Why John Oliver's Rant About Unpaid Maternity Leave Is Right On

I had a great Mother's Day this year—brunch, flowers, the works. But perhaps my favorite present came that night, when I watched John Oliver's 12-minute tirade against our country's pathetic maternity leave policy. (Seriously, it was better than a stack of my favorite pancakes—and that's saying a lot.)

In the beautifully constructed argument on his weekly late night show, the British host railed against the fact that Papua New Guinea was the only other country to not offer paid leave. That the Family and Medical Leave Act only provides 12 measly weeks of unpaid leave and only to 60 percent of the workforce. That in order to take time off after having a baby, many women (myself included) end up cobbling together a patchwork of unpaid leave, short-term disability, vacation time, and sick days. "This is not how it's supposed to work," he said. "Mothers shouldn't have to stitch together time to recover from childbirth the same way that we plan four-day weekends in Atlantic City." (You can say that again!)

And all bets are off if your baby is born premature: Oliver pointed to one new mom whose baby was born 6 weeks early but only had 4 weeks' leave. After an agonizing debate, she and her husband decided to save the time off for when their newborn was out of the NICU. So five days after giving birth, she left the baby at the hospital and reported back to work. "It was like a piece of me got left in that hospital, and I had to pretend that I'm okay," she said.

As Oliver pointed out, the root of the problem can be traced back to our lawmakers, who have been notoriously slow to embrace any kind of protections for new moms -- this despite the successes in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island (and maybe even one day soon Chicago). "You can't go on and on about how much you support mothers and then fail to support legislation that makes life easier for them," he said. It ain't Hallmark material, but it's music to this mom's ears.

Check out the entire segment below:

I want to hear from you: Were you satisfied with the amount of paid maternity leave you were given?

Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Image of John Oliver courtesy of Shutterstock

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