New mothers face an array of challenges entering back into the work place shortly after giving birth. The physical toll alone is enough to put a life on pause, but add to that the mental challenges that many women suffer through postpartum and you have a perfect storm of circumstances to derail career progress.
Even emerging rap phenom, Cardi B, who seemingly has unlimited resources to aid her transition back into the workforce, had to make the difficult decision to not go on her highly anticipated tour with Bruno Mars due to her mental and physical state just six weeks post delivery.
For the every day woman, the grace of maternity leave is even more evasive–and the privilege to ‘opt out’ of work responsibilities is simply not an option. Based on data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13% of American workers have employee compensated family leave programs. Of the people who do have some sort of medical leave benefits, the time they can take off from work to tend for their newborn varies. A 2012 study, conducted for an investigative piece for website In These Times, surveyed almost 3,000 women in the work place who took time off to care for a new baby. Of the sample population, 12 percent took a week or less off, and another 11 percent took between one and two weeks off. There also appears to be a correlation between higher education and ability to take longer leave. 80 percent of college grades were able to take six weeks off, with only 54 percent of women without a degree were able to leave work for the same time period.
Research has shown a direct correlation between postpartum health of mom and child and the amount of time they are allotted to recover after delivery. University of Virginia researcher, Christopher Ruhm, conducted a longitudinal study of birth and death rates and paid leave in 16 European countries and found a 50-week-extension in maternal leave correlated with a 20 percent decline in infant mortality.
But what working woman in American can afford to take almost a year off? On top of the economic burden, one in seven women experience postpartum anxiety or mood disorders. The number increases when race is a factor, with Black women’s rate of postpartum hovering at 38 percent.
Within these harsh conditions, some women have unfairly had to readjust their entire lives to make ends meet in the gap between corporate responsibility and family health. Whether that means pumping milk in a parking lot because you’re office does not have lactation rooms, or leaving the workforce all together for at home paid project assignments, or enlisting the help of public assistance, women all over the country are having to make difficult compromises for the well-being of their families.
Policy in Washington remains sluggish to rectify the public criss. A 2015 Family Act Bill would’ve made paid leave for new parents a federal mandate, but the legislation has remained stalled on the floor after the departure of the Obama Administration. As of now, time allotted for new parents vary state by state.
Hopefully, with the help of advocates and increased public outcry, America will catch up with the rest of the modern world when it comes to mandated, compensated maternity leave.