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Letter: Paid maternity leave

The present condition of our state’s maternity leave policy has me enormously concerned. Extensive research has proven that a child’s first months are crucial for their development and it’s astounding that we continue to grant mothers such brief maternity leave. It’s vital that an infant’s parents be able to provide adequate care and nutrition, and form strong social and emotional connections with their child. By providing an infant with high-quality parent-child relationships, caregivers support the child’s emotional regulation, and increase likelihood of positive outcomes for young children.

If parents can’t provide this for their child due to extremely reduced and/or unpaid leave time, there could be serious cognitive consequences. The Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act grants eight weeks of unpaid leave to the mother and, according to my own extensive research, minimum-wage workers ($8 per hour) would lose 15.38 percent of their yearly income in this time period if unpaid. This is not in accordance with the Federal Maternity Leave Act, under which both parents are allowed 12 weeks of leave within one year as maternity leave. However, pay during this time period is to the discretion of the employer.

If maternity leave in Massachusetts were 12 weeks rather than eight, a parent could spend time with their child during its most crucial months, creating healthy relationships that benefit the child for the rest of its life. Similarly, if maternity leave in Massachusetts were paid, a parent might actually be able to buy some vital child supplies in addition to other costs. We expect the next generation to carry us out of debt and save the world from political crisis — so why are we making it impossible for parents to provide them with adequate care and nutrition? Who are we to deny them these rights?

RENNA EARP

Shelburne Falls

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