The state of paid family leave in the US is woeful at best, even earning a scathing send-up on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, a segment that starkly illuminates the hypocrisy surrounding America's sentiments toward motherhood. For example, things like Mothers Day practically fetishize motherhood, while many women who actually have babies are not provided with remotely enough time off from work to heal physically or bond with their new children.
There is no federally mandated paid leave policy for new parents, and while some companies lavish new parents with benefits (such as ample paid time off plus $4,000 in "Baby Cash" for new parents who work at Facebook), too many others offer meager parental leave, often at a percentage of the employee's salary (or totally unpaid). Facing the choice between taking longer unpaid leave or returning to work soon after giving birth, some new moms are now creating a third option for themselves: crowdfunding maternity leave.
Rather than curating traditional baby registries for diapers and cribs, new parents solicit money to supplement their parental leave on sites like Babylist. Since May 2016, over 200 "leave funds" have been created on Babylist, with an average cash goal of $2,000, according to The Atlantic's examination of this trend. The article continues:
Soon-to-be parents asking for money instead of gifts isn't new. But the practice of raising money specifically for parental leave has a different tone. Many women who started maternity funds spoke about the inadequate nature of paid leave in the US. Changes in public or company policy can feel far away, especially for expectant parents who have a more concrete deadline than politicians and HR offices. Establishing a maternity-leave fund to solicit help from family and friends is one market solution that feels immediate and tangible.
Critics may decry this tactic as coarse or tacky, in the same way that wedding cash registries and honeymoon funds have been criticized with the old argument, "Why do we have to pay for your vacation/time off from work?" But then again, if a family would prefer cash to offset an unpaid leave from work (instead of receiving nine more copies of Goodnight Moon), what's the difference? Rather than quibbling over whether or not it's crass to have a maternity leave fund, perhaps we should worry about the sad fact that new parents feel the need for one.