The Associated Press posted a promising story yesterday about an old but barely surviving U.S. military program under review that offers sabbaticals of up to three years so men and women can start a family or take care of their own.
“For women to have a family and a career, it’s just extremely difficult. And, being in the military, it is extra sacrifice, you have deployments, you have workups, and it just makes it that much more challenging,” one marine said — and the program is one way to encourage women to leave for a year or three because they know they’ll have a guaranteed job waiting when they get back.
It’s a nice gesture…but it’s not paid. And paid — not unpaid — family maternity leave — is what’s got the most benefits for moms and babies: New moms who take paid leave are more likely to take the six to eight weeks recommended by doctors, while their babies are more likely to be breastfed, receive medical check-ups, and get critical immunizations. And the benefits go on.
In fact the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee at least some paid time off for new moms — falling behind some otherwise human-rights questionable countries like Venezuela (18 weeks) and Pakistan (12 weeks). So for military members who have given everything to their country but can’t afford to take unpaid time off, a sabbatical is cold comfort.
Time to think about catching up with the rest of the world and offering hard-working moms the PTO they deserve.