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Home » Lifestyle Finance, Workplace Finance

American Paternity & Maternity Leave vs. The Rest of the World

Last updated by on 48 Comments

Work/life balance in the form of supportive national and employee benefit plans is something that the United States has sorely lacked, especially in comparison to other developed economies. Corporate lobbies have made it so.

Nowhere (other than health care benefits) is that more apparent than when looking at maternity and paternity leave. Let’s take a look at how we stack up against the rest of the world.

Here are Some Interesting Parental Leave Figures to Consider:

  • paternity and maternity leaveThe U.S. is the ONLY country in the Americas without a national paid parental leave benefit. The average is over 12 weeks of paid leave anywhere other than Europe and over 20 weeks in Europe.
  • Zero industrialized nations offer no parental leave other than the U.S.
  • Canada recently passed legislation to boost paid parental leave (shared between paternity and maternity) from 10 to 35 weeks, in addition to 15 weeks for maternity.

Depressed yet? Let’s Travel to Europe to See how they View Parental Leave.

  • Lithuania offers 52 weeks at 100% pay plus 52 weeks at 80% pay to be split between the parents however they would like!
  • Denmark – 52 weeks.
  • France – 16 weeks at 100% pay for first child and up to 26 weeks for third child. That’s on top of an amazing 104 weeks of unpaid leave (your employer is required to let you come back to your job).
  • Norway – 56 weeks paid.
  • Sweden – 480 days paid.

Yikes. OK. What About Impoverished African Nations. Surely they Don’t Offer Parental Leave, do they?

  • Ethiopia, with its gross national income of $859 per person – 90 days at 100% pay.
  • Madagascar, with a gross national income of $911 – 14 weeks at 100% pay.
  • Somalia…. gross national income of $600 – yeah…. 14 weeks at 50% pay.

Wait, I Got you! Afghanistan! There is no Way Afghanistan Offers Better Benefits than us, Right??

Afghanistan offers 90 days at 100% pay. I kid you not.

What to Make of All This:

If you’re an expecting mom or soon to be father in the United States who is actually getting paid leave from your employer – be thankful and take it. Take all of it. And enjoy it. Do not feel guilt as a result of backwards cultural values. You deserve that time to enjoy your new family and settle.

If you’re thinking of having lots of kids some day. Well, start writing your congressman/congresswoman or begin looking into green cards.

Maternity & Paternity Leave Discussion:

  • What’s the longest maternity/paternity leave in the United States that you’ve seen? How long?
  • What about the shortest?
  • Have you actually considered moving to a different country to enjoy the benefits of things like paid paternal leave or universal health care?

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I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


48 Comments »
  • Note that this is coming from a father of 3, so I’m not biased against leave at all, but I’m looking at this objectively – from the view of an employer, it just doesn’t make sense why an employer should be Forced via the govt to offer paid leave to someone who makes a life choice to have a child. i.e what about women who don’t have any kids – aren’t they going to resent the woman who’s out every other year for a decade with 5 kids (paid straight through)? I get holding a job under FMLA for a reasonable period and women taking some time to decide if they want to come back to work or not. My wife chose to stay home. But under this system, she would have been paid for a full year and then quit anyway. What fairness is there in that?

    This forced mandate would actually have the opposite intended effect of all the advancements women have made in the workplace in the past few decades (economists have proven this over and over with ADA, Womens’ lib movement, etc). If corporations were forced to offer paid leave for a full year, which means they’ve also gotta find a replacement, then they have to find a new place for that replacement when said mother returns, don’t you think they’d shy away from hiring young women altogether?

    I’m curious, how do all those countries fare in terms of women in the corporate world. I do plenty of international business and I’ll tell you, it’s almost 100% white male at the higher levels. Much less diverse than the US. So, are women trading paid maternity for lack of professional opportunities and advancement because overseas corporations are afraid to hire them? Maybe.

    • Megan says:

      Most of the countries that provide paid leave have a clause that states that if they quit their job they forfeit their paid leave. The paid leave is an incentive for parents to keep working. Let’s not forget that many of these countries provide it for both parents encouraging fathers to take part in raising the child as well. The money doesn’t always come out of the companies pockets either. Sometimes employees who plan to have children pay into funds so that they can take leave later. And for companies that do provide the leave out of pocket they save money in the long run from not having to spend money hiring new people and paying the trainers of those people.

  • To the above comment… “it’s almost 100% white male at the higher levels.”

    That statement is incorrect, how can countries that are non-white have whites at the corporate level (say, Ethiopia, Turkey, China?)

    Also, in other countries, women are barely entering the finance world, not because of discrimination, but because of personal choice. Believe me, America is the least open minded of the Westernized countries.

  • Was referring to Europe, where it is true.
    But now that you mentioned the other countries, many of the companies I deal with are US and Europe multinationals anyway and they put their own executives in charge, so still the case anyway.
    You also cited non-Western countries but then said US is least open-minded of Westernized countries.
    So, if that’s the case why aren’t there more women in the boardrooms of say, UK, French, Swiss companies, etc. In recalling prior business, deals, decisions, face to face meetings, etc., I can’t say I recall a single – not 1 – woman from Europe in an executive position.
    Perhaps it’s anecdotal, but it’s not 1 data point by any means; this was several companies.

  • Kams says:

    Just a bit of insight into the Canadian program; it’s government paid, and you get 55% of your gross wages if you qualify (you have to have worked for a certain length of time – I think 600 insurable hours), and the max you can receive is 457 a week.
    It’s not only the mom who can take the leave either. Maternity leave (15 weeks) is meant to recover from the physical trauma of child birth, or it can start near the end of your pregnancy if you have difficultly moving. The parental leave (varies by province, but it’s around 35 weeks) can be taken by either parent, or adoptive parents.

    There may be issues if the company pays for time off, but when you go on mat/parental leave without supplement, you are not on the company payroll, so it doesn’t actually cost the company anything (sometimes it can save money if you replace with someone who has less experience or education, etc.

    It’s nice to know that you have a year to take care of your child, with some payment, and have a job to go back to after a year.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ Darwin – A lot of the research that went into this post was pulled from this Wikipedia post: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

    In Europe and now Canada, most of the countries have progressive plans where the time can be split between parents, however they see fit. This, theoretically, shouldn’t lead to discriminatory hiring practices. I’d look at hiring as completely separate from who is in the board room. For the countries that don’t have progressive plans like that (and even for the ones who do) that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other legacy discriminatory factors at play. The ‘white males’ at the top have had a boys club there for a long time. Hiring women doesn’t mean that they have an equal opportunity to break through the glass ceiling.

  • Financial Solutions says:

    There may be issues if the company pays for time off, but when you go on mat/parental leave without supplement, you are not on the company payroll, so it doesn’t actually cost the company anything (sometimes it can save money if you replace with someone who has less experience or education, etc.

  • Paul says:

    @ Financial Solutions – it still costs those companies plenty assuming you have a special skill set that someone with less experience doesnt have. And if you don’t have that special skill set the company should have replaced you with a lower paid person long ago! ;)

    In all seriousness – I do not expect time off when my children are born but do plan to take a week or two to help out.

  • Wizard Prang says:

    “start writing your congressman/congresswoman or begin looking into green cards.”

    Huh? Green Cards are for someone coming to the US from overseas.

    I should know, I have one. And it’s actually pink. :)

  • Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    As a woman who doesn’t plan on having children, I still think paid maternity/paternity leave would be great. Kids are insane right now (my husband is an 8th grade teacher)…maybe they’d be less nuts if they were actually raised as opposed to ignored…

  • Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    In response to the discussion questions, I actually don’t personally know anybody that gets paid baby leave. My company gives the mandatory unpaid time off and that’s it. But I have not considered moving since I don’t plan on having children and I’ve lived in other countries before and didn’t enjoy it (Holland and Argentina…great to visit, but I’m USA all the way through apparently).

  • Pat Katepoo says:

    Many US women are able to extend their paltry maternity leaves through skillful negotiation with their employer. One I know of doubled hers from six weeks to 12 weeks, fully paid. Asking works many times.

  • Shaun says:

    The US government can’t afford it, unless you want our government to go ahead and just commit suicide.

    The companies shouldn’t be forced to pay for a lifestyle choice. It’s a lifestyle choice, get over it: sure it would make it EASIER for the parents. So would giving out a million bucks per child they have. Also, it’s not the companies’ moral responsibility to pay for it.

    Want a kid? Find out how to make it work. Don’t force others to make it work for you. Simple stuff.

  • Eric says:

    If corporations were forced to offer paid leave for a full year, which means they’ve also gotta find a replacement, then they have to find a new place for that replacement when said mother returns, don’t you think they’d shy away from hiring young women altogether?

  • Julie says:

    My mother is pregnant right now, and it was definitely a negotiation to get paid leave from her company. I don’t look forward to this part when I decide to have children myself. On one hand, two years paid time off would be great. But I wouldn’t mind working from home for 6 months, or part time (or both). Being away from the office for months (or years!) is going to make you pretty irrelevant there. I don’t know about other people’s jobs, but I know that if I left my company for a month, I’d come back to a huge pile of work (just based on going on vacation for 2-3 weeks), but if I was to leave for a year, they would need to find someone else to do my job. For a control freak like me, that’s unfathomable. If I have to come back and work on a system someone else designed, it would cause me a lot of frustration, and may be a real nightmare. Even now, the projects I work on that were not started by me are the most difficult–all the outdated, illogical processes.

    (If you’re wondering, I’m a project manager.)

    I think that several months into my pregnancy, I would just work out a plan with my employer, and even now I know it will involve blackberry access and working from home/several days in the office eventually. Am I a workaholic? Yeah, I guess so.

  • melissa says:

    I work at a university. You can save up to 45 days of annual leave and roll it over year to year + you can save unlimited sick leave. I think that gives potential parents plenty of time off. Instead what I see is folks using all their leave for vacations and then wanting shared leave to make up the difference. Not cool in my mind. I have picked up the slack for every woman who has taken maternity leave and/or is out every week for sick kids. I shouldn’t be penalized for not having kids by constantly picking up all their extra work. It does frustrate me when folks go on maternity leave, get shared leave from leave donations, and then don’t come back to work once they have used all the paid time up.

  • victor says:

    As a republican, I think the US should join the rest of the world. After all, I approve of any government program that gives rich people a large sums of taxpayer dollars while giving poor people very little money.

  • Kent says:

    There’s a reason America is great… and so much further ahead than the other countries mentioned in the article. Just sayin’ …

  • stephanie says:

    Nothing is “free.” Everything is paid for somehow. Look at the tax rates in the countries providing so much “free” stuff (health care, maternity leave, etc.) and see if it really still seems free. In the US people flip out because the top federal tax bracket is over 30%. Imagine if virtually everyone (not just top earners!) paid 45%+ in taxes from their checks. Imagine how much the government could provide for us then!

    Seriously, though, I agree with other posters who argue that having children is a personal decision. And it should be handled personally. If you can’t afford to have children, I shouldn’t be punished for it and made to pay (either through increased taxes, or by covering your work while you’re out, or in any other way). If your employer values your contribution to your work, he/she will find a way to entice you back by giving you paid leave or holding your job. If what you contribute can be done by someone else just as easily, why should your employer be required to hold your spot? (Especially since they’ll have to hire someone to cover your work while you’re gone – or they’ll push it off onto your colleagues, which will likely result in very resentful colleagues when you get back.) Also, why should you be paid for taking time off work? By that theory, shouldn’t women who choose NOT to have children get extra bonuses? If employers are forced to provide long-term maternity benefits (and yes, they’ll be provided by employers – either directly or by a tax on employers and employees), they’ll stop hiring as many women of child-bearing age.

  • Julie says:

    Kent,

    What are we ahead in, exactly?

    Our education system sucks and Americans are among the most ignorant, least educated people I have ever met.

    12 year olds in Russia are more educated than 20 year olds in the U.S.

    Lots of progress these geniuses in the U.S. are going to make in the future.

    And Victor, rich people should not be given any money. You can only argue that they should have less of theirs taken away. And then they can live in a shitty society because everyone around them will be dirt poor. It’s lonely at the top….

    That’s why I am no longer a republican. I would rather live in a good society than just horde large sums of cash (as the top 1% of society is doing).

  • j says:

    The last time I checked, it was illegal to discriminate against possible employees (ie. not hiring women of childbearing age).

    It’s rather disappointing to see the posts of American citizens who feel that they are making an unfair sacrifice by giving parents time to nurture and support their children. When are people going to realize that our children are our greatest resource? Imagine you are a child again: Wouldn’t you do better if you got to spend time with your mother and father who love you instead of a daycare or babysitter? I know the statement I’m about to make is a cliche by now, but it’s also true– it is far better for the entire American population to support our children and their families right now rather than pay for court fees and prisons later on.

    If we want to get ahead of the other nations, then perhaps we should focus on taking care of our children and families instead of the bottom line. Is making money all we value?

  • Julie says:

    Wizard Prang,

    Actually, I love living here. I think our education system sucks, as do a lot of things, but I like living here, I can’t imagine being anywhere except NYC. I frequently use this quote when people talk about other governments: “Democracy is the worst form of government there is, except for all of the others.” I have nothing to complain about, but I certainly don’t think America is a “great nation” anymore, and people need to stop holding on to that.

    My boyfriend actually DOES hate living here (we both came here when we were infants with our parents, so it’s not like we had a choice), and says he does want to move. I’ve already told him that he’s on his own there.

  • Julie says:

    J,

    I could not agree with you more. I was going to say it myself, but I’m glad I didn’t have to because you made every point I was hoping to make.

    Both of my parents worked while my grandma raised me, and now I have a stronger connection to her than to my own mother. There’s a reason so many Americans are in therapy…

  • Kent says:

    @Julie:

    [What are we ahead in, exactly?] Freedom, individual choices, and the opportunity to be successful. I’ve visited many foreign countries, and I’ve never been to another country that comes close to us.

    [Our education system sucks and Americans are among the most ignorant, least educated people I have ever met.]

    What this has to do with maternity/paternity leave is beyond me, but we have seen a decrease in the quality of education… pretty much in parallel with the amount of federal control over it. Now you want federal control over the benefits businesses provide to employees?

    [12 year olds in Russia are more educated than 20 year olds in the U.S.]

    I’ve been to Russia. That is categorically untrue (at least as a general statement). Russians due tend to be better at logic/math/etc. for whatever reason though. Ti gavareesh po-russkie?

    [...rich people should not be given any money. You can only argue that they should have less of theirs taken away.]

    I think Victor was trying to be humorous, but I agree with you, the rich should have less taken away. ;-)

    [And then they can live in a shitty society because everyone around them will be dirt poor. It’s lonely at the top….]

    It is the rich who create jobs giving people the ability to work hard, save, and allow us to become a better society. You’d rather just give the money away? Now THAT is a shitty society with no incentive to work hard or achieve anything. That’s another thing I witnessed in Russia by the way… and it was terrifying.

    [That’s why I am no longer a republican. I would rather live in a good society than just horde large sums of cash (as the top 1% of society is doing).]

    I know a few rich people. I’ve never met one yet that simply “hordes large sums of cash”. They invest it… hire people… build businesses. That’s how they got rich. That’s how they stay rich. And it helps everyone.

  • Julie says:

    Kent,

    I feel like you’ve been brainwashed.
    Yes, I’m Russian.

  • Wizard Prang says:

    @Stephanie:

    Well said, and a point that most have missed. Taxes are _much_ higher there, and so is the cost of living.

    @Julie:
    Good point. Now please leave the country :) Seriously, if things are better in Russia/Europe/Wherever, what are you still doing here?

    The slide into Socialism is one of the reasons I left England 15 years ago. I have never looked back; I live better here on one salary than I did in England on two. Most Americans do not realize how fortunate they are.

    In spite of its faults, I live here by choice.

    P.S. As for the education system, it is my belief that most of the problems are caused by too much governmental involvement. Let the parents and teachers run the show and watch what happens.

  • Julie says:

    Also, I still consider investing to be hording. If they die with a penny in the bank, they are hording.

    I graduated with a degree in Finance, but I knew early on I’d never go into the field. I hate the idea of making money out of money. I think you should make enough money to not have to think about money, and stop at that. No one needs a billion dollars.

  • Kent,
    Bravo.

    Julie,
    Come on. How many Americans do you see running over to emigrate to Russia? None. Why do students from the rest of the world seek to come to the best colleges in the world – US? Our public school system leaves much to be desired but our best students blow away the best students elsewhere in the world and hence, America continues to dominate in all things industry, innovation and pretty much everything else. Part of the reason our public school systems stink is because of left-leaning practices like unions making it impossible to fire bad teachers.

    Russia is completely corrupt (moreso than our politicians which is saying a lot) and since this topic was actually about women, let’s compare the representation of women in positions of prominence and power in the US vs Russia. Hmmm, lots of female CEOs, Cabinet Positions and Politicians in the US. Russia?

    See what Russia did to the Hermitage Fund employees. This doesn’t happen in the US:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ok6ljV-WfRw

    This isn’t a nationalistic rant; I have plenty to fault the US on – and I do routinely. But to compare Russia? Not buyin’ it.

  • Julie says:

    I didn’t want to compare Russia to the US in all things in life.

    Just saying that the U.S. is not the best at everything. Sure, we have a high GDP (apparently, the ulitmate goal), but not even the highest. We don’t lead in all things techology/innovation (ever heard of Japan?), either. People still come here for “opportunities”, but are they really finding everything they expected?

  • Julie says:

    So that’s what capitalism is?

    I’m pretty sure that in socialist Ukraine (where I’m from), when my great grandfather died, his fortune went to my great grandma.

    Yes, I meant hoarding, IE has no spell check function. Saving for old age is very different than having tens of millions of dollars in the bank. Why are you comparing the two?

  • Wizard Prang says:

    @Julie,

    “Also, I still consider investing to be hording. If they die with a penny in the bank, they are hording.”

    I think you meant “hoarding”… and saving for your old age is not “hoarding”, it is “thrift”. The alternative is to expect our dwindling supply of future taxpayers to feed, clothe and shelter us when we get old – and even the Socialist countries are having problems paying for all of that.

    “I think you should make enough money to not have to think about money, and stop at that. No one needs a billion dollars.”

    Good point… but unless it’s your billions, it’s not your decision to make. Andrew Carnegie used his to jump-start the library system and Bill Gates is currently giving his away to battle social problems all over the world. Money is not, and has never been the problem.

    Oh, and when you die, your assets go to your surviving spouse, your children, or anyone you please. That’s called Capitalism.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    A couple of points that have not been made yet:

    1. Do you think that just about every other civilized nation out there that offers national paid maternity leave is doing it out of the kindness of their hearts? If they are, great. But what a lot of them are realizing that the key to economic growth and more tax dollars is through people getting it on and producing babies. Many industrialized nations (Europe in particular) are experiencing a significant population decline right now. That leads to economic decline, wealth decline, and less taxpayer dollars. If there are incentives for people to have kids and have more of them (see France’s incentives), then people will ultimately have more children, the population will grow again, and everyone is happy (except the environmentalists). These countries are investing in the long-term, something that the U.S. should do a little bit more of.

    2. Education, health care, and work/life balance are areas that we should strive as a country to always be #1 at. But we’re far from it. America is a great country, but a little public discourse about where we are falling behind the rest of the world does not mean we are unpatriotic, hateful, or gasp…… SOCIALIST!!! Should we just sit around and take what are corporations, er, politicians give us? No, we should fight for more than that. That is the heart of what democracy should be about. It’s a good thing.

    3. Are those planning on having children entitled to time off of work? No. But would our world be a better place if we valued work/life balance, raising families the right way, and just plain slowing down our ascent up the corporate ladder a little bit in order to enjoy all that life has to offer? I think so.

  • M Denis says:

    Mr Miller -

    America does not have a population decline problem like Europe. Our population grows every year because of immigration – people want to move here because of the opportunities that we offer. I believe that one of the most significant is our freedom – from things like high taxation and govt getting involved in social engineering.

    Also, just because “every other civilized nation is doing it” is not a persuasive argument to me. I look instead at the fact that America has had the most productive workers of any industrialized nation (including Japan) for several decades. This is due in no small part to the fact that other gov’ts set high minimums for vacation time, paid family leave, etc.

    Paid family leave is awesome – my wife’s company offers it and we took advantage of it. This is a decision made by the company and it is also one of the many reasons we moved from our native city to start a family here. And because we are living within our means, I can afford to be a stay-at-home dad. It’s all a matter of personal choice.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ M Denis – you’re correct. The U.S. population is not declining. That’s probably why we don’t offer the added incentive.

  • Shaun says:

    1. The idea that we should be trying to encourage people to pop out as many kids as possible isn’t rational. Overpopulation, anyone?

    2. Those are individual pursuits. You have no right to take my income to help your individual pursuits. It’s not your money. It’s mine.

    3. If you aren’t entitled to it, don’t threaten me with jail time if I don’t give it. That’s what government boils down to — coercion and threat of jail time.

  • Jeff Walden says:

    But what a lot of them are realizing that the key to economic growth and more tax dollars is through people getting it on and producing babies.

    What you propose is that it is legitimate to encourage an action because it results in more revenue. Think of what policies this would permit:

    A city uses its power of eminent domain to take houses from residents without influence to give the land to a large company (say, Pfizer) with influence, because the large company will send more tax dollars to the city (or so it claims!).

    A city council decides to permit gambling not because it believes in individual choice, but because it wants money for its schools (usually given up, if willingly, by poorer segments of society), choosing to ignore the other consequences (increased violent crime, among others) perhaps because the cost isn’t imposed upon the city’s government but on others.

    A city crafts a narrowly targeted tax break for a single company considering establishing headquarters there, because that company will pay lots in tax revenue, eschewing the alternative of a broad tax break for all companies throughout the city — thus relatively enriching customers of the single company (which due to lesser taxes has lower operating costs) and relatively impoverishing customers of all others (most particularly, customers of any which compete with that single company).

    A city decides to install automatic traffic-speed cameras at all intersections — not because accidents have been on the rise, and not because residents demand it, but because it will make it easier to pay the salaries of police officers, because far more violations can be converted to revenue.

    A state decides to sue a tobacco company for dangers imposed upon “hoodwinked” consumers, in a bid to raise extra revenue to pay off deficits — despite knowing that twenty years of anti-cigarette propaganda (accurate propaganda, but propaganda nonetheless) have ensured anyone smoking cigarettes now knows that doing so entails unavoidable dangers, so there’s no instance of punishable false advertising. Moreover, the state performs this action multiple times, claiming that earlier actions were not effective.

    Giving governments legitimacy in pursuing policy because it increases tax revenue is an easy way to see government subsidizing preferred entities, or penalizing disfavored ones — marginally picking winners and losers — rather than remaining impartial by allowing companies and individuals to thrive and fail on their own merits. This list is only a short one; it wouldn’t take much effort to draw up a much larger one. Revenue-motivated policies make it far simpler to grant entirely deniable kickbacks and legislative favors. They engender the currying of political influence rather than pursuit of excellence. They force businesses to add yet another component of uncertainty to their predictions about what the future will hold. Their permissibility implies that government should be free to act to the extent its revenue permits it, rather than to the extent its actions are desirable. In short, permitting a policy because the government will have more money as a result introduces additional distortions into the world that impose real costs on all individuals and organizations, even those not directly affected by potential policies.

    But of course, why stop at merely encouraging tax revenue? Why not permit actions like earmarks which “encourage economic growth”? (I’m a little tickled at the belief that people working less will result in the economy growing more, especially because — in this particular instance — the people working less are unlikely to be spending much more broadly than they normally would, since the “vacation” is really about rest and recuperation and much less about partaking of the tourist, travel, restaurant, and entertainment industries, unlike the typical vacation.) If paying Paul is deemed to improve the economy, does that justify robbing Peter to do it?

  • blog says:

    well in developing countries like India also there is 12 weeks 100% and for father it is usually 3 day leave

  • Cle says:

    I know I am late to the dance but this is something I feel strongly about so I’m commenting anyway. As a 26 year old woman working full time for the federal government, I am very frustrated that I do not get paid maternity leave. I’d like to have kids soon, and financially it would be a stretch to take the time off, then return to work and immediately start paying for child care and all additional expenses of having a child.

    Why not wait to have kids until I am older? Because I work in public health, and something huge I took away from my education and my work is to have kids young. This is because there is a landslide of evidence that maternal age has a direct impact on both child and maternal health. The cut-off point for screening for fetal chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome starts at 35 for expectant mothers. Women who are pregnant in their 35th year are considered “AMA” – advanced maternal age. Infertility rates rise, health complications increase, and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus rise drastically despite access to fantastic medical technology. Unfortunately, many women are waiting until their late 30s and early 40s to start families, often because of careers. I am not being critical or an anti-feminist, I totally understand why women postpone childbearing, but at the same time, women I work with who have had kids later in life have all told me if they could do it again, they’d have had kids younger (these are all well-educated, driven career women).

    However un-PC it might be, I had a professor tell a classroom of young women to have kids young to improve public health in this country, and frankly, while mildly offensive, that’s not bad advice. Unfortunately, I think many young women do not feel as though they can finish school, get started in their careers and then take the time they need to start a family in their 20s and early 30s (not to mention finding a responsible mate somewhere in there). If maternity/paternity leave was more widely available, I think this concern would be less significant.

    I think as a whole our nation needs to do a better job of supporting families. Paid maternity leave is a good first step.

  • sara says:

    I live in Ecuador and it is a wonderful country. Its people are so nice and kind, they will give you the most warming welcome. I have put together a helpful fact sheet, and also an article on Ecuadorian manners and customs.

  • Clarice says:

    I live in Italy, and just want to clarify how it REALLY works in EU.

    During “mandatory maternity leave” (5 months total, 2 months before due date, 3 months after due date) the employer is anticipating 100% of the salary to the employee, that is 100% refunded to the employer by the national healthcare&benefits institute (government). It is false and incorrect to say that women in EU on maternity leave are paid by their employers for staying at home. We pay taxes to the government for such benefits.

    Also men can apply to mandatory maternity leave, if applicable.

    Employers cannot lay off mothers or fathers for any reason till 1 year of life of the baby.

    “Optional maternity/paternity leave” can be taken (6 months total) any time till the baby is 8 years old, and people get only 30% of salary.

    Regarding careers: national labor contracts ensure that women back from maternity leave get back to their original jobs or equivalent jobs with new responsibilities.

    Hope it helped clarify! A European mother to be!

  • Don’t forget, when “the government pays for it”, yes, companies and individuals are paying for it. Europe has very high tax rates to pay for things like this.

  • bluebird says:

    @Wizard Prang: You could live in the US 15 years ago and you’d probably still have a feeling that nowadays, your living standard is higher ((nearly) no internet and cell phones back then, you know). I spent two years in Denmark and my impression of the locals was that they are extremely satisfied with the system in their country. I doubt that USA can beat that. A side note on the quality of education – two largest universities there rank among the top 100 universities in the world. Of course, USA has 50+ universities among those 100, but also the US population is cca 60 times larger than the population of Denmark.

    Another observation – I grew up in Czechoslovakia/Slovakia which in all economic measures stays far behind the US. Nowadays, I live in NYC. In a small one-bedroom apartment, together with my boyfriend. Back at home, my parents who are high-school teachers, have a 3000 sq. feet house with a huge yard and garden, and enjoy 8 weeks of vacation a year. Yes, there is a reason why we are here – the jobs we could have at home aren’t nearly as prestigious and interesting as what is available in NYC. Also, the money my parents earn is next to nothing in Western Europe, not to mention NYC.

    To conclude – people in my hometown generally get the following package: mediocre and not very well paid or interesting jobs, giving them a very little possibility to travel to exotic destinations, however, along with comfortable living in the proximity of two national parks, short commute to work, and at least 5 weeks of vacation. I’m pretty sure, as most people are not too ambitious anyway, they view their lives to be of a higher quality than what they could lead in NYC, which is “be a lucky workaholic and get rich” or “get a mediocre job, live in a tiny apartment in the concrete jungle, and cherish those two weeks of vacation you get”.

  • Jana says:

    Bluebird

    Agreeeeeee! 100% agree!

  • JC-VA says:

    Stephanie, well put. I should not be “charged” with everyone else’s choices, if you decide to have a kid, well, you are in your own, DEAL WITH IT!

  • CJ says:

    It takes a village to raise a child. Whether you are aware of it or not no one is in isolation. We influence each other in exponential ways. As one poster said earlier it is better to support our children and their families now rather than later through court fees and prison. What kind of people do we want? Well cared for and loved people or people who don’t care about anyone else becasue no on ever had time to care about them.
    The children are our future. Children are not “a personal choice”, they are unique blessings designed to impact our planet in special ways. And they are the proliferation of our species, without them, we are not. No one is here alone, we are are all connected. Why not try our best to love and take care of each other. Why is it so unheard of for the strong to carry the weak? Then when you who are strong are weak you will be cared for too. Lets support our children and families. It is in our best interest.

  • Working Mom of 2 says:

    Currently I am a working mom of 2. My husband also works. We lived in Europe when my son was born but fell under U.S. Law (as I am in the military). A co-worker who was U.K. had a son in March of 2005 and my son was born July 2005. I returned to work well before her. After 6 weeks. She was off work for 8 months. She could of taken the full year off. I feel that lots of people who have responded to this blog don’t understand the cultural differences of Europe and the U.K. to the U.S. Many daycares don’t there don’t even take a young child (6 weeks old). Children are a part of everyones daily life they go everywhere restaurants. My son was held for me at a restaurant (the waitress asked me to hold her) while we were out for my birthday. This was at our local pub. All the neighbors came to our house upon his birth. When we went to town everyone especially grandmothers stopped and talked to me. I never had a moment to feel alone as a new mom. He was part of the village. A new part of everyones life. Everyone was saddened that I could not be home longer with him. Unlike those who think that women would become baby factories to stay home paid. I think the opposite would happen. Women would have their children and be able to be with them when they really need us 1st year. And then return more productive as we would not be consumed with worry of not being there for the child. When we returned to the U.S. we felt that people did not accept children as they are in U.K and Europe. Looks at restaurant or other rude things. We can really be rude Americans. I hope that everyone will think again before saying that a child is an individual choice. It is a family choice and a community choice that should be supported by all.

  • S says:

    After skimming over the reviews, I noticed a lot of “I’s”. “I” don’t want to be punished, taxed, etc because of another’s choice. Any relationship (marriage, parental, colleague, friend, boss/employee) involves more than “I”. Taking an “I” approach really doesn’t solve much, which is why companies, families, governments, etc work in teams/groups. No one is right or wrong all of the time. Everyone is right or wrong some of the time.

    With that being said “I” (haha) have known quite a few women who could not “deal” with their children when they were infants. Having a choice available for the most equipped parent to be able to parent would be ideal. Many mom’s and dad’s are already limited by what society might feel is “natural” (i.e., mom’s have a magical link to their children, dad’s can never bond with their children like mom’s can, etc.).

    With narcissism being present in roughly 30% of our population (honestly 1 out 3 people!) I can’t help but wonder if there is a connection between our society not supporting or recognizing the need for bonding and this scary stat with narcissism.

    My opinion: “I” have no idea if paid leave in any way should be mandatory. “I” do think that companies should be able to make their own choices in terms of benefits. Potential employees will be attracted to company cultures that support what they value. If you don’t like that a company values an employees family, don’t work for them or accept that YOU chose that job to get another need met (i.e., financial, medical, location, etc.).

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