More Mothers Are Getting Paid Maternity Leave

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Despite being paid for leave, some women skimp on maternity time to head back to work.

Thanks to Bravo, housewives are a big hit on the reality TV circuit these days. But in real life, unscripted women are hard at work balancing being wives, mother and full-time employees.

A study by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that a majority of first-time, working mothers are receiving paid maternity leave. This is the first time this has happened since the government began tracking that data, which was back in the early 80s. Women with college educations reap even more of a benefit; ladies with bachelor's degrees or higher are more likely to get paid maternity leave than those with less than a high school diploma.

Interestingly, it was also found that despite that perk of paid leave, many mothers are working later and later into their pregnancies — and returning to work sooner than mothers in previous generations did.

It's all a reflection of economic struggles, according to experts in the field. More and more often, families are relying on women to be primary breadwinners, which is a huge shift from that archaic "women as homemakers, men as moneymakers" marriage worldview. In addition, working up until the delivery and returning to the office quickly sends a signal to employers that a woman is "dedicated," according to some experts. Cost of childcare — and ability to afford it — is also a huge factor.

Arguments could be made for and against these developments. On the plus side, it's great that more employers are realizing the importance of maternity leave and, as a result, are paying their employees for the duration of the leave. However, it could also be argued that women who aren't taking advantage of their full leave period are missing time that could be spent connecting with their newborns — and precious recuperation time.

What do you think? For how long should women take maternity leave?

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