Earlier this week, I found myself responding to comments on that were made on Facebook about paid maternity leave in response to this picture.
I do not usually involve myself in any sort of online debates, however, the comment that was made hit home with me as I am currently collecting Maternity Benefits.
Basically, the comment that was made was an opinion that it should be up to parents to pay for their own Maternity Leave, and that it is not the government's responsibility to have to pay parents because they decide to have families. The commenter also spoke about paid Maternity Leave undermining the feminist movement and is insulting full time Stay at Home Moms (SAHMs) that do not get paid to raise their children.
Although I can see where this commenter was coming from (I am guessing she was from the US and did not receive any Maternity Leave benefits), I feel that she is very uninformed about how things work here in Canada. I feel that I in some way (without starting a heated Facebook debate) have to defend my country and all of the families (including my own) who have benefited from Parental Leave Benefits. I am speaking from my own experience, so please bear with me and do not judge me if your experience has been different.
So...most importantly, I have to clarify a major point about this picture. This picture states that Canada provides 50 weeks of Maternity Leave, however, Canada actually provides 50 weeks of combined Maternity and Parental Leave. The Maternity Leave portion is 13 weeks, and the remainder is Parental Leave which can be divided however the family chooses between mother and father. Because of this fact, I do not believe that this system in any way undermines the feminist movement. Further more, even if it were 50 weeks of Maternity Leave, I believe that there are fundamental differences between men and women, especially when it comes to child rearing and parenting. A father does not endure the physical strain of carrying a child for 9 months, giving birth or breastfeeding.
It is also important to recognize that Maternity and Parental Benefits are not just a government handout, it is something that we pay for. The government takes Employment Insurance premiums off of each pay check so that we will be provided with an income for a finite amount of time given that we cannot work due to layoff, having a child, etc. One must work and pay into this insurance for a certain amount of hours before we can collect. This insurance policy is mandatory for all working people in Canada and premiums are based on income. To give you an example, prior to collecting Maternity Benefits, I was paying approximately $36 biweekly towards this insurance. Furthermore, I have been working consistently since I was 17 years old, am now 27, and this is the first time that I have ever collected. After having all of my children, I will continue to pay into this plan until I retire, even though I am not likely to collect. With this being said, I will likely pay more into this plan than I will ever collect through Maternity Benefits.
I do not believe that collecting Maternity Benefits should be in any way insulting to SAHMs as they do not pay into this plan. They make the choice to be a SAHM, and I make the choice to work and have the assurance that I will receive an income and get my job back after I have children.
Finally, it must be known that it is in no way profitable to have children just to collect these benefits. The government only provides 55% of your gross income during the period of Maternal/Parental leave, up to a maximum which varies by province (Manitoba maximum benefits are $413/week)-clearly not enough to get rich off of!
So, with all of this being said, I would like to say that although our system is not perfect here in Canada (which government program is perfect?), I feel very fortunate to be able to collect a modest income to start my child's life off right, and be guaranteed my job back when I have to go back to work.
I now invite you to respectfully comment on how you feel about paid Maternity/Parental Leave, or any of your own personal experiences.