Before I was a mom I worked hard for two years to get my university to pass a more progressive family leave policy.
Right now the University at Albany only allows for female faculty and professional staff to take four weeks before childbirth and six weeks after delivery of maternity leave. The maternity leave pay is tied to an employees sick leave. So, if an employee has been with the University two years or less, then much of the leave is unpaid. Male faculty and staff may only take 15 days, and adoptive parents may not take any leave (since no one is "sick").
Before Isabel was born, I didn't think six weeks of leave following childbirth was enough. Now, I know it's not long enough. At six weeks, I was just starting to get back into the swing of things. The thought of having to go back to work full time is simply unbelievable. I don't know how I would have managed that.
Now, it's true that parents have the option of taking the federal Family and Medical Leave Act time, which is 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for children or sick relatives. The problem there is such leave is unpaid. I have the financial luxury to take an unpaid leave, but many parents do not.
Family and childcare simply do not get enough political attention in the U.S. That needs to change. Mothers need to come together to be part of a movement to affect better policies around childcare and work. Women should not have to choose between work and family.