Some of you may have seen the 20/20 report the other night by Elizabeth Vargas on working motherhood in America. One of the most shocking statistic in the report was that only 4 out of 168 countries do not have a national maternity leave program. Those countries are Papua New Guinea, LeSotho, Swaziland and the United States. Yes, our friends in North Korea and Iran offer more support to working moms than our own country. She also interviewed Senator Christopher Dodd who has been a diehard supporter of maternity leave, but has been consistently thwarted by both Democrats and Republicans.
Since I've joined the millions of other working Moms in America, I'd like to contribute my two cents on the issue of government support for families. First, I think that there will never be any government-backed maternity leave until we reframe the issue as "family leave." We have to stop pitting men against women, those with children against those without, working moms against stay-at-home moms, etc.
Believe it or not, paid family leave is really a family value, not a special privilege given only to women who choose to work and have a family. In fact, family leave is about so much more than just giving working moms a handout. It's about deciding as a society that we are going to value family members caring for each other. That we are going to give sons and daughters the flexibility to take care of ailing parents, foster parents time to adjust to caring for another human being, and fathers a chance to bond with their newborns. It's so vitally important and yet the term "family values" is more often associated with prohibiting gay marriage than with helping millions of American families that struggle to raise kids, take care of ailing parents, maintain work responsibilities, and last (and always least), find time for themselves. At a minimum, we should have more informed discussions about the issue. We spend so much time arguing about much less important things. Here's something that affects everyone, particularly those of us that have or will have children and/or aging parents. Yet, we rarely hear family leave debated among friends, let alone in the halls of Congress. It's time to demand respect for the important role that families play in our society.