Parenting is never meant to be done without community support. The pandemic has forced parents to face child rearing in solitude, increasing feelings of isolation, in addition to highlighting inequities in our society and exacerbating the challenges that Black, Indigenous, and Latinx parents are more likely to face in parenting and perinatal health.
However, there are a few silver linings. The increased accessibility of time at home with young infants, albeit only optional for some parents, can be seen as a positive result of the pandemic. Families as a whole are spending more valuable time together.
Our hope is that this increased involvement with children has shifted the societal view of childcare. This should be work that is valued and paid well, especially in the most foundational period of the early months after birth (i.e., paid parental leave!)
Although some parents understandably experienced high levels of stress from being suddenly forced to work from home with their children, it’s important to remember that working safely from home was a privilege not afforded to many workers. Job loss, economic instability, or working on the frontlines as an essential worker are all situations that disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities, and other communities of color, exacerbating societal inequities and therefore increasing inequities in perinatal and infant health.
So let’s change the status quo.
It’s time to reevaluate the expectations on employees with young ones at home, primarily those with infants and newborns.
It might not come as a surprise to learn that the United States is the *only* high income country that does not mandate paid parental leave, joined only by New Guinea, Suriname, and a few island nations in the South Pacific.
Employers have the opportunity to do what our government has not: offer all employees paid leave – both birth parents and non-birthing parents – for six months minimum. It may seem like a huge investment, but this basic human right has been shown to increase employee retention, job satisfaction, and productivity.
Depending on the type of workplace environment, employers can consider policies that allow parents to bring infants to work or assign rooms designated to supporting the process of lactation. Larger companies may also consider offering onsite childcare. Nurturely is available for consulting in the research behind and development of these family-inclusive workplace policies.
We need to take a close look at our priorities. People who wish to become parents must be supported in their choices and offered job protection that doesn’t penalize them for time at home and performance gaps, and again, must be offered paid leave!
Birth parents who are able to take paid perinatal leave are more likely to be in the workforce 9-12 months after birth and are more likely to earn higher wages in the year after birth. But without this foundational period of physical and psychological recovery, parents are at an increased risk of postpartum depression, pelvic health issues, and decreased access to breastfeeding (which is important for preventing breast cancer, cervical cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.)
In all, creating a workplace culture that supports health and development at the most critical point in the human lifespan – the perinatal and infancy periods – should be a non-negotiable priority among all employers, regardless of whether there are currently pregnant people in the workplace or not. This should not be an afterthought. Redesign your policies now, rather than waiting for an employee to get pregnant. Not only will you attract more employees, but you will be supporting local families who are the backbones of every community.
About the Organization:
Nurturely focuses on preventing common postpartum challenges by tackling the root causes of feeding issues, postpartum stress, and isolation. Our programs proactively empower parents with community support and perinatal wellness education before the baby comes. Equity is at the center of everything we do – with all of our spaces being completely free for parents who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, or from another community of color and the majority of our program leaders and guest speakers identify as BIPOC and LGBTQIA.
We also offer professional development opportunities that aim to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and anti-racism among the perinatal professionals caring for new and expectant parents. Behind the scenes, we are conducting community-participatory research that aims to advance policies and public health interventions for parents.