What Is Maternity Leave?

“It’s a boy!”  “It’s a girl!” It’s time to go back to work. Waiting for your little one to arrive can feel like an eternity, but, maternity leave feels like it’s over even before your baby is out of those cute little newborn diapers.  That’s if you’re lucky enough to get any time off.

That’s not true in Britain, where most women are entitled to one whole year of maternity leave. (Wait a sec while I book my flight!) But not all women. Jane Kassim couldn’t have kids, so she used a surrogate.  Now, Kassim is being offered just 13 weeks of unpaid leave to care for her twin girls. The new mom is fighting for equal leave for women who use surrogates. A new mom is a new mom no matter how you slice it. Maternity leave is about bonding with the baby, not a prize for getting through the whole 9 months.

Which takes me back to the U.S. Right now, women here are eligible for 6 weeks of paid leave. But, only about half of us get it because there are so many rules, and so many companies are exempt from the law.  Recently, the National Center for Children in Poverty pushed to get new moms 14 weeks of paid leave. They say 6 weeks is just not enough time to bond with your baby. Amen to that!

It feels like maternity leave is like those batteries you forgot to buy for your kid’s birthday gift.  You just assumed they were included.  Being a new mom and maternity leave should go hand in hand. Maternity leave shouldn’t feel like a prize for getting through the pregnancy.  Your baby is the real prize. Whether it’s through labor, adoption, or surrogacy, we need time to bond with our babies instead of being rushed back to work.

What’s your take on maternity leave? How much time is fair?