paid family leave,” Trump said.
Unpaid leave, lack of maternity provisions impact working womenLooking to make the workplace more family friendly, experts and legislators have continued to advocate for policies that could enhance women’s Read…
Trump has not offered any explanation as to how he plans to achieve either of these rather lofty goals. In fact, he can’t even take credit for them, as the advancements in both affordable childcare and paid family leave are largely thanks to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka Trump, despite having no official role in the White House, has latched onto “women who work” and made it her central focus in her father’s administration. Worth noting is the choice to use the phrase “new parents,” a gender-neutral term, as Ivanka Trump previously came under fire for not including same-sex couples or fathers in her plan for paid leave from work.
For once, Trump and his administration have proposed something that might actually benefit women. But let’s not jump on board right away. Trump’s plan only provides six weeks of paid leave, and only mandates that employers provide partial pay. This would put maternity leave out of reach for many low-income families, as six weeks at partial pay would not be enough of an income to live off of.
Additionally, it is unclear what the Trump administration’s plans are regarding same-sex couples and fathers. As recently as September of last year, Trump has repeatedly called for paid leave that would exclude men and would be disproportionately geared towards married mothers. While the revised proposal is a step in the right, more inclusive, direction, it is hard to forget his past calls for a plan that would reward families molded to fit his antiquated view of a family with a stay at home mother and working father.
What is hard to grasp is why it has taken this long for something to be done about paid maternity leave. As one of the only countries that doesn’t mandate companies to provide their employees with paid maternity leave, the U.S. is putting women at an even higher disadvantage. Women are consistently told they need kids to feel whole, that “they’re not getting any younger” or that it’s a woman’s primary job in life to raise her kids, yet are punished in their career for fulfilling society’s wishes.
Because the U.S. has thus far refused to make paid maternity leave mandatory, women are forced to choose between the financial stability of their family and spending time with their newborn while recovering from giving birth. Regardless of the age of the child or maternity leave, it is not fair of society to make women choose between being a good mother and being successful in their career because it has been proven time and time again that it is possible to achieve both.
Paid paternity leave, as well as paid leave for same-sex couples, are equally as important. Fathers, while traditionally thought of as the breadwinners, play an instrumental role in raising children, something Trump has little experience in. Families of whatever makeup should be able to enjoy their new child without worrying about their job or about money, at least for a couple weeks.
Trump’s proposal could be a move in the right direction for mothers and families, but only time will tell.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.