In his latest ploy to woo the popular vote, Donald Trump showed his true colors as a progressive just to the left of the Clintons. The Republican presidential nominee has now proposed to extend six weeks of paid maternity leave to all working mothers. This goes one step beyond the twelve weeks of unpaid maternity leave provided for in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. That legislation was a major part of Bill Clinton’s agenda in his first term in office.
If there were any remaining doubt that the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans has been entirely wiped out by the candidacy of Donald Trump, this policy makes it clear. Trump is not for the free market. He is not in favor of allowing employers to decide their own policies.
Trump is not a supporter of traditional families, and he certainly does not care about infants, who need much more time to bond with their mothers than a measly six weeks.
The maternity leave is a trap for both employers and families. It keeps employers from hiring employees who will dedicate themselves to the job. It keeps mothers from deciding to stay home with children for the first three years of the child’s life. And it harms children in more than one way.
Children are hurt when they are separated from their mothers. But they are also hurt when their teacher takes six weeks out of the school year to have a new baby and then comes back, leaving the children in the care of substitute teachers. Continuity is important not only in the maternal bond, but also in the formation of an attachment to a primary teacher in one of the lower grades.
Even when a child has a full time mother at home, irreparable harm can ensue when a competent preschool or kindergarten teacher is replaced by unqualified substitutes for as long as twelve weeks in the middle of a school year.
Feminists will tell you that maternity leave is one of the ways to even the playing field for high achieving professional women who might otherwise not be able to compete with their male counterparts. But the fact is that high achieving professional women can hire nannies who will act as stable maternal substitutes with whom a child can form an attachment.
The majority of women, however, are working at low paying jobs, often as caretakers for other people’s children. When a kindergarten teacher in the public schools takes a paid leave of six weeks or more in the middle of the school year, she is not just hurting her own children. She is harming every child in her class.
When my daughter started kindergarten, her teacher showed up for the first day of class six months pregnant. The teacher was married and had several other children. If maternity leave were not a right she could claim, she undoubtedly would have sat that school year out, to the benefit of her own children, as well as ours.
Another woman, one who did not happen to be six months pregnant at the time, would have ended up teaching the class. But as this teacher had the right to claim the leave, she took advantage of the system. She taught for less than three months and then took about eight weeks off.
The students in her class were forced to put up with different substitutes, as no one could commit to the entire period of the maternity leave. It must have been difficult for the new mother to tear herself from her newborn, when she finally did return to work.
But it was not just her own child who suffered from this policy. There was a class full of kindergartners who received substandard care, thanks to the unpaid maternity leave that their teacher took. If this were to become paid leave under Donald Trump, then not only would the children be forced to deal with their teacher’s maternity leave, but also the local school district would end up taxing us all in order to pay for this.
Under maternity leave, everybody suffers. Our children, their children, all are sacrificed so that each mother can leave her own children in some other mother’s care. It’s like playing musical chairs with children’s minds and souls.
Donald Trump is not a conservative. He is no different from Hillary Clinton in terms of his social aims. His policies will ruin the economy and continue to hurt all our children — both the ones belonging to working mothers and the ones that many working mothers take care of for a living.