The Quiet War on Parenthood

Every one of you reading this was once a precious little baby.

A precious screaming, spewing, crying, messy baby.

Completely dependent on someone to else to keep you alive.  Whether that was by Mom, Dad, Mom and Dad, or whoever else stepped up to the challenge that was you.  None of us would have progressed far enough in life to be able to read this without someone there in the most crucial part of our development.  Cleaning us, feeding us, rocking us, and making sure we are content all before considering themselves and the state they were in.

So what does our country do for those selfless guardians? Not a lot.

Once a child is old enough, there are agencies like WIC (Women, Infant, and Children Program) and welfare that provide food and supplemental assistance to low income families.  But that is only after a mother has had to struggle with getting time off work and losing enough of her income to qualify for the programs.  Why isn’t there immediate help for new parents?

New mom, Aurelie, and baby, Maia.  Aurelie was put on early leave from work and had to wait two weeks with no pay before her short term disability benefits went into effect, paying just 60% of her salary for only 6 weeks.

While everyone has heard of Maternity Leave, or as it is finally coming to be known, Parental or Family Leave, not everyone gets the same benefits for putting their work commitments on hold to care for a new human life. Most new parents will have to rely on a combination of sick days, short term disability (STD), vacation and unpaid leave in order to be home with baby.  And these are just the people lucky enough to have a job which actually offers such benefits and live in a state that lets you use them.  Apparently not all states consider birth an instance to use STD benefits.  Strain your shoulder playing golf? Go take your leave, we’ll pay.  Wreck your body passing another body out? Nah.  Not to mention the hassle new fathers and adoptive parents have to endure to prove their parenthood and secure their benefits.  According to Babycenter.com,

 The picture did improve in 1993 with the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which entitles most workers to up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave for birth or adoption. However, the FMLA doesn’t cover those who work for smaller companies and guarantees only unpaid leaves.”

So again, this helps some people, but others are just left with nothing but the guarantee that in a few short weeks you have to leave your precious baby to go back to work for that paycheck.  And with the high cost of child care, many new mothers find they will barely break even once they do get paid. So the stress of leaving the little one, the feeling of judgment for doing so even if you did want to go back, and the physical strain were just so you could pay the sitter so you could afford to do so…doesn’t make much sense.

Of course, in today’s age children are not the inevitability they once were.  We now are able to choose whether or not we have them, even going as far stigmatizing those who decide to.  Like it or not, our capitalist consumer society has very polar views on the whole ‘baby thing.’  We love our children more than ever because we chose to have them.  Our parents told us we were special so our baby is the epitome of special and deserves the best of everything.  Babies are a multibillion dollar a year franchise. Unlike their new parents.  They miss work, have priorities other than the company, then go so far as to stop buying their regular novelties like expensive clothes and fancy food in place of diapers and formula.  How dare they?  Just thinking about that makes the American Consumer uncomfortable.  You mean if I don’t buy these $100 jeans I won’t just literally die?

As uncomfortable as this makes you feel, this generic group mentality is the support for a lot of the wrongs in this country currently.  There’s very little emphasis on living our best life possible–just THE best life, according to the gospel of the day.  We are supposed to be hard working, hard spending individuals, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for thought on those people too busy caring for others.  They are not contributing to the company’s bottom line, why should we care?  Because America’s current stance on its people’s priorities is embarrassing.

Chart of Paid Maternity Benefits by Country from KellyMom.com

According to SaveTheChildren.org, the United States is the only developed country to NOT have a law requiring some sort of financial compensation to new mothers after birth. Finland sends all of its expecting moms a care box including clothes, jackets, diapers, and other essentials, the box itself even contains a mattress so it doubles as the child’s first bed!

I know you’re thinking, ok but who is going to pay for all this?  An employer shouldn’t have to be responsible for the crazy parenting whims of its employees. Thanks to the folks at KellyMom.com who put this together, here’s a rundown of what the federal costs of providing paid leave to new parents would look like:

Assumptions:

  • Pay new mothers 75% of the median income for women for one year after birth.
  • Pay ALL mothers, regardless of their work history.

 Some of the Unknowns:

How many women postpone children because they need to work? If a new mother will be financially supported for one year, will that increase the birth rate, and increase the costs of this program?

Will there be any corresponding savings, such as those associated with increased breastfeeding rates decreasing medical costs?

How much room is there for cost savings by putting a cap on eligibility by household income, requiring the mother to have worked a certain number of hours to qualify, etc.?

Continuing to keep it simple, we’ll assume that the unknown costs and savings cancel each other out.

 

Let’s run some numbers (all for the United States):

 Using the latest data available from the US government…

 Women’s median earnings: $669/week = $34,788 per year.

Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2010.pdf

If new mothers are paid 75% of median income, that is $26,091 paid maternity leave per year per birth.

Number of births per year: 4,316,000.

Source: US Census. http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/11statab/vitstat.pdf

 

The total annual maternity leave for all births (paid maternity leave per year per birth times number of births per year): $112,608,800,000.

If we assume, similar to Social Security, administrative costs are minimal (less than 1%), we can say $113 billion per year is the rough cost of this program.

Now let’s figure out what that number means in relation to the workforce.

 There are about 142 million people employed in the US.

Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf.

Dividing $113 billion by 142 million workers means the cost is $796 per worker per year.

If we treat paid maternity leave similar to unemployment insurance and social security, then, based on our simplified estimate,  $796 per worker per year (or $66 per month) will pay for it.

Don’t like the assumptions above? Using the same data, if we pay all new mothers 50% of the median income for women for 6 months, our simplified estimate gives a cost of $267 per worker per year (or $22 per month).

If we include only the employed mothers (55.8% of mothers with babies under a year old are in the workforce – Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics) and again give them 50% of the median income for women for 6 months, our simplified estimate gives us a cost of $149 per worker per year (or $12 per month).

——————————

Yes, $113 billion is a lot of money. But considering the incalculable amount the government is taking from us and spending on a war the majority of Americans no longer support, I think we could recognize $12-$66 a month in taxes we never get to see is not a lot compared to the dramatic and widespread decreases of stress and increases in health we could gain.  With all these mothers now available to breastfeed for longer, infant health issues would become less frequent.  Unburdened by the cost of child care, new parents would be freer to invest back in themselves and the economy.  We would see a litany of positive repercussions.

If this still seems like a lot of money, consider the following. Our congress is comprised of 435 representatives and 100 senators making at least $174,000 each (majority and minority leaders make almost $200,000 and speaker of the house makes $223,500).  We even continue paying them a decent salary when their term is over.  Their annual combined salaries cost us more than $93 billion a year.  And when they decide they just don’t want to come to work they get paid and we still pay the bill.

Here is Obama discussing his thoughts on Paid Maternity Leave. (00:46)

Yes, he’s for it, just so against admitting our government doesn’t want to pay.

 

Our President recognized we need to change our view on Parental and Family Leave, but dismissed it as something he would help along, We need to start reminding our government to use these taxes they are relentlessly tolling for projects that actually help us to thrive.  It is not the place of its businesses to suffer the cost. .

top image copyright the Huffington Post 

CHECK OUT THEIR ARTICLE ON LACK OF PAID MATERNAL LEAVE IN AMERICA

 Article by Rae Coder

Posted July 16, 2014

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