The US is the only OECD country without a national statutory paid maternity, paternity, or parental leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enables some employees to take up to 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave, but only 60% of workers are eligible.
As a result, many new parents in the US are forced to “suck it all up” and come back to work while not even close to being ready to do so. And nothing shows the lack of the parental leave policy as well as these real stories from people who experienced it firsthand.
From moms bursting into tears on their first day back to work to a parent who had to work two weeks after losing their son, these sound like things you’d hear from a horror movie. Even more horrifyingly, for many Americans, this is all too real.
I had to go without a vacation or any time off for more than two years in order to accrue the measly seven weeks I had. I couldn't afford to be without a pay check, so I went back the day after my PTO (paid time off) ran out. It was awful. My milk supply was still regulating, no one was sleeping through the night, and within a couple weeks, I was hit with serious postpartum depression. This country can afford the paid leave. We are literally the effing worst for not providing it
I had to return to work two weeks after losing my son at 25.5 weeks pregnant — I had given birth to an angel naturally and vaginally. While it was considered a vaginal birth, since I did not give birth to a living child, I was expected to return as soon as possible.
I am a 911 dispatcher, and in my first month back I took four phone calls for SIDS deaths from moms or dads. I almost didn’t stick with my dream job because I didn’t have the time to grieve and then took several very traumatic and relatable calls
I had our preemie daughter at 29 weeks pregnant, while on a work trip. She was in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for 63 days. After being discharged on Wednesday and driving home two states away, I had to be at work the following Monday. I had four days at home with her and then had to split my time between a preemie and my job.
I had to go back to work after four weeks because I couldn’t afford not to. I used up all my PTO for two of the weeks I stayed home and the other two were unpaid. Walking by the receptionist that first day back, she goes, 'Wait you're back? Didn’t you JUST have a baby?' I immediately burst into tears right in front of her. I then was basically crying the entire day from missing my baby so much and feeling incredibly guilty being away from him. It was the worst.
My husband got one day of paternity leave. It happened to be his one day off that week. Then he went back to working 12-14 hour days.
It was my first baby and I was completely alone. No friends or family helped, visited, or even called. It was extremely traumatic. I had stitches and was in a diaper, I had this newborn I had no idea what to do with, and I was completely alone. It was horrible and so unnecessary
I had a very positive experience so kudos to my employer (Bank of America). They currently offer 16 weeks of PAID leave plus the option to take an additional 10 weeks of unpaid leave. My first two pregnancies I took the 16 weeks then with the third/last baby we saved up like crazy and I took all 26 weeks off.
I feel awful every time I talk to other parents and learn other companies do so poorly. Support your employees and their families and they will remain loyal to you!
Honestly, I'm one of the fewer, luckier American moms. I work for a small-mediumish sized company. I hadn't been working there for over a year so I didn't qualify for FMLA. When I found out I was pregnant, they let me switch to working from home full-time, indefinitely. I honestly thought I'd have to take unpaid leave for maternity leave but they let me know that they're going to give me five weeks off, 100% fully-paid. And that when I started working again that I had the option to work part-time (paid hourly. Basically what my monthly salary was broken down) and slowly working back to full-time (then getting switched back to salary again). I was basically working part time for the first 4-5 months. I have been back full-time now for almost 8 months. Still working from home. Still kicking ass at my job. I go into the office for a few days every few months. It helps tremendously that I have such supportive co-workers and understanding bosses.
I had six weeks paid which was great because I knew so many people that didn’t even get that. I worked five minutes away from my house and was set up for success when it came to being a working mom. But the six weeks off flew by so quickly and my postpartum anxiety got the better of me to the point that I would scream at my mom who was watching my child just for driving with her without my permission. I was not okay enough to start working but I couldn’t recognize it.
I hadn’t been at my job long enough to qualify for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) so they didn’t have to keep my position open. They didn’t, which meant I was applying and interviewing for jobs while seven-to-eight months pregnant. I even went to an interview a few days after leaving the hospital (post C-section, mind you).
I started a new job three weeks after having my daughter. I hadn’t even been medically cleared. Luckily, my husband was able to take FMLA to be home at that time. It was awful and played havoc with my emotions, but it is what we had to do
I was a single parent and could only afford to take four weeks off after the birth of my oldest son. I hated it. All I wanted was to spend time with my baby and bond with him, but I had to go right back to the grind because I didn’t qualify for any paid leave at all.
Had 12 weeks: six paid, six at 67% of my pay. Now I go back Monday to a place where I have to stay late to make up the time I use to pump breast milk to feed my baby.
I don't have a problem exhausting my sick/vacation leave. I've been saving it for seven years now for this (I'll have ~59 days when the kid arrives.)
I managed to time things perfectly (TOTALLY didn't expect this, but it worked out) so that right after I come back, my PTO resets (it's doled out twice a year in flat amounts rather than accrued per pay period.) So at least I'll have five days of PTO available in the first six months after I go back... not much, but at least it's something.
I do resent that, as a teacher, I have to pay my substitute out of my PTO. IMO that's [friggin] ridiculous. If I hadn't saved up any leave and had to go on unpaid leave, my district would be on the hook for my sub's pay, but since I was responsible... NOPE.
Seriously, are there any other professions where you're required to pay your replacement out of your leave? It makes NO EFFING SENSE.
I TOTALLY agree about our need for paid leave in this country
We adopted, which was very expensive, so our financial situation was already pretty bad. I took the standard 12 week leave, but because it was near the beginning of the year I didn't have a lot of PTO saved up (it expires every year), and I only qualified for six weeks of maternity pay, which is 50% of your salary. So I got paid 50% of my salary for six weeks and then nothing at all."
"I was actually fortunate to get anything at all, because prior to the year my son was born, the company's maternity pay policy did not cover adopted children. I remember the night before I was going back to work I rocked my son to sleep and just cried and cried because I didn't want to leave him
I gave birth on a Friday. By Monday morning, my husband’s boss wanted him back in the office. That was the end of his paternity leave.
I was working as a middle school teacher at the time of my second pregnancy. I was told to go on bed rest about five months in due to health reasons. However, my boss told me all of my time off would be unpaid (as the school was small and not covered by FMLA). I literally forced myself to work up until I physically couldn't anymore at about seven months pregnant. I went back to work when my baby was less than eight weeks old because I just couldn't afford to go unpaid any longer. Two years later and I am still repaying debt obtained during that time just trying to keep bills paid and food on the table
I took five and half months off, but none of it was at my full salary, or even close. it was very hard to make ends meet, and I ended up racking up a bunch of credit card debt. My husband had to Uber on the weekends to help make up the extra money we needed to pay the hospital bills plus the new costs of having a newborn
Thirty days. I could use up vacation and a little bit of disability but otherwise it was unpaid. My husband had just finished grad school and was actively looking for a job, so I had to go back. It was too soon emotionally. I sobbed the first day, every morning, every couple hours when I had to pump, etc.
My girl wanted nothing to do with the bottle, so my husband would drive to my work during lunch so that I could breastfeed. We lived like this for three months and it was exhausting. I'm grateful that my job was understanding and let me have the time and privacy to pump or breastfeed...but I honestly felt like I got nothing done
My boss never worked out a plan as to what would happen when I had my daughter. She came a week early and I had to follow up with him to see what the deal was. I went back six weeks later because he sold the company and didn't tell us.
Luckily, because of the pandemic I told him I needed to work from home to watch my baby. The U.S really needs to catch up
I had to use all my PTO before I could get partial pay for the rest of my 12 weeks. Mind you, my PTO cap was 100 hours (which in the US is considered 'great' leave).
Afterward I had to put my baby in daycare where she, of course, got sick a few times during my first couple months back. Any time I took a day off or worked from home to be with my sick baby, I had a coworker who would tell everyone how I 'didn’t take my job seriously anymore' and that I was 'lying to get more free time off.'
I'm a waitress. I get 6 weeks unpaid that they are required to hold my position. No pay, no fmla, no promise of getting the same shifts I had before. I've worked there for 5 years.
I write to my Congressmen every year about how unacceptable it is that America still doesn't have paid family and sick leave. I've gotten an actual answer once : Washington state even has paid family leave in state law, but the state votes year after year to not fund it.
I got paid maternity leave because I was in the military. It baffles me that we can make it work in the Armed forces, but we can't make it work in the private or public sector.
My husband had to go into work the day after we came home from the hospital with our son. Outside of time in the hospital, he had one and a half days off.
Company policy was six weeks unpaid. I even had vacation time I had saved up that my boss refused to let me use. I ended up going back to work after four weeks (when my baby was three weeks old) because I couldn't afford to miss any more work.
I was teaching and was given 6 weeks off. You only get enough time to physically heal and it’s unpaid. I ended up taking an extra two weeks off with my vacation days because I couldn’t believe it was time to go back already. My paycheck was so small for so long because they deduct every day you were gone
I actually accepted my new job on the day I conceived. Awesome new job with a HUGE pay increase. Obviously, I didn't know I was pregnant until two weeks later. Heart attack time when I realized that what that means is... I will not have been working at my job for a full 12 months when this baby is born. So unfortunately, I am not eligible for FMLA benefits under federal law (which allows for 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave). "Luckily" I live in MA which has it's own maternity leave policy that will allow me 8 weeks unpaid after only 3 months of employment. This was also granted to fathers as of this year. So basically I'm hoping to have 2 months off to have my baby... then my partner will maybe take his 2 months. Working on a stay-at-home-dad plan. The only saving grace is my job really encourages work-from-home. So my fingers are crossed everything works out great in six months.
It absolutely sucks. I went back at 6 weeks after my second (left my job with my first because it was pre-ACA and my pregnancy was considered a “preexisting condition” which meant I didn’t qualify for insurance or any type of leave, unpaid or not)
It sucked. A lot. Most of my coworkers are middle aged and had wives who stayed home when their kids were young and the number of times I was asked “what? Back already?!? Why aren’t you home?” made me stabby. I’m here because I can’t afford to lose my job by taking additional leave and you jerks keep voting against policies that would help my family.
For the last two babies, my husband and I owned a cleaning business and we got zero time off. My husband had a huge job the day I was giving birth to my youngest and had to split time between the job and the hospital. There was no other option. I was back at work about 10 days after I had my last two kids. I'd wear them as I cleaned because either we worked, or we lost our jobs.
It does suck so much! I worked a hairstylist when I was pregnant and worked up to the day before I delivered(I delivered on my exact due date so I was 40 weeks and working 40 hours a week on my feet). Then I only got 6 weeks off(none of it paid) and my husband could only take 3 days off(also unpaid since he’s a contractor). I could hardly function when I went back to work, my daughter wasn’t sleeping more then 2 hours at a time and I was breastfeeding(which I gave up after the second week of working because it was way to hard to pump at work). I made it 3 months working before I quit working for good(this was almost 2 and half years ago). Honestly if I would have gotten at least 6 months off work, I’d probably be working now since I could have had some time to recover! Luckily we can afford for me to stay home currently and I was considering going back to work but I’m trying for number 2 so why even bother because I’ll just end up quitting again!! Good luck to you and I hope it goes ok going back to work.
Maternity leave here is so inadequate, if it even exists at a job.
My second-to-last job before two kids and the military got in the way, my manager tried to (and successfully had for a couple days) fire her assistant manager because she was in the hospital giving and recovering from birth. The AM had no idea until she came in several days after the birth to show her new baby off and the M was all, "uh, b*tch, bye!"
No one knew at that point besides M and the Big M Upstairs. There was a kerfluffle for a few days after that with M claiming AM just [friggin] failed to show up at work for no apparent reason so the firing was totes justified. Fortunately AM had texts and whatnot to back up her side of the story, plus, you know, a motherf**king newborn.
AM ended up coming back to work two weeks after giving birth because she was so afraid of losing her job.
God, I'm still so bitter about it. M was such a flaming incompetent bitchface. She also tried to fire an older woman for having a stroke and being hospitalized. Peacing out of that job for a better one was one of the best days of my life.
I had no paid leave - my employer wasn't required to give me unpaid leave either. I went back to work two weeks after my first was born because we really needed money; with my second, I went back at three months. I didn't work for long either time though, it was easier and more money to have my husband pick up more shifts (restaurant work) and have me stay home. Childcare costs as much or more than I make, so that option was off the table. My first cost mW about $12,000 after insurance covered what it would. For reference, that's about half our yearly income. At our current repayment rate, the debt will be paid in about 35 years.
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