The United States might be one of the richest countries in the world, but when it comes to how we treat expectant mothers and new parents, we’re definitely not on the top of the heap. Parental leave is pretty much a joke in the States, with no paid leave required at the federal, state, or local level.

If people can’t afford to take time off without pay, or haven’t been able to sock away months of vacation or sick time, they’re likely to find themselves back at work just days or weeks after giving birth, a reality that experts say isn’t good for anyone – including society as a whole.

Other countries do much better in this category, and these 14 stories really drive home how much American parents crave change.

14. Dads can be so helpful at home.

“I gave birth on a Friday. By Monday morning, my husband’s boss wanted him back in the office.

That was the end of his paternity leave.”


13. This had to be so hard.

“I had to go without a vacation or any time off for more than two years in order to accrue the measly seven weeks I had.

I couldn’t afford to be without a pay check, so I went back the day after my PTO (paid time off) ran out.

It was awful. My milk supply was still regulating, no one was sleeping through the night, and within a couple weeks, I was hit with serious postpartum depression.

This country can afford the paid leave.

We are literally the effing worst for not providing it.”


12. Pumping should be protected.

“Had 12 weeks: six paid, six at 67% of my pay.

Now I go back Monday to a place where I have to stay late to make up the time I use to pump breast milk to feed my baby.”


11. The last thing new moms need is more emotional stress.

“I hadn’t been at my job long enough to qualify for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) so they didn’t have to keep my position open. They didn’t, which meant I was applying and interviewing for jobs while seven-to-eight months pregnant. I even went to an interview a few days after leaving the hospital (post C-section, mind you).”

“I started a new job three weeks after having my daughter. I hadn’t even been medically cleared. Luckily, my husband was able to take FMLA to be home at that time. It was awful and played havoc with my emotions, but it is what we had to do.”


10. A lucky, if weird, break.

“Had 12 weeks: six paid, six at 67% of my pay.

Now I go back Monday to a place where I have to stay late to make up the time I use to pump breast milk to feed my baby.”


9. This is so wrong.

“I had to go back to work after four weeks because I couldn’t afford not to.

I used up all my PTO for two of the weeks I stayed home and the other two were unpaid.

Walking by the receptionist that first day back, she goes, ‘Wait you’re back? Didn’t you JUST have a baby?’

I immediately burst into tears right in front of her.

I then was basically crying the entire day from missing my baby so much and feeling incredibly guilty being away from him. It was the worst.”


8. We shouldn’t have to leave those babies until we’re ready.

“We adopted, which was very expensive, so our financial situation was already pretty bad.

I took the standard 12 week leave, but because it was near the beginning of the year I didn’t have a lot of PTO saved up (it expires every year), and I only qualified for six weeks of maternity pay, which is 50% of your salary. So I got paid 50% of my salary for six weeks and then nothing at all.”

“I was actually fortunate to get anything at all, because prior to the year my son was born, the company’s maternity pay policy did not cover adopted children. I remember the night before I was going back to work I rocked my son to sleep and just cried and cried because I didn’t want to leave him.”


7. It doesn’t have to be this hard.

“I took five and half months off, but none of it was at my full salary, or even close. it was very hard to make ends meet, and I ended up racking up a bunch of credit card debt.

My husband had to Uber on the weekends to help make up the extra money we needed to pay the hospital bills plus the new costs of having a newborn.”


6. Having a child shouldn’t put us into debt.

“I was working as a middle school teacher at the time of my second pregnancy.

I was told to go on bed rest about five months in due to health reasons.

However, my boss told me all of my time off would be unpaid (as the school was small and not covered by FMLA). I literally forced myself to work up until I physically couldn’t anymore at about seven months pregnant. I went back to work when my baby was less than eight weeks old because I just couldn’t afford to go unpaid any longer.”

“Two years later and I am still repaying debt obtained during that time just trying to keep bills paid and food on the table.”


5. None of us are ok after 6 weeks.

“I had six weeks paid which was great because I knew so many people that didn’t even get that. I worked five minutes away from my house and was set up for success when it came to being a working mom.

But the six weeks off flew by so quickly and my postpartum anxiety got the better of me to the point that I would scream at my mom who was watching my child just for driving with her without my permission. I was not okay enough to start working but I couldn’t recognize it.”


4. Being self-employed has its downsides.

“For the last two babies, my husband and I owned a cleaning business and we got zero time off.

My husband had a huge job the day I was giving birth to my youngest and had to split time between the job and the hospital.

There was no other option.

I was back at work about 10 days after I had my last two kids.

I’d wear them as I cleaned because either we worked, or we lost our jobs.”


3. Like a nightmare.

“I had our preemie daughter at 29 weeks pregnant, while on a work trip.

She was in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for 63 days. After being discharged on Wednesday and driving home two states away, I had to be at work the following Monday.

I had four days at home with her and then had to split my time between a preemie and my job.”


2. Some companies are doing the right thing.

“I had a great experience.

The company I was working at offered 12 weeks fully paid.

The day my daughter was born, they changed the maternity leave policy from 12 weeks to 24 weeks fully paid.”


1. This all took incredible strength.

“I had to return to work two weeks after losing my son at 25.5 weeks pregnant — I had given birth to an angel naturally and vaginally.

While it was considered a vaginal birth, since I did not give birth to a living child, I was expected to return as soon as possible.”

“I am a 911 dispatcher, and in my first month back I took four phone calls for SIDS deaths from moms or dads.

I almost didn’t stick with my dream job because I didn’t have the time to grieve and then took several very traumatic and relatable calls.”


It’s appalling, when you think about it. Anyone who has brought a newborn home knows what kind of time it takes to truly adjust.

Why do you think parental leave should be a thing? Why not? Let’s discuss in the comments!