“A Long Five Years” features a fictional pregnant woman named Lauren, who happens to be 260 weeks pregnant. Yep. That’s no typo. (Just try to imagine for a moment how that might feel: A 5-year-old child residing in your womb. Ouch!) No one can actually be pregnant with a preschooler, of course. But this over-the-top depiction of what life might be like with a boulder for mid-section makes a valid point about parental leave for the majority of Americans.
See, “Lauren” has chosen to remain pregnant until her child’s sixth birthday in order to save up sick days and vacation days — so she can actually afford time off after giving birth. That’s because, in the U.S., new parents are guaranteed a grand total of zero paid days off from work after welcoming a child into the family. Nada. The land of the free and the home of the brave is, in fact, the only industrialized nation to provide no mandated paid parental leave.
“Lauren can’t afford time off work to have her baby, so she’s decided to just stay pregnant,” the voiceover explains. “Neither Lauren nor her husband have paid family leave. He used up his vacation days caring for his elderly mother. So she’s stockpiling her vacation and sick days so she can give birth when her baby is 6 years old … Besides, what’s the better option — America having a national paid leave policy? That’s crazy.”
It’s funny, but it’s not. Yes, it’s hilarious to see how a 5-years-pregnant woman might carry out her day. (Downing a bottle of antacids, needing three people to help her out of her chair, a co-worker having the backbone to say, “You’re so cute!” in passing at the office.) But the sad reality of unpaid parental leave in the U.S., during one of the most vulnerable times in a family’s life, isn’t funny. Not even a little.
“Millions of people like Lauren are being forced to choose between their health, families, and jobs every day. The consequences for families, businesses and our economy are real,” Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, told AdFreak. “Lawmakers who claim to value families need to take a hard look at our nation’s truly absurd paid leave crisis, and commit to advancing a comprehensive solution.”