More Moms Cutting Maternity Leave Short Because, Well, We Need To Get the Dollar Bills, Y’all.

On this much, I am very clear: when I had my first baby more than 14 years ago, I was blessed to be working at a time when the economy was strong, a good job with benefits could be had, and a decent maternity leave was still possible. Between a year’s worth of vacay and sick days, the federally-mandated 12-week maternity leave and a few more months unpaid maternity leave I coaxed out of HR, I managed to scrape up a full nine months worth of leave with my Mari—time off with my baby that I could afford because the hubs and I had some money saved. I recognized that what I pulled off was huge, even in those prosperous times, particularly for a Black mom. But it’s clear that had I needed maternity leave today, I’d probably be in the same boat with 40 percent of new moms, taking one to four weeks of maternity leave or worse, none at all.

From Today Moms:

About two-thirds of U.S. women are employed during pregnancy and about 70 percent of them report taking some time off, according to most recent figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. The average maternity leave in the U.S. is about 10 weeks, but about half of new moms took at least five weeks, with about a quarter taking nine weeks or more, figures showed.

But a closer look shows that 16 percent of new moms took only one to four weeks away from work after the birth of a child — and 33 percent took no formal time off at all, returning to job duty almost immediately.

The reason moms (presumably of all races and backgrounds) are running back to work? I’ll hazard a guess: 40 percent of American women are now the primary financial providers for their families. They don’t work? Kids don’t eat. Rent doesn’t get paid. Car note companies start calling. Life takes a turn for the worse and families suffer. And seeing as Congress—specifically, screwy, heartless Republicans—would just as soon let children starve than properly fund programs that feed the working poor and poverty-stricken families, it makes sense that more than a third of moms are birthing babies and high-tailing it back to work before their child can even latch on.

“The contributions that women make to household incomes are no longer the icing on the cake; they’re half the cake,” Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and practice at the Families and Work Institute, told Today Moms.

And if America continues to be that country that insists on being at the bottom of industrialized civilizations that provide maternal support for new moms and their families (the U.S. is one of only eight countries—out of 190—that doesn’t offer paid leave), that cake is going to continue to fall, with American families suffering the fate that comes when the most sacred of time, that which we spend with our newborns, is wasted toiling for companies that care nothing about the American workforce or its seeds.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. The state of maternity leave is so bad here! I know I hesitate in even THINKING about having another child because I couldn’t afford the maternity leave that I want. SMH

  2. Thank you for this post. It is absolutely unbearable that in this great country, we are so behind the times on maternity leave benefits. Yes, we have FMLA but like you just pointed out, who can afford to be out for 3 months with no pay!?
    The wise guys will say: “ok then, don’t have babies if you can’t afford it”, Have we stoop down that low as a nation?

  3. I’ve just birthed a baby in july 2013. I will take a total of 6 months of maternity leave with the help of short term disability checks in addition to my sick and vacay payout. {plus, my spouse has a good job (my safety net}.

  4. Other option is to leave. I’ve moved to New Zealand and now expecting. Here you get at least 12 months off with job guaranteed and first 18 weeks paid, after which can then start using vacation pay, etc. Don’t understand why the US can’t get with the program.

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