There wasn’t a moment during my daughter’s first few months when I thought, “I should really be at work.” Because I WAS working. Taking care of a newborn, especially as a first-time parent, is the most challenging work there is. I treated it like my job – and I got paid for it like a job.
I work in the public sector, and while government work has its fair share of bureaucratic frustrations, the benefits are pretty good. Really good, in fact. For the first 22 weeks of my maternity leave, I received my full salary. I could then take another 17 weeks of leave with Statutory Maternity Pay (£140.98 per week), and another 13 weeks unpaid.
I was lucky to be paid so well during those first few months, and lucky that I was allowed to take a full year off and still return to my role. I was also lucky that I was able to afford those unpaid and underpaid months, thanks to a partner who worked full time and my own meager savings.
Lots of British women aren’t so lucky. Many employers offer only what they’re legally required to provide, which is six weeks at 90% pay, and another 33 weeks at £140.98 per week, or 90% of the woman’s average weekly wage, whichever is lower.
According to a recent article in the Guardian, this means that Britain trails most of Europe when it comes to maternity pay. Only Ireland and Slovakia offer a worse deal.
And you know who offers a deal that’s even more crap than Ireland and Slovakia? My home country, America. Actually, it offers no deal. It’s one of three countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee mothers any paid maternity leave, and yet Republicans are obsessed with forcing women to have lots of babies.
“So, you want to restrict my access to birth control and abortions?”
“You should have all the babies. Babies are blessings! More babies, please.”
“Any chance you might want to throw a little money my way to help me pay for all these blessings?”
“Lady, you need to start taking some personal responsibility for your choices.”
For everyone woman who is forced to stay home with her kids because she can’t afford childcare fees, there’s a woman who’s forced back into work too early because she can’t afford to stay home. It all comes back to one simple fact – we need to support working mums better.
Because let’s face it – you need us. You need our skills, experience and knowledge in the workplace, but you also need us to raise the little people that will shape the future of our world. A little help at the start of that people-raising, when we need it the most, could go a long way.