Here's What Parental Leave Is Really Like Around The World

"If a woman comes back to work before her child is 2, society here judges her to be a bad mom."

Parental leave policies vary widely around the world — from zero government-mandated paid leave in the US to 87 paid weeks in Estonia.

We asked the BuzzFeed Community what it's like taking leave to care for a new child where you live.

Some countries offer long leaves to mothers, but little or no time to fathers, and reflect cultural beliefs about family structures and whether women with young children should work. Others allow families the flexibility to split the time off between two parents.

If you're a parent in the US, it may be hard to read about other countries' policies without feeling your blood boil. Some US companies competing for highly skilled talent have recently upped their benefits. But for most workers, especially low-income ones, the only option is unpaid leave — though not everyone is eligible and many who are can't afford to take it.

We heard from hundreds of parents all over the world. Here are some of their experiences.

1. "If a woman comes back to work before her child is 2, society here judges her to be a bad mom who doesn't want to care for the kid."

2. "There is even a motorbike courier service in Jakarta to take breast milk home from your office so your baby can have it while you work."

3. "I was answering emails 24 hours after my C-section, running the office four days later, and on site as soon as I could walk without major pain."

4. "Parental leave gave me the time to ensure that our son [who was 3 when we adopted him] knew that we weren't going anywhere."

5. "My husband took leave but his work only allowed for two weeks — which actually pissed me off because ... it leaves me having to take a longish break, which could impact my career."

6. "We were both agreed on taking 50% each, as we definitely wanted the baby to be with us equally as much."

7. "I only took three days off [when my wife gave birth]. I do sometimes feel very guilty for that time in our lives."

8. "Longer leaves for fathers would improve young women’s career perspectives, since child care would not be solely the women’s 'responsibility.'"

9. "I am so fortunate to live in a country where it is normal to take two years off and be able to share this how we wish."

10. "I wish leave in Australia was more evenly shared between parents."

11. "Here it's normal to take three years of maternity leave."

12. "Having leave allowed me to seek professional help for postpartum depression without the fear and pressure of going back to work."

13. "I felt quite a bit of internal pressure to come back, although I don't think it was completely unfounded. I work in a male-dominated industry."

14. "I was subject to maternity discrimination, not in an overt or malicious manner, but a slow-burning demotion and lack of opportunities."

15. "I worried about going back to work every single day of my leave."

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Parts of Olga's response were translated from Russian.

If your country isn't listed here, we'd like to hear from you — you can leave a comment below about what parental leave is like where you live.

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