Why Your Entire Family Needs to Celebrate the Expanded Maternity Leave Act


A woman’s body goes through an incredible journey as she brings her baby into this world. This is an amazing feat in and of itself, not even taking into consideration all the possible risks and complications that can occur.

The current law on maternity leave benefits is Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1161 (as amended by R.A. No. 7322), which gives a mom a leave benefit of 60 days for normal delivery and 78 days for delivery by caesarian section (CS). This is actually below the international labor standard on maternity protection that provides 14 weeks of maternity leave benefit.

This is all we have had – 60/78 days to fully recover from the pains of childbirth, to bond with our newborns, to help our little ones transition from the comforts of our wombs to the sudden bright lights and magnified noises of the world, and of course, to ensure that we have everything in place before we return to work.

Well, hello there, Super Mamas! The Philippine law system must think we are superheroes.

Obviously, the 60/78 day period is not enough.

How are we expected to everything that is expected of us in such a short span of time? To master the arts of feeding, swaddling, diaper change, and baby burping? To become experts in all the tasks associated with taking care of a baby? To find someone to care for our babies while we’re at work?

On top of all the baby duties we’re expected to perform in this unrealistic amount of time, We are also expected to beat those baby blues and maybe even pretend that postpartum depression is not a real thing. We’re supposed to combat and triumph through all the physical, emotional, psychological, and yes, at times even spiritual healing in such a short span of time while being sleep deprived.

And what about the rest of the family? Let’s face it. Having a baby suddenly changes the routine of the entire household, and somehow, as mothers, we’re supposed to make sure everything falls back in place.

In 60/78 days, we have to know all these things like muscle memory. Tick tock.

Before we know it, our maternity leave is over, and we better get up, dress up, leave for work, and simply pray that whoever is left with our baby will do their very best.

That’s the thing though. No one can replace us. No one can give our babies the same comfort we give them. So aside from all the healing we need to do, we need time to bond with our newborns, cuddle with them, talk to them, soothe them, discover their different cries, and understand what they are trying to tell us.

Being with our babies is the best part, and yet, all we have is 60/78 days, and ta-da, back to work!

Fortunately, our lawmakers have finally recognized that we need more time to heal, to regain our physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual strength, AND that we need more time to be with our newborns.

Last March 6, 2017, the Philippines took a big step forward as our Senate signed and approved Senate Bill 1305 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, which extends the maternity leave to 120 days, regardless of whether the delivery is normal or by way of CS. Under this Senate Bill, a solo parent mom gets a maternity leave of 150 days.

This Senate Bill will be sent to the House of Representatives, which will be reviewed by the latter. Once the House approves it (assuming no more changes will be made), the Speaker and Senate President will sign it and the signed bill will be sent to the President for his approval. Once the President signs it, voila! It’s officially a law.

Despite the fact that the Bill has yet to become a law, there is already reason to celebrate.

Our lawmakers recognized the need to extend the maternity leave benefits. That alone is already the start of progress.

The extension to 120 days is much more than what we have been given since 1992, and it surely is a great gift as we celebrate women’s month! This is one big HURRAY! for women and our God-given gift of being able to bear children. This is a grant of greater respect for and acknowledgment of our strength, patience, and resilience.

At the same time, this is a triumph not just for moms, but also for our children. Newborns get to have the best care and full attention from us. Our babies get to discover the world little by little and hand-in-hand with us, and hopefully, they will feel less fear and confusion in the process, with immediate access to our soothing touch, familiar smell, and calming voice day in and day out. By the time our maternity leave ends, our babies will be four months old, and by then, we’d be enjoying several milestones with them with their more developed senses, attempts to make out sounds, and attempts to roll over.

This is a celebration for fathers too. While everyone is excited to see the newborn baby (“Oh gosh, I wonder whom he/she looks like!”) and is concerned about our recovery (“Try to sleep when the baby is sleeping!”), the dads are often left out and remain on the sidelines. The fact that our country offers them only seven days (7!!!) of paternity leave does not help.

But with the extended maternity leave benefit, fathers have room to worry less, taking comfort in the fact that their wives have more time to recuperate wholly. Fathers get to work with less emotional baggage to carry, without often thinking, “My wife’s not ready but she has to go back to work today. I hope the nanny won’t have problems without me and my wife home today. What if our baby keeps crying and the nanny won’t know what to do? Should I rush home already? Should I force my wife to rush home too?” We can foresee less stress at home. So to all dads, raise your glasses with us! (And let’s be hopeful that your paternity leave benefits will also be extended, as they should!)

At the end of the day, this is a celebration for the whole family. The extension of the maternity leave benefits to 120 days boosts the importance of quality time with our families, the importance of healing together, the importance of the efforts and attention we extend to newborn care, and the importance of love and support.

Hence, let’s continue the celebration as we hope and pray that the bill finally passes into a law.

120 days for Mama, 120 days for the family.


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