The United States is one of three countries in the world to not require paid maternity leave and is the only first-world country to not have paid family leave. According to a National Women's Law Center report from 2009, only 13% of health insurance plans available to a 30-year-old woman in the United States have maternity coverage. This lack of coverage creates large disparities in the existing gender gap.
Under the current policies, being a woman is a "pre-existing condition," and thus, the fact that a woman (not the man) will definitely bear the child means that either the pregnancy cannot be covered or the price for the plan will be higher.
Immediately, this creates a large economic disadvantage for a woman: she loses potential pay during the pregnancy and post-pregnancy process and she cannot develop the same skills as her male-counterpart. She is also forced to cope with the additional consequences on her body, while dealing with the same expectations as her non-pregnant coworkers. This disadvantage is not only a short-term problem, however. It sets a precedent for future bosses and employers and enables them to justify lower salaries because of the lost experience during pregnancy.
The lack of paid family leave in general also disproportionately targets women, as they have an uneven burden in family care: 80% of mothers are mainly responsible for their children’s health. In addition to their own medical needs, many women must manage work, personal health, and their children's health. When no federal policies support paid family and medical leave, these individuals are challenged to balance all of these responsibilities.
The lack of maternity coverage also further entrenches disparity for women of a lower socioeconomic class. The medical costs of a pregnancy are expensive, and taking off unpaid time from work exacerbates the problem. Women who are uninsured or simply do not have as much money or access to care are largely burdened with these added expenses.
Most importantly, these policies are entrenched in patriarchal roots and continue to control a woman's reproductive choices. It puts many women in difficult positions, and often, these individuals must choose between being mothers and progressing their careers. And the latter is a choice often frowned upon. Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle, as a woman is inevitably stunted in her career just because she and her husband decided to have a baby. The lack of coverage promotes traditional roles for mothers, and ultimately, they are destined to have lowered salaries and lesser job prospects later in their lives.
The burden of being a working mom is incredibly heavy. Mother's Day is a celebration to appreciate the most impressive people on this planet. However, this day should also serve as a symbol and reminder of the challenges mothers have had to conquer. Many have battled these tough choices and have had to overcome the consequences of being mothers. This day is not just flowers and breakfast-in-bed: it stands to combat the discriminatory practices that mothers must endure.