How Working Moms Really Feel About 'Maternity Leave'

by Karen Johnson
Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty

Americans loooooove to brag about being the best in the world. Hell, we even co-opted the term “American” for those of us in the U.S., even though there are actually other countries on the North American continent. We give zero fucks.

In the 50s, we were obsessed with being at the forefront of the space race. Now, it’s the technology race. We say our colleges and universities are better. We’re fixated on being the best at the Olympics—all sports, really. That’s why we call our MLB championship the World Series. It’s not the world’s—just ours. And that’s also why, even though there was already a sport played all over the globe called football, we invented our own sport and called it just that. Again, we don’t care. ‘Merica rules!

We are obsessed with our flag, and our 4th of July, and our founding fathers, and our rights guaranteed us by the Constitution. We grow up with every map of the world having the United States front and center. We thrive on being the most powerful nation in the world and we’re willing to work ourselves to the bone, to the point of collapse, in order to maintain that status.

But unfortunately, our quest to be the best is killing us. We’re watching year after year as other nations prioritize mental and physical health, actually let their employees take vacations, and allow for things like—gasp! sick leave. And as a result, they are thriving in ways we are not.

For example, one major way these nations are furthering separating from the U.S.—a way in which they are better (yes, better) than us—is that they offer real, paid, long-term maternity and paternity leave. In the U.S.? Ha! Employers don’t care if you bonded with your baby or not, whether you’re healed, whether your baby is healthy, and whether you’re functioning on 2 hours of sleep or 10. They want you back to work to keep the American machine going—no matter the cost.

Like I said, zero fucks given.

And our Scary Mommy Confessional reflects the nightmare that is “maternity leave” in this oh-so-great nation we call home.

Having a baby I’m about 5 weeks. Was relying on taxes to allow me a maternity leave. Still hasn’t even been approved. At this point I’m having a baby and going back to work the next day. Sad, depressed, anxious. POS SO won’t even get his ID to get job.

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I think I’m being sabotaged at work. I’m scared that I’m going to be let or forced out. I can’t willingly leave because I’m pregnant and I won’t get maternity leave elsewhere.

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Part of me wants a second child. Part of me knows that I can't handle two. I especially can't handle almost dying again in labor. And then having almost no help as I recover. And almost no maternity leave.

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Women are trapped and often have no choice. They’ll stay at a toxic job because their boss provides maternity leave, knowing others don’t. Or they go back within a few short weeks, whereas other mothers around the world get several months, even a year-long maternity leave.

My youngest kids are almost two but I still get angry and jealous every time I see friends able to take months long maternity leaves when I was forced back after 8 weeks in order to support my family.

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I am on maternity leave but I still have my work phone. I decided to turn it on to see what I have been missing and all this stress came rushing back giving me an instant migraine. I am dreading the end of my leave.

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No one fucking sleeps at night. I can't get the baby and the 2yr old to nap at the same time. Maternity leave ends in a week. I haven't slept in days. I'm just gonna drop dead.

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Mothers dread the end of their leave, as it’s never long enough. They aren’t ready. Their babies aren’t ready. But often there are no other options in this great land of the United States.

H bullied me into a job that I hate and now I'm leaving to get a better one but because of timing will only get 2-3 weeks maternity leave. H gets two months paid. I don't think I could resent him more if I tried.

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I feel guilty, but COVID lining up with me having a baby is working really well. I finally get a paid maternity leave (restaurant I work at is closed so I get unemployment) and no one has any social expectations of me.

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Recently unemployed due to COVID, just gave birth. I knew my maternity leave would be unpaid. But omg if they pass the stimulus with an extra $300, I’d get a paid leave and it would help my family so much. Please.

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Maternity leave in the U.S. usually means no pay or shitty pay. In fact, it’s only because of Covid that many moms even got to take a leave at all.

When I had my 1st daughter, I went to the owner I worked for to talk about maternity leave. He laughed and told me I would be costing him money to take unpaid leave bc he had to hire a temp to work for me. That's life in America

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Everyone told me if I didn't like the way things are in the USA, to move to another country. I did. Moved to Scandinavia, had my kids (with a year of maternity leave and no medical bills) and me and DH would never move back to that shithole of a country.

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I hate that the US doesn't have long-term maternity leave. An infant is learning to attach/bond and 6 weeks is laughable. I want to scream.

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Our former president likes to call other nations “shithole countries”, but we really need to take a good hard look at our own policies before we start tossing out insults.

I'm on unpaid maternity leave and my boss just asked if I want to go to the holiday party. What I said: how kind, but I don't think I can make it. My real answer? Bwahahahahahahahaha

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Fuck this Shit!Worked my arse off last year because I was pregnant & going on maternity leave.Did a years work in 9 months.Bonus time rolls around & my female boss 'used her discretion' to only give me a portion because "I wasn't there for the whole year"

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Honestly thought I'd found my work tribe. Went on maternity leave and I've been replaced by a new hire. Now my "friends" never include me nor invite me to anything. It hurts and I'm so very lonely.

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The reality is that far too many women do not feel valued once they become mothers. Whether it’s because their job replaced them like they’re a piece of machinery, or their partner doesn’t help at home, or they were gypped out of a bonus because they were recovering after bringing an actual human being into the world, the messages are clear, and they hurt.

The truth is, if this country wants to continue on its path of “greatness”, we need to address this issue. We need to provide parents with maternity and paternity leave. PAID maternity and paternity leave. Or else, all these others nations who actual prioritize the health of their workforce are going to pass us by while we run ours into the ground.

That’s not “great”, America. Quite the opposite, in fact.