Rachael Larsen (USA) knows she was privileged to be able to take 3 months off to be with her newborn baby, but that time wasn’t enough for her, and anguish washed over her as she went back to work. “The shame around raising a family and working full-time is real,” she commented.
In recent days, a social media post made by Rachael Larsen, a working mother of two, has gone viral for capturing the difficulties American women face in their paid leave with a sad photograph.
The woman had her second baby at the end of last year and, according to the country’s regulations, she was entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave. During those 3 months, she was devoted solely to bonding with her baby, but it’s clear that this period of time is insufficient, and Rachael reflected this sentiment in her heartfelt publication, which she accompanied with a photo of herself crying in frustration.
“It took me four years to have the courage to share this photo. Even now, it’s hard to look at. The shame around raising a family and working full-time is real. I took this on my first day back to work after my second daughter was born. I wasn’t ready. My daughter wasn’t ready. She wasn’t sleeping and was extremely fussy. I woke up five times the night before to feed her. I was exhausted.”
As distressing as the situation is, Rachael knows where she stands and the privileges she’s had upon raising her baby, unlike many other women who go through similar situations and are helpless before the law. Still, she was overwhelmed by the situation.
“I know that I am extremely privileged. I was able to have some partial pay during my maternity leave and I was able to take 12 weeks off. I had a job that I loved at an amazing company with great bosses. I had a daycare facility that I could afford with great teachers I trusted. But… I was not ready.”
The woman ends her message by asking for more support for parents and families when it comes to this topic. She went years without acknowledging how difficult the issue was, but now that she’s accepted it, she doesn’t want any more children and says she has “the courage to speak [her] truth”.
Rachael’s point is more than valid and real. According to the OECD – compiled by PopSugar – OECD countries provide mothers a minimum of 14 weeks of paid leave, while the average is 18 weeks paid leave. At the same time, most of these countries pay their employees more than half of their salaries during their maternity leave, and 13 countries pay mothers full compensation during their leave.
In the U.S., maternity leave isn’t required by law and can only be accessed by fulfilling certain requirements, such as having worked a certain number of hours before taking this time off, having worked for a company for more than a year, and other obstacles that prevent the process from being more horizontal.