On Your Mark, Give Birth, Go Back to Work

By Jessica Deahl and Jennifer Ludden, NPR

On her first day back at work after giving birth, Tricia Olson drank copious amounts of coffee, stuffed tissues in her pocket, and tried not to cry. After all, her son Gus was just 3 weeks old.

Olson, 32, works for a small towing company and U-Haul franchise in Rock Springs, Wyo., and she could not afford to be away from work any longer.¬†“The house bill‚Äôs not going to pay itself,” she says, her voice breaking in an audio diary she kept as part of a series on the challenges facing working parents airing on NPR‚ÄôsAll Things Considered.

Olson is one of just four employees she says are “like family,” and like many U.S. workers, she has no paid leave at all: not for vacation, not if she gets sick, and certainly not for parental leave.¬†Normally, she‚Äôs the only one in the office to take calls. Her boss agreed to fill in for her for three weeks after the delivery, but she says “even just that … makes me feel guilty.”

Olson is hardly alone in returning to work so early. But this is a uniquely American problem.

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