Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let's improve maternity leave in the United States.

I am shouting out to all mothers who are unsatisfied with the current maternity leave laws in the United States.

When I applied for an academic sabbatical from my teaching job, I had every intention of returning to my position.  I loved and still love teaching with every ounce of my being.  However, due to the birth of my child, I decided to continue breastfeeding and did not want to send my baby to daycare. 


I struggled for 4 years to finally have him in my arms and I made the conscious decision not to return to work.

It feels as if I am being persecuted for my decision.  The school board informed me that I must pay back the money they gave me during my sabbatical.  This total comes to $13,000.  I know that I signed a contract stating that I would uphold my end of the deal.  The district granted my sabbatical and I would return the following school year.  No problem. 

No one prepared me for the emotions of finally holding my baby in my arms after four long years of trying.  I can't even begin to descibe the feelings that surged through me when I nursed him.  As the beginning of the school year crept closer, I wrestled with the thought of leaving him.  In my mind, babies are supposed to be with their mothers.  As a biologist, I cannot defend the notion of abandoning a small child that does not have a voice.  Nowhere in nature does an animal mother pump her milk, allow another animal to bottle feed her child, and be away from her child for over 30 hours a week. (If you know of a mammal that does this, please let me know.) It just did not bode well with me. 

I called the school board and told them I wanted to resign.  They said I couldn't resign because I had obligations fo fulfill.  I told them about the Family and Medical Leave Act and how I wanted to excercise my rights to use this.  I was told that I could not do that. I explained that I would be glad to return to work after a year of nursing my son.  After all, I am his food source.  I KNOW the man stuffs his face on a regular basis because I've walked into his office with a half-eaten sandwich on his desk.  So, it's okay for HIM to eat on demand, but I am not allowed to provide the best nourishment - warm breastmilk (directly from my breasts) for my child. 

I did some digging around and still haven't come up with any answers as to whether my civil rights have been violated or not.  If you know, please help me with this.  I need links, etc.

The school board said they would be in touch with me in regards to the next course of action taken.  A few weeks later, I received a letter stating that I must do one of the following:

1. Get 2 doctor's notes stating that I'm too messed up to work (my interpretation).
2. Pay back the money they paid me.

A deal is a deal.  I know that.  I am a person who lives on pinky-swears and fulfills my end of the deal. I could go and get a doctor's note stating that I'm nursing full time, which renders me incapable of returning to work.  But, then this conveys that breastfeeding is somehow an incapacitating behavior.  HOW?  I could not do that because breastfeeding is nourishing a child. As for simply returning the money, I had every intent of going back to work -- a year after nursing baby T.  Surely, a deal could be worked out.  We are all adults here.

No dice.

However, after much research it appears that some information has been withheld.  This is what I unearthed:


The return to service provision, as stated in Conditions of Sabbatical, Item C above, may be waived by the Board, after careful review and recommendation of the Superintendent, in any of the following instances:

A.        Any person whose spouse is transferred out of the parish (job requirement not  anticipated before leave) during the time the teacher is on leave or within one (1) year immediately following the termination of such leave (certification must be provided by spouse’s employer).

B.        Any person who receives a position to the State Department of Education, to another public school system within the State of Louisiana, or to a state-operated educational agency.  In such instances, the person granted sabbatical leave, upon the expiration of leave, shall be permitted to retain that portion of compensation paid by the state while he/she was on leave.  However, such person shall be required to reimburse the Board any compensation paid by the Board while on leave.

C.        Incapacitating illness, as certified by two (2) physicians.

D.        Such a waiver will be granted only when the circumstances which prevent the return of the employee to the system immediately following the leave were not anticipated by the employee at the time the leave was taken, and were beyond the control of the employee to prevent.

E.        Whenever, in the Board’s opinion, such a waiver would be in the best interest of the School District.
I know that I fall somewhere in regards to letter D.  I am currently in the process of writing a letter to the superintendent to see what can be done.

To boot, our school does not have a lactation or 'pumping room'.  Each classroom is equipped with security cameras.  The only option is to pump in the bathroom.  Gross.

I ask all mothers to write to their legislatures, state representatives, school board officials, governors, mayors, presidents, or anyone that will listen.  There is power in numbers and lets do our best to change these archaic perceptions towards breastfeeding. 

Let's see how the United States compares with other countries in regards to maternity leave.  Click chart for more details.  

I also asked if I could bring my child to work with me.  I can nurse and teach at the same time.  They said NO.  I did research on this area as well.  I appears that the Parenting in the Workplace Institute has identified over a hundred workplaces that allow mothers to bring their babies to work.  This idea is not new and should be considered. 

There are currently hundreds of mothers who are in teh same situation as myself, or are going to be in a similiar situation.  Nevertheless, our voices needed to be heard and our children come first.  We can be excellent workers and if employers realize that if a mother is able to provide nourisment and care for her hcild, then the productivity at work  wil not be compromised, why not aextend the maternity leave or work out a workable solution that will benefit both parties.

Until then, be part of the movement to improve maternity leave in the United States.  Heck, it doesn't have to be limited to the United States.  This movement can include other countries as well.  Let's show the world that mothers can unite anywhere.

I want to hear your stories.  Let me know what you're doing to change the current maternity leave laws or bringing your baby to work laws.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fight for the right to economic equality!

***Disclaimer: I do not believe the government should pay for mothers to breastfeed or for parent to stay home with their children.  The intent of this post is to fight for tax breaks for all citizens.  It is my understanding that tax breaks come from the people, not the government.***

Ever since I had to choose between taking care of Baby T and offering him the necessary nourishment through breastfeeding, I have been on a mission to fight for this right for all mothers. Babies need to nurse for at least a year to get the full benefits. In addition, babies need their mothers touch in order for their brains to develop correctly. Every mother should have the right to make the choice of staying home with her child if she chooses to do so. If you want to fight for economic equality for all families who opt to stay home to breastfeed, homeschool, or any other reasons whether they are personal or not, please send a letter to your congressperson.

Not sure who your representative is, click here. Not sure who your U.S. Senator is, click here. If you need to check who your Governor is, click here.

Because I was forced to decide and leave a ten year career of teaching, I am making it my personal mission to get as many rights for others that were/are in the same situation as me.

Here is a letter I wrote to Governor Bobby Jindal. Please note that I borrowed some parts from for the first half and added an original component for breastfeeding mothers:

Subject: Unfair Federal Tax Policy/Unfair Practices Towards Mothers

Dear Governor Jindal,

Would you propose legislation to end decades of economic discrimination against Traditional Families?

The following two tax policies unfairly subsidize families that use institutionalized child care vs. those that don't:

     • The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) from 1956 favors families using daycare up to a total of $2,100 per year for two or more children.*

     • The Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP) from 1981 favors families using day care by allowing them to use Flexible Savings Accounts to shield up to $5,000 per year from taxes.*

Especially in light of all the negative consequences of daycare, tax policies should not create incentives that favor paid child care over parental care of children.

In addition, would you propose legislation to enhance the Federal Family and Medical Act passed by President Obama in 2009?

The current policy states that Sections 6381 through 6387 of title 5, United States Code, as added by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act 1993 (FMLA) (Public Law 103-3, February 5, 1993), provides covered Federal employees with entitlement to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the following purposes:

     • the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and the care of such son or daughter;

     • the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care;

     • the care of spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee who has a serious health condition; or

     • serious health condition of the employee that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her positions.

However, many single or married parents cannot afford the 12 weeks without pay. Instead, the current policy needs to be amended from 12 weeks to 1-3 years. Rather than no pay, the creation of a plan that allows a parent who needs to breastfeed their children to do so without penalty is needed. Such action should come in the form of the tax breaks as stated earlier in the letter, and changing the 12 week unpaid leave to a 1 to 3 year reward program.


Jasmine Fuselier, PhD