New mothers struggling with lack of paid maternity leave

(WIAT) — One hundred and seventy countries offer new mothers, and many new fathers, some form of paid leave from their jobs.

Despite a push from the White House, that’s not the case here in the United States.

While some new parents are offered post-partum support by their companies, others find themselves digging deep into their sick leave and their bank accounts to care for their babies.

Erica Shifflett is soaking up every second she gets with her four-month-old son, Noah. After delivering on New Year’s Eve, she returned to her defense dep artment job in late March.

“I was exhausted. You’re taking your body on this huge roller coaster,” said Shifflett.

Erica was given 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But, she was able to get most of it paid for by tapping into her future sick time, a move made possible by a Presidential memo in January. The confusing leave policy can make this already stressful time even more frustrating.

To help new parents like Erica and her fiancé Nick, President Obama is calling on congress to pass a law for federal employees, which in part, requires six weeks of paid administrative leave for new parents.

“It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue,” said President Obama.

President Obama is also pushing for a law that would allow millions of Americans to earn up to seven days a year of paid sick time.

Georgetown labor economics professor Jim Albrecht says there are benefits from giving new parents time off.

“Workers are happier, that’s a good thing because happy workers do a better job,” said Albrecht. “There’s less turnover, more effort, so there’s positive benefits for employers.”

Happier, like attorney and new mom, Christie Stahlke. Her employer, Crowell and Moring, was recognized in 2013 by Yale Law Women as a “family-friendly firm.”

“Attorneys are offered up to 18 weeks paid maternity leave,” said Stahlke.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Christie is among only 11 percent of American workers who have access to full paid family leave.

“The ability to be able to take over four months to focus entirely on getting used to being a new mom, it was fantastic. It was such a gift and such a pleasure to be able to take that time but I will admit that towards the end I was ready to go back,” said Christie Stahlke.

With more than half of women working as primary breadwinners, workplace flexibility has become a necessity for 21st century families. So new parents like Christie and Matt and Erica and Nick can enjoy more aspects of being new parents, and worry less about making ends meet.

Some states, including California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are implementing their own paid maternity leave programs. They’re funded by employees’ payroll deductions.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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