Shakira’s Clueless about Maternity Leave

Shakira maternity leave confusionI love Shakira! I love her on The Voice. I love her voice. But I do not love her recent comments about maternity leave. Clearly, Shakira’s wearing celebrity-tinted glasses and has no idea what non-famous moms go through. How else could you explain her telling People, “I didn’t have my four months maternity [leave], like every woman on earth has”? Poor Shakira, she had to report for duty on The Voice two months after giving birth to her adorable son, Milan, and all she got in return was a reported $12 million. Meanwhile, the average new mom in America is afforded just three months of leave (not four)–unpaid!–and only if she works for a large enough company.

I get Shakira’s plight, though. I have a 9 month old, and I understand wanting to spend every second with him, and I was fortunate enough to take two months off of work, and then work from home after that because I’m a freelance writer. But that also means no one was paying me during that time off (also, no one was helping subsidize my sky-high medical insurance). That’s a reality for a lot of women.

While paid maternity leave is standard practice in many countries (in Shakira’s native Colombia, women are entitled to 1-2 weeks off prior to birth and up to 13 weeks after at their full salary)—not in the U.S.

The passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993, entitles many female workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave for birth or adoption, but this is without pay. In general, coverage for maternity leave varies state by state and can also depend on how many employees your company has (FMLA only applies to companies with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius), how long you’ve worked for the company, and how many hours you’ve worked in the past year (most policies say you’ve had to have worked at least 12 months and 1,250 hours).

So you have to do your research, ladies. Some women in the U.S. are fortunate enough to get six weeks paid maternity leave, while others can cull their unused sick and vacation days, and in some states you can take temporary disability leave. But the bottom line is that things are not clear cut, so Shakira should stick to talking about music (which she’s great at!), rather than chiming in on a topic she knows nothing about. That said, we still love you, Shakira. Moms (and moms-to-be) have to stick together!

Tell us what you think: Do you think Shakira’s comment was blown out of proportion, or do you think she needs a maternity leave lesson? Leave your comments below.

Image of Shakira courtesy of Shutterstock.

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  1. by Irosha

    On May 3, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Love your article. I couldn’t agree with you more on Shakira’s comment, which I found to be not only ignorant but also offensive. As a working mom of 10 month old twins and a woman who works for a large company, I was one of the lucky few to actually get 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Because of the size of my company they provided disability insurance which paid me 5 weeks of the 12 after that I was on my own for the rest of the maternity leave, both money wise and medical insurance. I am one of the lucky few!!! It’s a sad fact that our country has one of the world’s worst maternity / paternity leave laws in the world, including both “developed” and “developing” countries.

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