January 14, 2013 — "[T]he rigidity of maternity leave, which instills in us the mindset that the only time new moms should not be working is in the immediate aftermath of a child's birth," is problematic, Jessica Grose writes in a Slate opinion piece.
Grose offers a "radical proposal" that would "[a]llow women to take a set amount of time off in chunks, as needed, from the time they become pregnant up until a year after the baby is born." She notes, "The maternity leave provision in the Family and Medical Leave Act actually allows for '12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period' once the baby is born, but the norm, both in the minds of new moms and their employers, is clearly to take those 12 weeks up front."
Grose acknowledges that her proposal seems "possibly insane" given that the current "American maternity leave policy ... is among the worst in the industrialized world." However, a flexible maternity plan "could be the policy that benefits new parents, babies, and employers the most, by letting women have a break when they're at their least productive -- and encouraging new moms to spend time with their kids" throughout various phases of their children's first year, rather than just the first few months. She also notes that employers would benefit because they will be more likely to retain employees who are happy with their jobs after they give birth.
Similar policies have been successful in other countries, Grose writes. But for now, "this kind of flexibility is all a hazy fantasy in the United States, where instead of 13 months of leave -- like in Sweden -- we're lucky to get a pumping closet," she adds (Grose, Slate, 1/10).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership