Actually, I’ve conducted a bit of research into maternity leave and it has returned some interesting results. Of all the advances in women’s liberation birth control has produced the most marked increase in women’s sense of freedom and maternity leave the least. Why?
There are a number of reasons actually but first is that women actually lose a lot when they take maternity leave. According to the women interviewed over the course of research conducted by a number of researchers over an extended period of time, women taking maternity leave lose:
· Standing in the eyes of their employers. Employers make it known that women taking maternity leave are perceived as less committed, less professional and less reliable than their male or non-childbearing counterparts.
· Money, in the form of insurance, health benefits and promotional opportunities (see above).
· Employability because many employers refuse to employ women who will ‘cost them money’ by taking maternity leave and then have the gall to need more sick days in order to look after sick kids.
While none of these things are either fair or appropriate, they are, astoundingly enough, true! So the question of Ms Palin’s decision not to take maternity leave is almost moot. In fact, rather than persecuting an individual, what we as a culture ought to be doing, is questioning what our society has come to when a woman doesn’t feel ‘safe’ in taking maternity leave. We should also be asking ourselves how we remedy this situation. The following are my suggestions:
· Stop calling it ‘maternity leave’ and start calling it ‘parental leave’ and make it available to either parent on the birth of a child. In the case of many of my friends, the woman in the relationship earns more than her partner. It makes much more financial sense for their families if the guy takes leave to care for his child. This arrangement should be something decided upon within a family not dictated by a government.
· In the age of telecommuting, there should be more opportunities for women to utilise these technologies to work from home and/or job share. This would serve dual purpose in furthering women’s rights and also reducing pollution! And in fact, some research has shown that communication technology is one of the few ways in which women in even the most traditional of societies have been able to circumvent roles which are traditionally ‘female’.
· Recognise that women who are parents as well as employees have a number of leadership, management and communicative capabilities not demonstrated by their male and/or non-child bearing counterparts.
· Remove emphasis from the short term cost of paid maternity leave and look instead to the long term socio-cultural as well as economic benefits (better bonded babies and more effectively parented teens results in decreasing incidents of alcohol and drug abuse as well as a lowered level of crimes associated with disillusioned kids).
**sigh** Sarah Palin and her family just seem to embody all the issues I rant about don’t they? Anybody got anything to add?