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Challenges some women face during and after maternity leave in the work force.

Updated: Aug 2, 2021


Author: Audrey Goodson Kingo1/5/2021

After a tough postpartum, The View co-host thinks all moms deserve time to bond with their babies. iStock

As someone who had a near-tragic experience giving birth to my son, I always feel an immediate bond with women who struggled with difficult deliveries or postpartum problems. We’re all part of the same bittersweet sisterhood. We learned just how resilient we are—but at a price we didn’t particularly want to pay. Welcome to the club, Meghan McCain. The new mom to 3-month-old daughter Liberty returned to her role Monday as a co-host on The View, and revealed that she’d had an emergency C-section and a challenging recovery. “When I gave birth, I actually had postnatal preeclampsia and I was in the hospital for a week after on a magnesium drip, and it really, really kicked my butt,” she shared. “I was planning on coming back to the show for the election, six weeks after I gave birth, and I was physically unable to. I was physically unable to come. I had to have my husband and my mother-in-law help me do everything from shower to eat.” For McCain, a conservative and the daughter of the late Sen. John McCain, it served as a wake-up call: “The whole time I was thinking, what a privilege it is to have this kind of maternity leave. As I thought about it, the more angry I got that there weren’t women in the rest of America that had the same luxury that I had working here at The View.”

Welcome to that club, as well, Meghan. Here at Working Mother, we’ve been angry for decades that American women are the only ones in the developed world without paid maternity leave. That one in six women have to go back to work within six weeks of giving birth, according to Pew Research. That even the most generous of American employers offer far fewer weeks of paid maternity leave than women receive in countries like Germany and Sweden (up to 14 and 16 months, respectively). That it was revolutionary when Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris proposed six months of paid maternity leave. How little we expect here in the most powerful country on the planet. Meghan made the case that conservatives, as the “party of family values,” should particularly support paid maternity leave, an argument with merit, but it shouldn’t take having a baby to solidify this stance. Plenty of research shows that paid leave is associated with higher rates of breastfeeding, lower rates of postpartum depression and—a point conservatives should especially appreciate—more moms in the workforce. Meghan also brushed off the need for paid paternity leave, a shortsighted omission in light of the yawning chasm the pandemic has exacerbated between women and men. Paid paternity leave doesn’t just help dads stay more involved with childcare and housekeeping down the road—it also mitigates the motherhood penalty. So, Meghan, let us introduce you to another club: the one for supporters of a paid family leave program that’s available to all parents as well as those caring for sick family members. Not only is this club popular, it’s growing—in November, Colorado became the ninth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to pass a paid family leave program. “Maybe it takes personal experience sometimes to get on board,” she said, and though the comment has been castigated on Twitter, she’s largely right—which is why an inclusive paid family leave is actually a political winner. Even if you’ve never given birth, you’ve probably experienced a lingering personal illness or witnessed a family member struggle to work while sick or recovering from an injury. That’s especially true now, when paid leave has been crucial to curtailing the spread of COVID-19, as well as keeping women in the workforce. We’ve all seen what happens when workers can’t take sick leave to care for themselves or their family members—and it’s not pretty. No personal experience necessary.

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