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How Long Can America Afford to Wait for Paid Family Leave?

The US is one of the few countries with no national paid leave. Here’s why that’s still the case—and how it can be changed.

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Millions of children are born in the United States each year—more than 3.5 million, to be precise. Which means that each year, over 3.5 million newborn babies need to be cared for through sleepless nights and exhausting days, all while the birthing parent recovers from intense physical and emotional trauma from pregnancy and childbirth. If that isn’t already enough of a challenge, the U.S. has thrown an extra wrench in things: America is one of only six countries in the world that offers no national paid-leave policy. Yes, you read that right. No one who gives birth in this country is entitled by law to any paid leave from work whatsoever.

As a result, one in four women living in the US returns to work within two weeks of giving birth. They might be bleeding, swollen, sleep deprived, and barely functioning. But in order to provide for their families—or simply keep their jobs—they will be working.

This unconscionable reality was the catalyst for my work at Glamour over the last two years. I’ve been documenting the real life experiences of women and families living through one of the most challenging periods of their lives and campaigning for the government to pass America’s first ever paid family leave policy.

The articles and videos below give a comprehensive look at how families are managing without a safety net, why now, yes now, is the right time to change that, and how you (yes, you!) can help make that a reality.

Image by kieferpix / Getty Images

28 Days in the Lives of Eight Women Postpartum

Natasha Pearlman and Ruhama Wolle

“This is an extraordinary window into the first 28 days postpartum, and the impact the lack of paid maternity leave has on so many families. The eight women in the project shared everything, no holds barred—from grainy feeding videos shot at 3am, to photos of blood clots, and c-section scars. This story might make you cry, but it will also change you—and inspire you to call for change.” -Natasha Pearlman, Executive Editor

The Time to Pass Paid Leave Is Now

Natasha Pearlman

Ruhama Wolle: “This piece highlights the glaring absence of a national paid-leave policy in the United States, despite the physical and emotional challenges faced by women and birthing people during pregnancy and childbirth. What truly resonates is the emphasis on the power of storytelling in shaping policy. By sharing personal experiences of everyday women, politicians and public figures, we get a glimpse into the real-life impact of lacking paid leave.”

Karlie Kloss: ‘Postpartum, My Mental Health Was Extremely Vulnerable’

Natasha Pearlman

RW: “Despite her private nature, Karlie Kloss recognizes the significance of speaking out and sharing her own postpartum struggles to highlight the inequalities that exist. She is also joining the rally call for bipartisan support and increased awareness of the fight for paid leave, and the importance of prioritizing the well-being of women during this vulnerable time.”



NP: “Here’s your opportunity to call for change—sign our petition to Congress to pass the country’s first ever national paid leave policy. Your voice matters, and truly can help make this law. President Biden has already called for paid leave for all in his State of the Union address, and the first ever paid leave bipartisan working group launched in 2023. The momentum is there, and we’re not giving up.”

Parents, You’re Not Broken. Childcare Is.

Meredith Chamberlain

NP: “Without paid leave, parents are forced back to work far sooner than any of us want. But who's caring for the kids? This fantastic package examines the crippling cost of childcare, and the taboos that surround those who speak up about it.”

Explore Our Data

World Policy Center

NP: “Sometimes you have to see the stats to believe them. Toggle through all the countries in the world here, to see how much paid leave governments offer for their citizens. Some of the data will truly surprise you and make you wonder why the US is failing its families.”

Natasha Pearlman and Ruhama Wolle

Natasha Pearlman is an award-winning journalist, and Glamour’s Executive Editor, driven by a mission to tell women’s stories and campaign for change. She is the global editorial lead for Glamour’s Women of the Year awards, and conceived and spearheaded the ASME-award winning paid leave project 28 Days. A Brit by birth, she now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two daughters.

Ruhama Wolle is Glamour's Special Project Editor. She gained recognition for spearheading the transformative #ShareTheMicNow campaign in 2020, amplifying the voices of Black women amidst global unrest over racial injustice. She continues to lead impactful projects like College Women of the Year and has contributed to notable editorial features, including the ASME award-winning project 28 Days advocating for a national paid leave policy.