American parents resort to crowdsourcing to fund maternity leaves

daddy and baby
CC BY 2.0 minka6

Since the United States does not support paid maternity leave, many new parents are having to come up with alternative solutions to spend time at home with their newborn babies, bonding and healing.

Pregnant women and new fathers in the United States are frustrated by the country’s lack of access to paid maternity leave. As a result, many are turning to crowdsourcing websites in order to raise the funds required to support themselves and their families for several months. If successful, they can spend time caring for and bonding with a newborn baby, instead of rushing off to work within days or weeks of delivery.

It is ridiculous that the United States is the only industrialized country that does not support paid maternity leave. In Canada, parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave; in Norway, it is 44 weeks. Most European countries offer 4 to 5 months of paid leave, and even the developing nations of Mexico and Pakistan provide 12 weeks of paid leave for new mothers. Australia guarantees 18 weeks of leave at the federally mandated minimum wage.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, American mothers can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs, but only if they work for a large company with more than 50 employees; any smaller, and the company is exempt. Think Progress (which made the following infographic) reports, “In 2011, only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public workers reported they had access to paid maternity leave through their employer.”

This is why pregnant women are taking matters into their own hands. As strange as it sounds to ask family, friends, and strangers for financial assistance to spend time with a newborn, it also makes sense if the government is failing abysmally to provide support in that particular area. Crowdsourcing is being used for a wide variety of purposes, so why not to ensure a solid, healthy, and best possible start for a tiny new citizen? They do say, after all, that it takes a village to raise a child.

Jennifer Warren-Baker is a mother and self-employed piano teacher (also her family’s main breadwinner) who started a GoFundMe page in order to spend a couple months with her fourth child, a daughter who was born this past winter. Warren-Baker’s campaign brought in more than $3,600. She writes:

“I have come under some criticism for my approach to funding my maternity leave. Some are calling it inappropriate, tacky, and even self-serving. If this were the case, then why are thousands of women now following suit and standing up for themselves and their babies? It's simple. Mothers know in the most primal, instinctive way, that the bond between mother and newborn is sacred. It is a bond that should be fiercely protected by society. This truth, while denied by our government, is understood as natural law throughout humanity and the animal kingdom.

“There is nothing selfish about protecting your infant's health, development and well-being; not to mention the benefits of a rested, healed mother. Paid leave, however obtained, helps keep the bills paid, rent caught up, and families united. It is a win-win for both the economy and families.”

Warren-Baker is not the only one doing this. GoFundMe reports that $8.8 million has been raised across 5,800 campaigns in recent years for the purpose of funding maternity leaves. Not all have been successful; some have raised thousands of dollars, while others none at all.

It is disappointing that these crowdsourcing campaigns are even necessary. The U.S. government, together with employers, should be providing this crucial support to new parents, as it has a profound effect on the psychological and emotional wellbeing of families, whose health in turn affects the entire country and, if unstable, can have a ripple effect throughout generations.

The government and employers would do well to pay attention to these courageous, creative women who are unafraid to ask for what they know is best for themselves and their newborns. Hopefully this is the start of a bigger movement that can effect permanent change in the policy and bring it up to date with the rest of the world.

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