*Originally Published in the Northern Iowan*     

     This weekend my sister, who is 39 weeks pregnant, will give birth to her second child. Aside from being a tad spherical these days, my sister is still getting up every morning, getting her two-year old toddler ready for daycare and going to work. 

     I know what you’re saying, sounds awful right? Well, at least that’s what I’m saying, but my sister is just an example of the millions of American women who constantly juggle work and family, even when it’s attached to your torso and causing you to stop at the McDonald’s drive thru every day after work to get cookies. 

     Compared to other nations, The United States is not only lacking in maternity leave, but is downright in last place compared to the amount of family paid leave offered in other Western Countries. 

     It isn’t just Western Countries that we are falling behind either. Countries such as Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico and Iran all offer 12-14 weeks of paid family leave. The United States however, offers a big fat zero. 

     If an American woman goes on maternity leave today, she usually takes only six weeks off and most of the time is unpaid. If a woman wishes to stay on leave longer, she usually must use up her sick or vacation time. This is ridiculous and unacceptable.

     Today in America, eight out of 10 women are working and four out of 10 women in those families are primary or sole wage earners. How are women supposed to not only have children, but afford to take care of their new bundles of joy if they are forced to take unpaid time off? This is the United States of America. I thought we were the country with “family” values. 

     Certain people in our government want to deny women access to contraception. Then, when they have babies, women don’t even have the chance to take the appropriate amount of time off to care for their newborns. Not only that, they aren’t even getting paid for most of it. 

     We really need to start taking care of women in this country in all aspects. We should be helping women who are not only willing to go to work today, but to have children so that our country can continue to grow into the amazing place that it is. Yes, we have our weaknesses as stated above, but the fact that we offer no family paid leave is absurd. 

     To me, having a baby sounds like the worst time possible. I would put it on par with having a leech suck on you for 20 years. Oh, wait, that might be the same thing. However, this doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t care about the state that the “American Family” is in today. We want women to be in the workforce. We want children to continue to be an exciting part of our lives. By the evidence of the hundreds of nations who offer family paid programs, it is possible and we should get on board.

Riley Cosgrove