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by Kama O’Connor, Milk Drunk Contributor

New and expectant parents have so much to consider as they welcome a new little one to their world: hospital or home birth; doula or midwife (or neither); breastmilk or formula (or both); how (or if) to sleep train; when (or if) to go back to work. 

The last concern a new parent should have to consider is whether their job will allow them to take any paid maternity or paternity leave, or whether the work environment they return to will be supportive and flexible as they navigate the dynamic world of working while parenting. 

We’ve all heard the horror stories—a mother finds out she’s pregnant (yay!), only to discover her employer doesn’t allow for any paid maternity leave unless the mom saves her PTO and FMLA and frankenstitches a post-birth plan with up to half pay. Or an adopting couple finally gets the call—they’re going to be parents (yay!), only to find out that their jobs won’t allow for maternity or paternity leave unless the couple has a natural birth. It’s devastating, but unfortunately, these aren’t modern birth urban myths. They’re real stories of employers forcing families to decide between building their family and building their career. 

In fact, the United States is currently the only (yes, the only) developed country without mandated paid maternity leave. An article explaining maternity for employers estimates that only 16% of private-industry workers have access to any type of paid maternity leave. Yet another disturbing statistic shows that only 9% of companies offer any kind of paid paternity leave. Add the fact that approximately 40% of households are run by women who are the primary breadwinner, and this presents a problem.

A study investigated why paid leave is good for business, and reported that moms who are offered paid maternity leave are six times more likely to return to that job for 9-12 months or more. Luckily, there are some businesses who understand this and are proactively challenging the system to do better by incorporating pro-parent workplaces that antiquated systems can learn a thing or two from. Here’s some of the best places to work if you’re a new parent (including why the company is so great in case you need to drop some hints to your boss).

American Express

No longer just a way to pay for your dream nursery, American Express now makes new parents’ dreams come true with an expanded twenty-weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers, as well as up to $35,000 to families working with a surrogate or adoption agency. This is not only progressive, but impressive as well. Consider looking with American Express for a job, or bringing these ideas to your company. Not every small business can afford to offset the costs of adoption of surrogacy, but they can consider offering paid time off for both new parents. 

Image courtesy of themuse.com

Patagonia

New moms rejoice! Patagonia is another progressive company who not only accepts that new moms are part of their business model, but an integral one at that. They’ve also consistently been listed on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list, rounding out their appeal. To support this, Patagonia currently offers breastfeeding moms who travel for work the option to bring their child with a companion or Patagonia-hired caregiver—all at the cost of the company. To top that, they have child care on-site in their headquarters. For parents who worry about the bond they might lose with their child if they go back to work, companies like Patagonia seem a welcome place to bridge that gap. Other small businesses can jump on board by offering to allow breastfeeding moms to bring their children to work, or offer an on-site care center for children. 

Image courtesy of Fortune Magazine (fortune.com)

IKEA

Okay, so not only do IKEA employees get an impressive 15% discount on their products (hint: think of what this can do towards helping stock your dream nursery), but all new parents regardless of gender, how the employee became a parent, or whether they are salaried or hourly, receive up to four months of paid maternity leave. This stood out to us because they not only included moms, dads, adoptive or surrogate parents, but both hourly and salary employees, closing the gap between the staff and management of their company. Consider letting your small business know that even though you may be an hourly employee, you deserve the same benefits as one who earns a consistent salary. 

Image courtesy of The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Johnson & Johnson

While this company has been touting baby products for decades, they are also at the forefront of the game when it comes to supporting families on the inside of their company as well. Johnson & Johnson has a moderate leave plan for new parents (17 weeks for mothers, 9 weeks for fathers), however, the language that caught our eye stated that their plans included every employee, regardless of form of new parent, including those of same-sex unions. Plus, a quick look at their website shows they support racial equity and relief for other disasters. We loved the progressive, inclusive language enough to add them to our list in the hopes other small businesses will take notice and up the ante of inclusivity in the eyes of parenthood.

Image courtesy of Johnson & Johnson (jnj.com)

Hilton

Hilton was ranked #1 by Fortune Magazine as the best place to work for parents, so we investigated to find out why. 96% of their employees ranked it is a great place to work, as opposed to the average of 56% of other industry employees, but for parents, they have recently become an industry leader with 12 weeks of paid leave, plus concierge and training services offered to new parents to help with the transition into working parenthood. This, combined with their partnership with a milk delivery service to transport breastmilk home for traveling mothers, brought Hilton up in our list. Smaller businesses could get on board with their progressive classes on being a successful working parent, as well as their out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to connecting new moms with their babies.

Image courtesy of greatplacetowork.com

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Kama O'Connor
Author

Kama O'Connor is a mother, runner, activist, and educator. She lives and works in Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband, daughter, puppy and three-quarters of a desert tortoise. She teaches Honors and Freshman writing at two local colleges and has an MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University. Her Pushcart-nominated writing has been featured in FlagLive, Military Spouse Magazine, Zone 3, Blue Monday Review, Bird's Thumb, Bellesa, Military Experience and the Arts, O-Dark-Thirty, and other publications. Her first two novels were released with Cobblestone Press in 2020 under the pen name of Kristine Lynn.

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