Could You Have a Baby in the USA?

When people hear that I’m from California, they look at me quizzically and ask why on earth I live in the UK. Believe it or not, I actually like this country. And I love living in London. Weather is not everything. Yes, really. Plus, we are quite lucky in Europe to receive such generous annual leave as well as maternity and paternity leave.

Maternity LeaveMaternity Leave







During my first maternity leave, I had 13 months off (with some of that time as annual leave). I had 12 months off during my second maternity leave. I know many people who took a similar time off. I know many people who took closer to six months off. I don’t know anyone who took less than 20 weeks off. But in the USA? They can get up to 12 weeks. Of. Unpaid. Leave. And if you work part-time, or at a small company, you wouldn’t even get that much leave.

Did you know that the USA is the only developed country that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave? It seems all the other developed countries – countries such as Mexico, Australia, Sweden and the UK – class maternity benefits as important. Americans cannot think this is okay. How can it be acceptable not to support women when they have babies? Is it a weakness for women to want to spend more than a month with their newborn child? I read somewhere that some American companies don’t think they should pay for mothers to bond with their babies. Surely supporting mothers supports society.

Americans are often quoting the first lines of The Constitution – ‘We the people’. I cannot imagine that the people, especially the mothers, are happy not to have fully paid maternity leave. I loved both of my periods of maternity leave. I bonded with my babies. I learned to be a mother. This is not to say that I couldn’t have been a good mother if I went back to work at eight weeks. But it means that when I went back to work, I was able to concentrate on my job. I could concentrate on working without worrying constantly about an infant at daycare/nursery.

President Obama is trying to pass a law that would give federal workers 12 weeks of paid family leave. But shouldn’t everyone already have that as a minimum. Can you imagine being a low-paid worker who has to return to work 1-2 weeks after having a baby?

Could you handle having a baby in the USA? Perhaps you have? How long was your maternity leave? I’d love to hear from you.


I’m linking this post to The Prompt linky run by Mum Turned Mom. The topic this week is ‘Family’.


16 thoughts on “Could You Have a Baby in the USA?

  1. That’s pretty much the main reason why we moved from the US to Ireland. That and access to free maternity services. Before we moved, I worked for a very progressive US non profit and our union negotiated contract gave us 20 days paid leave. In Ireland I got 26 weeks of leave on a government allowance of €280 per week (that amount has gone down now and maternity pay is taxed) some employers contribute the rest of your salary, but mine didn’t. We can also take 16 addition weeks unpaid and accumulate holidays and annual leave as you would have if working. So all together I took 11 months, but with my second I never returned to work. Guess I’m still on indefinite unpaid leave 😉

  2. I did know this and I was shocked when I found out. I couldn’t have done it – it’s totally wrong. So many women must have to give up breastfeeding earlier than they would have. I think there is much more of gap between the haves and the have nots in the US. I used to worship the idea of America- the land of opportunity but the more I find out about the realities the less I like the idea of ever living there. My friend had her first baby in the UK and her second in the US and she said the pre- natal care over there was poor in comparison and of course all tied in to your insurance. I’m still shocked! X

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more! I live in the US and had my first child. I was fortunate enough to work for a school district where sick days and personal days could be used before the six weeks paid leave that the government provides, so I was able to take a year off with my daughter without a problem. But most women in the US are not so lucky. And like you, I wonder why the needs of women in the professional world aren’t so easily accommodated. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity–we’re supposed to be ahead of the curve, innovating, providing the best for our people. But somehow, this policy makes me believe we’re light years back, instead of forward. Great to see that other mothers feel the same way, and are now shedding light on this issue.

  4. I only found out the maternity leave in the US last year, through conversations with my US colleague who was pregnant. She got 6 weeks leave and 6 weeks working from home. I truly cannot imagine putting my 3 month old in nursery and having to return to work. I had 10 months off and that didn’t feel enough. Putting my baby in nursery when he wasn’t walking and fearing all the milestones I might miss. Sorry I’ve rambled a bit! xx

  5. I was completely shocked when I moved here to discover that there was effectively no maternity leave; as you say, for a lot of families, unpaid leave is just not a luxury they can take. I’m am so glad that I had my children in the UK, although I only took six months with the boys, I was intending to take 12 with the wee girl, until we moved to the US and it became indefinite leave instead! It is incredible to me that the US thinks it’s so progressive and yet provides so little support to families; I’ve had some interesting conversations about the differences between the US and the rest of the world 😉 Thanks so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

  6. My first was born is the US as we were loving out there with hubby’s work. Fortunately I wasn’t working so stated at home indefinitely but I couldn’t believe when I heard how little women get. I have to say I found the care fantastic over there, much better than with my second in the UK.

  7. I find it so hard to get my head round the US approach to maternity leave. There is so much evidence that parental input in those early months is crucial for a child’s development, let alone the impact on the mother having to sever those bonds so early. It just all seems a bit uncivilised…

  8. I am so shocked to read this! I am month 7 into my maternity leave and I’m dreading going back to work! We have many things to complain here in the UK but in many ways we are really lucky x

  9. As a grad I worked in an ad agency, and I remember meeting my US counterpart and I was shocked she only got 10 days annual leave a year! How can you function on only that amount of leave?!

    The lack of maternity is shocking, and I feel for those women who have no choice but to return to work shortly after. I hope Obama does get the new rules through (but still doesn’t feel enough!)

  10. Gosh I’m really shocked by that. I don’t suppose that there are many people who can afford to take unpaid leave. There are lot of things about America that would put me off living there and it’s not the weather lol! x

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