The United States allows 0 days of paid maternity leave.
How about Paternity leave? LOL. Don't be ridiculous.
And if you listen to the Boomer Esiasons and Mike Francescas of the world - the notion that a new father would stay home with his wife and child seems outrageous and unmanly. They both support the idea that being in the lineup on Opening Day is more important than supporting your wife through the birth of your child, then staying home to bond and develop a sense of family early into the changing dynamic. I commend Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets for taking the opportunity his collective bargaining agreement has given him. I should be so lucky as to have paid leave into my adjunct faculty agreement - if I don't show up, I don't get paid (by the way, Murphy is set to make 5.6 million dollars this year so even taking a day off wont keep his mortgage from getting paid). The point is, major league baseball and the Mets organization realize the importance of the husband/father in the family dynamic.
Companies like Google who pay for moms AND dads to stay home also get it. Other companies, like the one for whom I work or the one for whom my wife works, still don't fully buy into the importance of parents staying home for several weeks to build a strong foundation and, in the perspective of Erik Erikson, establishing a feeling of trust and security between the child and parents. I am certain my company knows that if I need to stay home to help my wife or children, I will do so. However, the pressure to work an inconvenient schedule to make ends meet does force me to make choices I would prefer not to make. Men like Esiason and Francesca downplay the role of fathers in the lives of their children but, at least for Esiason, he had the financial choice to make and unless he is a hypocrite - he chose to play football rather than be in his children's lives during the earliest and some might suggest, most crucial time in their lives. Maybe they turned out alright and no harm no foul, but for children who have other risk factors (environmental, emotional, physiological, developmental) the choice to have both parents in the home is more critical.
According to the report on the Huffington Post, the country of my origin, Germany, provides 100 days of paid leave for parents and more months at less pay.
Maybe we should move to Sweden. Sure they have frigid winters - but as a society, they have chosen to allow parents of newborns to stay home for over 400 days. that means, Sara could stay home with Oliver for over a year, paid. Or, we could both stay home for the first 6 months of Oliver's life, paid. Or...well you can imagine the various options but, and here is the point, paid! Parents need only be concerned about raising their newborn.
But we won't move. What we might do is begin supporting the movement that is trying to legislate paid parental leave. Not just maternity leave - parental leave. What I have learned after having two children is that I don't play that huge a part in feeding, soothing and comforting my newborn - I just don't have the equipment - especially if you make the best child-centered choice and breastfeed. However, I can be here for my wife. I can attend to things she can't - I can watch Oliver while she rests between meals - I can handle things around the house that ordinarily she handles - basically, I can support my wife, child and newborn. Who does it if I am not here? Especially since I don't make 5.6 million dollars. I go back to work on Monday; no nannies, no services, no maids. My wife will spend all of her vacation time and every bit of her patience taking care of a 4 year old and a newborn five days a week while I am at work. In a country like ours - with more billionaires than any other country in the world and federal money gushing to subsidize farms, auto companies and oil companies, we are letting healthy families fall by the wayside.
In closing, there is a White House petition you can sign to ( http://www.change.org/petitions/paid-parental-leave-urge-senators-to-support-this-first-step ) enact legislation that provides paid parental leave for new parents. In addition, shame on companies that espouse the importance of family and then don't provide paid maternity/parental leave for their employees - especially full time, salaried employees. I've made choices and my situation has led to me having to work rather than stay home with my family but I would gladly follow Murphy's "unmanly" choice and take paternity leave. I would be the father that I want to be. I will continue to do so - at games, I will be in the stands. At chess tournaments, I will be in the stands. At spelling bees, I will be in the stands. I will be there to support my boys and if it means less vacations or I wear the same clothes for two or more seasons? Then so be it. Pictures of my sons after a soccer game will have me there, beaming with pride.
Google gets it and the outcome? Google extended their paid maternity leave and it dramatically reduced attrition by new mothers in their company. It just makes sense and as a beacon for the rest of the world, we are lagging behind in our attention to the needs of new families and the children in our care. Act.