I’ve seen videos on this. I’ve read articles on this. I’ve seen facebook rants on this.
What’s “this”? It’s the concept that America should be kinder to “working moms” and give them more maternity leave. Paid maternity leave. That other countries get up to a year off and gosh darn it, America is greater than those countries, so why shouldn’t our women have a year off too? And probably more!
Answer: Because we’re capitalists. And when someone who is in the workforce, producing things (whether that’s widgets or services or documents) and they stop producing things, they stop earning money for the company that has employed them.
Women who are self-employed understand this. Say that they own a house cleaning company. If they take off of work for a year, they know that they won’t get paid. Houses aren’t being cleaned (by them anyway). Say that they are a piano teacher. If they stopped teaching lessons for a year, they know that they won’t get paid. It’s the cost of taking a year off work.
Why should women who aren’t self-employed get a long paid maternity leave? Take me for example. I’m on week 5 of a 6-week maternity leave. I am being paid – at 66 2/3%. Why? Because someone has said “Jayme is disabled because she had a baby”, so I’m really collecting Short Term Disability. But after that? My job is protected for another 6 weeks, but I won’t be paid.
Who should pay me if America did have a “year off for working moms”? My company? Why? I’m not doing anything for them. The government? Why? I’m not doing anything for them either. And if it were the government who was paying me, then it’s really me who is paying me. (Since I pay taxes). And since you pay taxes, it’d be you paying me for having a baby. And since I’ve been popping out babies quite a bit lately, should you really pay me to take a year off every 18 months? I’d be: having a baby, get a year off, work 6 months, have a baby, get a year off, work 6 months, have a baby, get a year off.
Women can’t have it all. We can’t say “Pay me the same as a man!” and say “Give me preferential treatment when hiring someone” and say “Pay me to be off work for a year each time I have a baby!” and say “Let me have flexible scheduling that you don’t give to men” and say “Make me a partner in your law firm at the same time as a man who worked more hours than I did” and say “I want to be absolutely indispensable to this company” and say “Be okay with me taking lots of time off” all at the same time.
I’m incredibly grateful for the paid leave that I do have. I know that I’m not really disabled right now. (Heck, I just did a lot of physical work getting a house ready to sell!). I know that the people who really suffer when I’m on maternity leave are my co-workers (someone has to do the work!).
To be clear:
- Women absolutely should be paid the same as men, when they’re doing the same work – at the same rate.
- When I started with my company 5 1/2 years ago, I know that they could have chosen to hire a man who wouldn’t have asked for 6 weeks off every 18 months. Is it fair? I dunno. It’s reality.
- Luckily, I got skills and my company loves me, despite taking lots of time off.
- I have made choices in my career (namely to work only part-time) that I know will put me at a disadvantage over someone who hasn’t made those same choices (be they man or woman). I know I won’t get promoted as quickly. I know that I won’t have as many opportunities for bigger projects or cool travel assignments. I get it – my choices matter.
- No one owes me a paid maternity leave. It’s a benefit, not a right. And certainly not a benefit that should be provided by Joe Public.