Nearly 15 years ago, my wife and I had our first child.
One night soon after, I heard my wife semi-silently sobbing in our bathroom. I walked in to find her sitting on the edge of the tub, rocking back and forth (almost in the fetal position), crying “I don’t want to leave my baby.” This was the eve before her return to the office after taking 3 months of unpaid leave from her work as a lawyer at a Bethesda firm.
We had an in-family nanny; my wife’s sister-in-law. Even so, with the intention of making my wife’s first day back at work a bit easier, I stayed home from work the next day.
Having a baby is an odd mix of joy and struggle. On the joy side of things, there is no experience in life that rivals becoming a parent. About an hour after the birth though, instincts kick into high gear and the joy gets a bit diluted by an intense focus on the care (i.e. survival) of the child. It’s a time for the mother to recover physically, learn how to breast feed the child, and bond. It’s an intense, high alert time no matter who you are.
Once a baby is born, many families need for both parents to continue to work- and when both parents do work, some parents find that the expense of day care is a substantial (sometimes majority) of at least one spouse’s salary.
Fast forward 15 years- as active parents, my wife and I still have very little free time. It’s been a joyful, yet stressful period. Of my friends with children, I don’t know any who haven’t had roughly the same experience. Having children is an upheaval of sorts.
The US has a history of having noble priorities. Unfortunately, I believe over the past few decades, this country’s priorities have began to shift away from families, empathy and service to others, and spiritual principles. We now give more priority to corporations, judgement and righteous indignation, and status/wealth.
When it comes to supporting families (rather than corporations), the US ranks low. We are required to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave, while the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, and Iran offer 40, 26, 14, and 12 weeks of paid leave respectively. The US falls short relative to other developed countries:
Much of our training program here at MOM’s revolves around reading books. About a year ago, our female CFO read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and recommended we offer trainings on it. It was an enlightening book for many of us. As a result of those book sessions, a committee was formed and the group came up with a number of ideas that we’ve implemented to help working mothers.
MOM’s is proud to now offer 6 weeks of paid maternity leave to all full time employees. We know of only one other retailer in the US who offers as much (Patagonia). When a baby is born, families need support during this crucial and stressful period.