My last day at work was the day I went into labor; on June 17 2011, I gave birth to my beautiful son. Starting from the day of his birth, I was fortunate to take 10 weeks to spend 24 hours a day with him. It was only when I became pregnant that I was educated on the maternity leave policy or lack thereof that exists in the United States. I knew that by law an employer could allow me up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave before terminating my position. This was the only provision guaranteed to me as a new mom (this even depends on the size of your employer). I decided to take 10 weeks off because the thought of my inbox flooding with thousands of emails became a lingering nightmare. My first day back at work was emotional to say the least.
Based on my own experience and out of curiosity, I spent 2012 looking into the Maternity/Parental leave policies of various countries around the world. Below are examples of the durations of leave in various parts of the world:
France: The length of the maternity leave varies based on the number of children expected and the number of children already born. The typical paid leave (mother of two or less children expecting a single child) is 16 weeks, 6 before and 10 after the birth).
Netherlands: The entitlement to pregnancy and maternity leave is a minimum of 16 weeks paid. You can take pregnancy leave from six weeks before the date the baby is due. After giving birth you are always entitled to at least ten weeks’ maternity leave, even if the baby is born later than it was due.
Singapore: All female employees including expats who have served their employer for 3 months or longer are entitled to 16 weeks paid maternity leave under the Children Development Co-Savings Act provided the child is a Singapore Citizen; 4 weeks immediately before and 12 weeks immediately after delivery.
Poland: The duration of maternity leave depends on the number of children born at one time and equals: 20 weeks paid when one child is born; 31 paid weeks when twins are born, 33 paid weeks when triplets are born.
India: Working mothers-to-be are entitled to a maternity leave period of 12 weeks paid. While the first six weeks of maternity leave is to be taken before delivery, the remaining six weeks of leave will be granted immediately after the child is born.
Kenya: A female employee shall be entitled to 3 months paid maternity leave with full pay. The maternity leave can be extended with the consent of employer.
Chile: Employees are entitled to 6 weeks paid of maternity leave prior to the birth of the child and 12 weeks paid thereafter.
My son is 2 years old now and I find that I balance the life of a working mom very well. I love my job and more than anything I love being mother. But needless to say, I do wish I could have spent more time with him after birth but paid leave is not the norm in the US which can sometimes make the decision to take additional time off more difficult.