Posted by: kayleighlawson13 | February 5, 2014

A Choice for Motherhood

I think that maternity leave is a huge problem for many women who want to make it further on to leadership positions especially in the corporate business world.  A woman that has the ambition to go further in a business might second guess taking a position if she would lose that position to have a child in the future anyways.  I realized that this must be a problem that has occurred for many women as we have read different articles throughout this class.  The readings all made it out to be an all or nothing decision which made me curious enough to look for some numbers.  Now, I think those all or nothing comments make sense.  The maternity leave in the United States makes it an either-or situation.  With the possibility of 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of your newborn baby would make any woman rethink the situation.  For many women, it is guaranteed that they will want to start a family eventually, yet if they come back to their job so soon after having their child they are seen as bad mothers.  No one is pointing a finger at the system that says a woman cannot stay with her child longer before coming back to the job she left.  God forbid she be a single mother with the unpaid maternity leave and therefore without an income to support her new family during her leave.

I know that a lot of this class we have come to the conclusion that we need to “ungender” things, but there are some exceptions that need to be made for women.  I agree with the concept; however, the fact remains that some things are genetically going to make for special circumstances for women if they want to have higher positions in business, politics, or even the community.  Women should have the opportunity to be a mother for their newborn baby, but still have a position in a company when they come back.


  1. I agree with you – while we are constantly trying to de-gender things, this is one instance in which it is important to take into consideration womens’ roles in a child’s life. I personally believe that having a mother home when the baby is an infant can drastically impact the baby’s life. You don’t see men taking paternity leave – so does that mean women should not take maternity leave?

    Ultimately, I think that this is a very special double-bind for women, in which if they do take the time off to care for their child, they are seen as not being dedicated to their jobs and may ultimately lose their jobs. Whereas if a woman decides not to take any maternity leave, she is seen as a bad mother and not maternal enough. I believe that building a family is a very time consuming and important part of everyone’s lives, and I believe that just because a woman would want to expand her family should not penalize her in the workplace.

    While reading the statistics, I think that the place with the best maternity leave is Australia. Their maternity leave is 18 weeks, which is more than enough time (in my opinion) to spend with your newborn child. What really intrigued me, though, is that both parents are able to take up to 12 months off, and 18 weeks of this time is paid. I believe that this would be the most beneficial for both the parents and the child, because having both of the parents there to take care of the child would not only allow the child and parents to build bonds, but would also alleviate some of the stress and chaos from the mother’s hands.

  2. Maternity leave can be a very touchy subject for some people. Some think it is the job of the mother to stay home, and is expected to until the child goes to school. Others think alternative childcare, such as daycare, a nanny, or family members are the way to go in order for the mother to go back to work. Personally, I have seen fathers stay at home while the mother goes back to work. I think as times change, our views on this subject have changed as well. When I see a stay at home father, or a father staying home on paternity leave, I don’t find that weird. I do however think people are more consciously aware when they see a man over a woman staying home with his or her children. I believe that as times change, so do our perceptions.

    Overall, society needs to respect men and women for their own choices regarding maternity/paternity leave and childcare. Some people can simply not afford to stay at home with their children and should not be seen as a bad parent because of that. Others stay at home for the early years and then go back to work. The work force, especially needs to respect this. It is a families decision on how to raise a family and the work force should not step in the way.

  3. I completely agree that maternity leave is a huge issue in the United States for many reasons. First, I know that when I have children I am going to want to stay home with them but that conflicts with my professional goals. It would be nice to just have more than 12 weeks and still bring in an income. When a mom decides to stay home with her child, I think it is absurd that we don’t get an income from our company. Second, it makes going back to work extremely hard. If I decide to take more time off and stay home with my kids full time, it’ll be hard to get back into work. Many companies (especially in the accounting field) are not looking for women who have been a stay at home mom while their kids are young, which sucks. If I want to stay home with my kid so that they are raised right, I think that’s acceptable and we shouldn’t be punished for that!
    Third, I think both men and women deserve maternity leave when a child is born. A father can be just as important to a child and to let only women stay home with the baby genders us more. I do think it is more important for at least the mom to be home, but I love those countries where moms and dads get to take some time off.

    That being said, my mom graduated, got a job, and when she started having kids stayed home for 9 years with us, then went back to work. So I guess it can be done, but she had a lot of trouble going back to work because the CEO of the company didn’t want someone who had been a stay at home mom. He didn’t think she would be competent enough (she proved him wrong). But having kids and maternity leave makes having a job so much harder, and it shouldn’t!

  4. I think that our American culture puts a big emphasis on the importance of having strong dedication to your career. Many people in other countries, especially in Europe, aren’t as career-obsessed as Americans tend to be. This is why they tend to have longer vacations, shorter hours, and even siesta breaks during the day in some countries. I think this is also why the United States was listed as having one of the shortest maternity leaves at 12 months, compared to most other countries who had much longer time. I feel that because our society is so career-driven, we tend to think that women should be able to do it all. I sometimes feel like women are held to a higher standard than men in certain careers and maternity leave is a great example of that. I’ve heard stories of women who were told by their jobs that if they didn’t return within a certain amount of time after having their baby, that they wouldn’t have a job waiting for them anymore once they got back. This is just absurd to me! Women should be able to have children without being penalized afterwards. I think that women are fully capable of having both a career and children, but they still need some time to recuperate after having a baby. Personally, I think this should include pay. Especially for single or first-time mothers, income is needed to keep their lives going.This does not mean that she is not dedicated. However, if a woman decides that she does not need as long of a maternity leave, that does not make her a bad mother either. I do think that the issue of maternity leave is one instance where leadership is particularly gendered, but who’s to say that men can’t have paternity leave either? I know that more and more companies offer time for paternity leave and I think that’s great because it allows help for the mother and provides additional bonding time with the child. You are right in saying that there will always be special circumstances for women, just like there will always be special circumstances for men.Women shouldn’t have to feel afraid to have a baby for fear of being reprimanded by their jobs.

  5. I thought that it was actually really surprising to learn that the United States was among some of the few countries that did not provide any type of financial support for new mothers who took time off of work after giving birth to their newborn child. I think that this was most surprising to me because we live in a country that tends to brag and boast about being the number one country in the world, yet our country doesn’t allow women to take off work to spend a few stress-free weeks with their newborns because that would mean that they wouldn’t get paid throughout that time. It’s just kind of sad that so many other countries give women that chance, even developing countries allow this, but our so-called “greatest country” in the world can’t do this for the future mothers out there.
    I also found it interesting that in the article, they made the connection between mothers who had longer maternity leaves from work and their children’s life expectancy increasing as a result of being breastfed longer. I wonder if we did more studies on the benefits of increasing maternity leave, that the U.S. would become more aware of how important it is for parents to get time off with their newborns, and then they would do something about it. Hopefully we will see a change in the U.S.’s attitudes towards this issue within our lifetime and it will not longer be a problem for women when we start to have families of our own, someday.

  6. You bring up a really interesting issue. I think it should be easier in the U.S. for women to have children and a career. The problem is the American capitalist system. American culture dictates the business be as free as possible from government intervention and regulation. Thus, businesses get to determine what kind of benefits it gives to employees. We didn’t have worker’s rights such as minimum wage and work hours until the Great Depression. The rights given to workers were to stop major abuses of power by big business. They did this by establishing a minimum wage, minimum working age, and a work hour limit. These were what the government considered to be most important. Other rights are more on the fringe. The government only requires the three months of unpaid maternity leave. The government does not have the power in this country to demand that businesses pay women who are on maternity leave. Considering American culture and how recently women have joined the workforce, the right of maternity leave has fared far better than many other rights in the United States. However, it touches on the core issue. In the U.S. we like to steer clear form government intervention, but the government is the only institution that can compel businesses to give these rights.

  7. This is something that I think I personally will really struggle with in the future. I personally am a really career-oriented person, and I don’t want to settle down and form a family of my own until I feel really well-established in my career. However, once I get my dream job, and then I have kids? What happens? I will have to leave that job for a certain amount of time anyways because I’ll be expected to stay at home with my kids. For this reason, I agree that it almost discourages women from wanting to strive for really high leadership positions because they know that one day they will have to leave the job they worked so hard to get. What is the point in working that hard to leave in the long run? The solution to this is to start breaking the stereotypes and mindsets in society that women have to stay at home and take care of the kids just because they are genetically the ones to bear the children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a man staying home with his child so his wife can pursue her career, but society tells men that it is wrong. We have to start with our generation and encourage more women to go into the workforce, and the stay in the workforce, We are very slowly but surely starting to see stay at home dads. It’s a very slow increase, but the more it happens, the more the stereotype as women as the only nurturers will break. Yes women have great “child care” qualities, but there are plenty of studies out there that prove it is also very important for the father to have a strong role in his child’s life growing up.

  8. Motherhood is a unique challenge to women who want to join the workforce and yet want to start a family. It is often the job of a woman to be the caretaker. I think instead of “ungendering” things we need to even the playing field for men and women to compete for jobs based on competency. Women are all-too-often shamed for pursuing roles outside the home when they have children and are not adequately accommodated when pregnant. In order to start changing this, we need to work to change the institutions’ care for women in the workforce who want to have children. We need to make it so women have proper maternity leave and child care as a part of business practice. I think many more women would want to join the workforce if they weren’t worried about providing for their children as well.

  9. I think this topic plays an interesting part in how we understand gendered leadership. When we try to understand the differences between men and women, we consistently try to create similarities between them, since there are more differences among the same sex than across. However, motherhood is a huge difference between men and women.

    I think that motherhood is something that shouldn’t sway women away from the workforce. There is a double bind in with wanting to be a mother as well as a woman with a career. I believe that businesses and workplaces should be more understanding and flexible with women wanting to take on both responsibilities, depending on how the mother wants to take her maternity leave since every woman is different and may require different needs.

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