Three-quarters of women entering the workforce today will become pregnant at least once while employed. However, right now (according to a US Department of Labor survey), one in four American women return to work within 2 weeks of giving birth.
In the private-sector workforce, first-time mothers who have access to paid maternity leave are more likely than mothers who do not to return to work and to return to the same employer. Additionally, a mother’s emotional well-being and mental health can play an important role in the quality of care she is able to provide to her infant. An appropriate duration of maternity leave can help prevent maternal depression and stress.
Women also still provide the majority other unpaid caregiving in the home, whether it is for a child, an elderly parent or other family members.
And women’s incomes matter. Women are the primary or co-breadwinners in more than two-thirds of families. Without universal policies like paid family leave, women continue to face real barriers to staying in the workforce and maintaining their earnings when family caregiving needs arise. This leads to both short-term and long-term economic insecurity, wage gaps, and wealth gaps for women and the families who rely upon them.
This unmet need for paid family leave is nearly twice as great among women of color and low-wage workers. Women of color, in particular, are more likely than their white counterparts to be a single heads-of-household, where the need to provide family care and a stable income are greater.
It’s time for moms to benefit from paid family and medical leave.
 Source: Rutgers Center for Women and Work, January 2012