Ivy Sylvester, daughter of Prairie High School teachers, Allison and Eric Sylvester, was born on April 22, 2016. It was six weeks before the end of the school year, the maximum amount of time that Mrs. Sylvester could take off. Mrs. Sylvester explains, “I only had twelve to fifteen days of paid sick leave, so after I used all of those I went unpaid for the remaining three and a half weeks.”
In the United States, there is no guaranteed paid maternity leave for expecting mothers. Although some companies provide paid maternity leave, many companies do not offer it because the law doesn’t require it.
When asking others how many guaranteed weeks of paid maternity women got in other countries, the answers were scattered to say the least. In Iran and Mexico, women get twelve weeks, China, Chad, and Congo get fourteen weeks, and in the UK, women get forty weeks. Mothers in the school such as Mrs. Burns and Mrs. Sylvester were shocked. When guessing how many weeks China, Chad, and Congo got, Burns quizzically replied saying, “Is it five?”
And although there is a huge problem with paid maternity leave, people are also frustrated with paternity leave. Mr. Sylvester sat down with me and discussed the period of his life when Ivy was born. “I only took two days of paternity leave cause that was all I could really afford to take. I was really excited for those first two days,” he goes on with his voice slightly shifting in between, “I’m usually a creature of habit, so I thought I’d be a lot more ready to go back than I was. Those two days kind of shot by, it was tough being away from my daughter, and it was really tough not being able to help my wife out.”
When looking at paternity leave, there is often a stigma around it. Some men think it makes the father, “weak.” For any human being, coming home from a long day of work and having to be a parent is a grueling task. Mr. Sylvester added, “I felt like I was really bad at my job. I felt like I was letting colleagues down and my coworkers down. I would forget to get stuff, I would forget to pick up something on the way home because I was thinking about the day at work. I felt like I was letting my wife down, and I wouldn’t have seen my child all day. It’s tough.”
So a question for many employers is, “What is the right amount of time to give for paternity and maternity leave?” And this is not an easy question to answer. The most difficult time is the first year after the child is born, and giving a full year of paid leave is a very improbable outcome. But that doesn’t mean that the idea of paid leave should be completely eliminated. The smallest amount of paid maternity leave in all the countries that were mentioned is three months, with the largest amount being ten months. The most reasonable amount of time seems to be six months.
Mr. Sylvester states, “That first six to eight month window is tough. I mean, it’s easier now. We have a system now. Ivy has a set sleep schedule. Like, we’ve got a routine. It’s a lot easier being a parent and an employee at the same time right now.”
The point of maternity and paternity leave is to give new parents the opportunity to recuperate and spend time with their child. The time off to not have to stress about having two jobs, but still have income to support themselves.
Sign this petition for paid parental leave: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/707/195/152/congress-its-time-for-paid-parental-leave/