parental leave

Women Are Literally Begging for Parental Leave

A baby
A baby Photo: Lucas Lenci

Two young mothers joined by the horrific loss of their children on their first day in childcare facilities have come together to advocate for universal parental leave in the U.S.

Parental leave — also known as maternity leave, if you’re only thinking about moms — is a grave issue in the United States, largely because we have no federally mandated policy for it. Recently, some states have begun enacting patchwork-style paid-leave policies, giving parents a few measly weeks and a few paychecks, but almost none of these are real, workable policies like the ones in other industrialized nations.

Say it with us once again: The United States is the only industrialized nation without any guaranteed parental leave.

Last July, Amber Scorah lost her son, who was just past three months of age, on his first day of day care. She was at work just a few blocks away and only gone for a few hours, but when she returned midday to breastfeed, one of the day-care providers was performing CPR on him. The cause of his death was undetermined. Likewise, Ali Dodd, a new mother in Oklahoma, lost her son on his first day of day care when he suffocated in his car seat during a nap.

The women have published an op-ed in USA Today calling for “laws that protect the right of every American baby to have the loving care of a parent during the fragile first months of their life.” They cite some horrible statistics: The United States has the highest infant-mortality rate of any industrialized nation. According to one study, about 60 percent of SIDS cases occur in day-care settings. And, they cite a study that found infant mortality drops 13 percent for each month a baby stays home with its mother.

The point they’re making is clear: Infants are fragile, and their parents know them best. Their parents also have everything to lose if something goes wrong. Of course, most babies don’t die in day care; most are fine, lovingly and safely supervised by their caretakers.

But American parents should have the choice to leave — or not leave — their babies. And that can only happen if we give them flexible, paid leave beyond the bare minimum of 12 weeks, which they’re not even given now.