I was privileged to spend about two hours with a 1.5 year old toddler recently while visiting a couple who had just had a newborn. The parents were very much sleep deprived, as almost all parents of newborns are. I admire them, and all parents very much, because I'm pretty sure I would not do such a thing. By choice. Because I'm selfish and immature like that.
The toddler was feeling a little left out, so it was nice for him to have the undivided attention of another person for a good long time. He toddled (ooooh...THAT's why they are called toddlers...) about for a while, and then settled down to play in earnest. I like to think I was pretty entertaining. I certainly had a good time. When I had to leave, he seemed like he wanted me to stay longer. Which was cute.
But it got me thinking because the parents of this cutie and I talked about it a little. I did some light googling when I got home that evening and the following is what I discovered:
Country::paid parental leave given
Bulgaria::45 days prior to anticipated date of birth, plus 2 years (also, pregnant women and single mothers cannot be fired)
Lithuania::8 weeks prior, plus 1 year
Canada::35 weeks shared between parents, plus an additional 15 for the mother, which is a potential 50 weeks total for the mother.
France::16 weeks for first child, rising to 26 weeks for third child
Australia/Swaziland/Liberia/Papua New Guinea/USA::none
According to this law, parents are given 12 weeks unpaid parental leave. Any additional leave, paid or unpaid, is up to the discretion of the employer. Seriously? If I were ever to change my mind and actually have a kid, I would move to Bulgaria. They seem to have a much better deal there.
Frankly, the fact that Pakistan has more paid parental leave than the US doesn't really sit right with me. Not that it's a competition or anything. However, seriously? Pakistan? Does no other American find that rather embarrassing? Can we not provide just as well for our citizens as Pakistan does for theirs?
I've been hearing how students have been "getting dumber" (whatever that means) and developing "worse manners" (I believe this - more than once I've been on a bus with teenagers hogging up the seats while elderly people balance themselves in the stop-and-go traffic). Would paid parental leave alleviate this? Probably not. Would paid parental leave increase student's reading proficiency? I don't think so. Would paid parental leave keep more kids out of juvie and on a path towards a successful adult life that doesn't involve drugs or violence or gangs or dependence on welfare? Not likely.
Would it hurt to have paid parental leave? Definitely not.