By now, you’ve probably seen the story–or at least heard about it in passing conversation–the one where a mother’s newborn died at daycare the first day she went back to work. It’s every parent’s absolute worst nightmare, and it’s an incredibly hard story to read.
Amber Scorah, a new mom, shared her heart wrenching story at The New York Times where she detailed what happened the day her baby died. She described how she had felt “lucky” to have three months’ paid maternity leave, which automatically makes one question the type of parental leave system the U.S. has in place if a mom feels lucky to have only a few months off after a life-changing and physically tolling experience.
Scorah goes on to describe the lack of choice she faced after having asked for an extended (unpaid!) maternity leave, only to be told no, stating:
“The only option would be to quit. I contemplated it. By the time I paid for child care in New York City, I was barely making much take-home pay anyway. But what compounded the financial concern was that if I quit, I would lose our health insurance.
Should parents have to play this roulette with their weeks-old infant? To do all they can possibly do to ensure that their baby is safe, only to be relying on a child-care worker’s competence or attentiveness or mood that day?
I would have stayed home with Karl longer, but there just didn’t seem to be a way. And I knew well enough that a million other mothers in America before me had faced the same choice and had done the same, even earlier than I had, though it tortured them emotionally, or physically, to do so.“
Scorah remains surprisingly diplomatic throughout her piece, not blaming the daycare center for possible negligence. She doesn’t necessarily blame anyone, but she does raise an extremely important issue: Families deserve better. New moms and dads deserve more. Her personal experience illustrates what many two-parent families face when both spouses work full-time: a lack of options, and a system that hasn’t adjusted to this new norm.
It’s no secret that the U.S. falls drastically behind many other countries when it comes to paid maternity leave. Scorah’s call for parents to “demand more” is not dramatic or entitled or crazy, it’s a basic human right. Or it should be.
What do you think of the current paid parental leave policy in the U.S.? Should it change? If so, how?