Why is the United States one of the few countries in the world not offering national paid leave to its working mothers?
entitled “How America Fails New Parents and Their Babies” is a mix of horrifying statistics and real life stories. In 15 minutes, Shortall manages to highlight the reasons why the United States should be feeling ashamed about the way it treats new mothers, and inspire those watching to do something about it.
Shortall has great ideas, but she’s also a great speaker. She humanizes the issue by telling the real stories of 10 new mothers at work. These stories should range from horrifying to heartbreaking, but unfortunately they’re all too realistic and relatable. For instance, Shortall shares a story a waitress told her: “With my first baby, I was back at work five weeks postpartum. With my second, I had to have major surgery after giving birth, so I waited until six weeks to go back. I had third degree tears.”
Instead of focusing on the moral issues with sending millions of new mothers back to work just weeks after having a child, she focuses on the economic problem it causes. With statistics to back her up, she doesn’t come off as morally superior, she just comes across as right. Some of the stats she shares are mind-blowing. Perhaps the most astounding fact is that 88% of working mothers in the U.S. will not get any paid leave after they have a baby.
Shortall smartly points out that in the U.S. women make up 47 percent of the workforce. Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of American households. One woman can choose not to work, but if all women in the United States stopped working, we’d have a huge problem. The same can be said about having children. “The birthrate needed in America to keep the population stable is 2.1 live births per woman. In America today, we are at 1.86.”
One woman has the choice not to have children, but if all women made that choice the country would have a major problem. The babies women have become the workforce of tomorrow. “We need women to work. We need working women to have babies. So we should make doing those two things at the same time at least palatable, right?”
This problem is everyone’s problem, male and female. As Shortall says, “We have to stop framing this as a mother's issue, or even a women's issue. This is an American issue.”
Bonus info: For more inspiring words from Jessica Shortall, check out her book Work. Pump. Repeat: The New Mom's Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work.