Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Should childless women be entitled to maternity leave? September 25, 2010

This is a debate that is fueling some heated discussions, as I’m sure you can imagine. Should we be allowed to take maternity leave if we don’t have children?

My first response is “no, of course not.” I’m of the viewpoint that maternity leave falls in with other benefits such as unemployment and social security; it’s there if you need it, but it’s a service, not an entitlement.

That having been said, maybe it’s time to rename maternity leave. In recent years many companies have stopped separating sick days and vacation days, instead giving employees Personal Time Off to be used as needed—to go to the beach, visit the dentist, or lay in bed with the flu.

What if maternity leave became just “personal leave” offered to every employee to be used for their own personal life goals—to do volunteer work, write a book, run for mayor, or care for a newborn baby? After all, for most women, having children is a choice, and those of us without children are often left to pick up the maternity leave slack. When do we get time off to pursue our dreams?


14 Responses to “Should childless women be entitled to maternity leave?”

  1. ChildfreeMe Says:

    I agree with “personal leave” and think it should be offered to all employees. The same is true with “personal days” off. You get a certain amount to do what you want with. This includes picking your sick kid up from school or spending the day with your spouse on your anniversary. It should be a “choice” like everything else!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ChildfreeMe, Lisa Manterfield. Lisa Manterfield said: Should childless women be entitled to maternity leave?: […]

  3. happynenes Says:

    Hmm… This is a sticky wicket. I think if given this opportunity, a lot of people would use up the leave having fun, and then not have maternity leave when they needed it. How would it be enforced? And what about people who have multiple children, and thus, multiple maternity leaves? I wouldn’t mind having 18 wks of leave to make up for the three kids I never had.

    I do feel a sense of entitlement to take sick days when I need them – and not only when I am so sick that it is physically impossible to leave the bathroom. I’m never going to ask them to give me six weeks off to stay home with a baby after all.

    The other thing that’s always bugged me a little is tax write offs for children. My husband and I both work very hard and pay a lot of taxes. While I strongly believe in supporting social programs, I don’t see why people should be given a financial incentive to add more people to a system already strained with regard to financial and ecological resources. Maybe we could have a tax write off for not contributing to overpopulation or for not having children we can’t afford to support?

    • Jennifer Gill Says:

      “Maybe we could have a tax write off for not contributing to overpopulation or for not having children we can’t afford to support?”

      YES. That is a brilliant idea!!

      Also, with regard to the time off for pursuing life goals – that would be so healthy it would be amazing!! I think it should be for men, too. Just to be completely fair.

    • Michele Says:

      Great points throughout your statement. Especially about not having rug-rats = not penalized on taxes.

  4. Monica Says:

    I love the idea of personal time, I couldn’t take time off of work when our whole world came tumbling down. I was covering maternity leaves for two women! I think that personal time addresses an issue we all struggle with, how can you build a life outside of work, when you have to work so so so hard for time off?
    Great topic Lisa

  5. mina Says:

    I recently talked to a collegue from Austria. She is taking a year off to get some advanced training. And the governement will pay her for it!! The rule is that people can either take a years (Year!!) maternity leave paid for by the governement. Or – take the same time to get training. There are some conditions to it of course, she has to use the time for training not laying on the beach or what, and there has to be an agreement with her employer that she will go back to her work and so on.
    I’m so f***ing envious. This is just what i could do with but i don’t have this opportunity. If i want to do the same thing it will be just on my own responsibility. Which means i have to support myself during the time off and since i don’t have an employer who could simply give me a sabbatical i’d most likely end up unemployed after those months 😦 .

    • Michele Says:

      Your friend probably explained that Europeans pay a very high percentage of taxes from their paychecks. These high taxes pay for excellent education for everyone (no need for private schools), health care (the state pays for their doctor’s visits, birth control, etc), public roads/autobahns, retirement (there aren’t old people eating cat food over here), etc.
      The Europeans will complain about paying the high taxes, but if they had to live in the US, they wouldn’t be happy about the way our government wastes our tax dollars and don’t take care of our people.

  6. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    We’re also at the age when our parents need more help. It’s stunning to me how stingy some companies can be when it comes to taking time to help an ailing parent or to attend a funeral/deal with estate issues. Put me in the “personal leave” camp.

  7. lmanterfield Says:

    Time off in general has always been a sore spot with me and Corporate America. Even companies that offer it aren’t always happy to let employees actually take it. Imagine how much more content employees would be if they could attend to their actual lives. And Mina, a year off? Sounds as if the Austrians have it right.

  8. loribeth Says:

    I’m all for some kind of sabbatical leave, whether paid or unpaid. I know mat leave is not a vacation, but at least it’s a change of pace from the regular office routine.

    One of my girlfriends had a government job with a paid sabbatical benefit. She had money taken off her paycheque regularly & every few years, was allowed a six or 12 month sabbatical. She did it twice — once when her daughter was small (extended mat leave) & again a few years ago. She spent the summer driving from coast to coast across Canada with her two daughters. I was totally green with envy.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      I might never have left the corporate world had that been an option. OK, maybe I would. I have to wonder how many people would actually take advantage of that if it was offered.

  9. Anna Says:

    I think “personal leave” is too broad, and therefore could be too easily abused. If you have goals in life, you can pursue them the same way people have often pursued their goals: by making time outside of work for those endeavors. It’s great–and easy–to take off a few months of work, but it’s entirely feasible to continue working and still find hours every week to work on that novel or volunteer. The problem is, most people don’t want to give up their daily TV or internet time to do this.
    I think “family leave” is a good compromise: it’s open to anything from caring for a newborn to a sick partner to an elderly parent. Caring for another human being is something that you actually need to take off work for.

  10. Ian Says:

    I too feel that personal leave would be a much fairer way of doing things, not just for childfree females but males as well. Personally with the population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, I feel as though we should not be providing maternity leave for more than two children anyway. When Iran had an overpopulation crisis, they stopped bearing the costs for those who opted to bear more than two children which I believe is fair, and helped reduce the birthrate effectively without the ethical problems caused by China’s one child policy. If non-parents and parents alike were entitled to two rounds of “personal leave” this would be the most fair and just approach. There are other things in life that are virtuous besides having kids, and with the population crisis as mentioned above as well as our strain on the planets resources, I’m not so certain choosing to have kids is virtuous at all anymore.

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