I’ve spent the last two weeks in California, helping my sister adjust to life with her new baby boy, Lochlan. He is a sweet guy who rarely cries. His hands are enormous and his arms so long that when he waves them about he looks like a pterodactyl, able to launch himself airborne if not swaddled tight. When Lochlan sleeps his face contorts in dramatic expressions, as if he’s acting out some fast-paced action-movie already spinning in his head. His hands wave like a miniature Billy Elliot, and we all delight in watching little ‘Twitch’ sleep-act the day away.

Yet Lorraine is not getting much sleep. Even before the addition of Loch-a-bye-Baby, my sister led a chaotic life. Her two teenage boys attend two different schools. One is immersed in football, which is a full-time job for any parent between practices, games, and expenses which seem to add up exponentially daily. Her other son has ADD and compulsive-obsessive tendencies, so he requires even more patience, time, and discipline.

Lorraine has a six-year-old daughter, Holland, too, who attends yet another school and operates on a completely different schedule and interest level than the boys.

As of right now, my sister is a single parent all week, since her husband works far away in L.A. and only comes home on the weekends.  

And she has a far-away, high-stress, high-power, under-paid job herself.

When Lorraine was pregnant she registered for maternity leave. Her company informed her that they didn’t pay maternity leave. She would need to claim disability through the state of California. Which she duly did. Then the baby arrived, I swooped into town, the plumbing in her house burst, and my sister received paperwork in the mail that informed her that since her company has less than fifty employees, they are under no obligation to pay her any sort of disability what-so-ever.

It is shocking that even as we tout ourselves as the most powerful country in the world, we don’t offer women any federal paid maternity leave. As stated in the article, “The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict”, Only the United States lacks paid maternity-leave laws among the 30 industrialized democracies in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The only family leave available to Americans is unpaid, limited to three months, and covers only about half the labor force. Discrimination against workers with family responsibilities, illegal throughout Europe, is forbidden only indirectly here. Americans also lack paid sick days, limits on mandatory overtime, the right to request work-time flexibility without retaliation, and proportional wages for part-time work. All exist elsewhere in the developed world.”

Upon receiving the grim notice, Lorraine called her company to see if they could rectify the situation. Her boss promptly called her back and told her she could return to work immediately, thereby reinstating her salary. Her baby was less than two weeks old.

This is a sad, stressful situation for America’s women and their offspring. As of 2010, females comprised 46% of the workforce. Currently, members of congress (82% male) are voting on women’s reproductive rights as well as their access to birth control, all while offering no paid maternity or disability leave to women who actually do bear a child. Women like Lorraine must work, work, work, incessantly, for much less pay than their male counterparts, somehow birth their baby with bare-minimum medical care, jump out of the hospital bed, then run back to work, or risk losing any stability they’ve managed to gain.

The women of this country deserve so much better. Every other industrialized nation is leaps ahead of us in providing better maternity care, child care, and family leave time  – http://www.ourbigearth.com/2009/03/20/bumps-all-maternity-leave-is-not-created-equal/

Here in the supposed Land of Plenty, women and children are left to fend for themselves. Lochlan, my three-week-old nephew whose name means, “Warrior from the Land of Lakes“, issues a battle cry unheard here in the Land of the Lost.

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