6 Reasons The Family Medical Leave Act Is Bullshit

by Kirsten Linthwaite
Originally Published: 

If you are a working mom, you are probably familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act. You probably also know that the US is the only (yes, ONLY) industrialized nation that has no maternity leave. In fact, we are one of the only nations (it’s just us, Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea) in the world without maternity leave. And this 20-year-old law was somehow going to bridge that gap. I call bullshit. Why?

1. It is unpaid. If you’re one of those unlucky bastards who is not wealthy and actually needs your salary, you’re screwed. This also assumes that women (the majority of those using this law are mothers and THIS is the demeaning part) cannot possibly be the primary breadwinner or contribute that much to the family income because the law assumes that your family has no need for a quarter of your salary. Surely, everyone can forgo their salary for three months, right?

2. It only covers 12 weeks. 12-week-old babies can do nothing. They don’t sleep much at night, they can’t hold their heads up very well, they’ve only had one round of vaccines, and they are still nursing/bottle-feeding every couple of hours…but hey, go ahead and throw those poor kids into daycare and hope they don’t get sick. Mostly they are just eating, pooping machines who occasionally pass out on your chest. No matter what, it sucks and 12 weeks is SO not enough time off.

3. Breastfeeding moms have to pump. The World Health Organization and the American Association of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breast feeding for the first six months. Good luck with that if you’re back to work after 12 weeks (or less for most of us). That mechanical milking machine isn’t going to work as well as your baby, so either your supply will drop or you will just surrender altogether. And that assumes that you can pump 3 times a day at work. Yes, yes, yes, it is technically federal (and many states’) law to allow women time and a place to pump breastmilk, but many women do not feel they can take 90 minutes out of their work days (three times, 30 mins each time) to pump, or they fear losing their job and other opportunities by taking the time. And pumping just plain, fucking sucks.

4. Exhausted workers are not productive. How many of you actually had babies who slept through the night at 12 weeks? (I’m assuming you’re all silent right now). No one is fucking sleeping with a newborn in the house, and now you want me to drive for 45 minutes and work all day? Don’t be surprised when you find me passing out in meetings or asleep under my desk.

5. It assumes you work for a big(ish) company. I don’t have the statistics here (because I work and have two small children), but some crazy high number of US employees work for small businesses or own their own business. Well, tough shit if you have kids. FMLA is only going to help you out if you work for a company of 50 people or more. All of you ladies working for small businesses or running your own companies obviously have no need to bond with your baby.

6. Vacation usage. I’ll admit that I don’t know what the rules are for everyone, but for me, I had to use any and all vacation BEFORE I could use FMLA time. Now I have no vacation and no salary. Bullshit.

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