One Mother's Story About What Many Have to do to Not Go Broke After You Have a Baby

July 14th 2017

Ngozi Ahanotu

With the battle for paid parental leave garnering more attention as of late, it's worth noting that the United States is one of only a handful of countries that still does not have a national policy of paid leave. The others? New Guinea, Suriname and several Pacific Island nations. 

As Jody Heymann, founding director of the World Policy Analysis Center at UCLA, told NPR, "[t]he U.S. is absolutely the only high-income country that doesn't [provide paid parental leave], and as you can tell by the numbers, overwhelmingly the world provides it," she said. And added, "the world not only provides paid maternity leave, but they provide adequate paid paternity leave."

According to a report from Tech Republic, which cited the 2015 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 12 percent of Americans have access to the paid parental leave and a mere 5 percent of low-wage earners receive paid maternity leave.

As it stands, there are at least 50 countries that provide six months or more of paid maternity leave. In Sweden, new parents can expect up to 16 months of paid leave to be divided among between them. And as NPR reported, countries like France and Canada rely on a "social insurance structure," which allows workers to contribute to a fund which they can draw upon when they need to take their leave. 

However, in the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act merely entitles employees of qualified employers 12 weeks of unpaid leave with newborn children, within one year of birth.  

As a result of this drastic gap, many expectant mothers are turning to crowdfunding platforms to raise money for their maternity leave.

ATTN: spoke with a Taylor Richendrfer, a mother who has used Go Fund Me to raise money from family and friends to support her fiscal needs during her maternity leave.

Taylor started her new job as a construction administrator at a small contracting company when she was 3 months pregnant. She and her husband actively saved for her pending unpaid maternity leave, but when her son Aiden Skye arrived early 10 weeks early and an ICU stay was needed, the couple started looking into other options once their savings ran out.

Right after Aidan was born, the reality of the situation hit me. Not only had we not saved as much as we had hoped by the time the baby came—we thought we had 10 more weeks to go—but now our baby was going to be in the hospital for weeks or even months. I could not imagine having to leave him to go back to work. My husband and I talked through the options (of which there were very few) and I brought up crowd funding. I’d seen other GoFundMe pages and thought that it would be a great option for us. Friends and family had been asking what they could do to help, and this was what we really needed: the financial assistance to be able to focus on getting our baby better and home.

This is not just the Richendrfer’s reality.

A quick search on GoFundMe, Plumfund, and other sites, finds many mothers like Richendrfer raising money for their time away from work to take care of their children.


Richendrfer received negative feedback during campaign time flew by but she disregarded the naysayers and continued.

Of course most people were positive and supportive of us through it all, but there were the few people who thought it was strange or did not like the idea of asking for donations online. Even my husband was hesitant at first to set up the page. But in the end, we were out of options. There was very little I would not have done at that point to make it work. And putting up with a few unkind or unsupportive comments seems like a small price to pay for what ended up being a dream come true. I was able to spend the entire 47 days in the hospital with Aidan, as well as a few weeks at home with him.

Richendrfer was able to raise the money she needed to stay with Aiden while in ICU and after they left the hospital, but most mothers are not able to get the money they need in this situation.

There have been some signs of progress in the fight for paid parental leave, with numerous U.S. companies and small businesses offering paid maternity leave to their employees and states like California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, all instituting paid parental leave policies. However, the issue remains a serious concern—with multiple ramifications—for most American families.