As a dad and one of the many workers for whom a state paid leave program made all the difference for my family, I am joining the call for Congress to make paid leave a reality for every American worker who needs it.
I have been a dedicated early childhood education professional for over 12 years, focusing on young children with a wide range of special needs. Recently, my own son’s health and special needs became significantly more complex, requiring the fullest attention of both my partner and myself throughout the day for many weeks.
At first, we were worried and deeply stressed, straining at the prospect of figuring out how to juggle managing our son’s serious health needs, while also maintaining our livelihoods and our family unit as a whole. It was at this time that I learned New York state had a paid family leave program. A friend recommended reaching out to the advocacy group, A Better Balance, which helped us understand our rights under the program.
We were relieved: We would not have to choose between our paychecks and our responsibilities as parents. Having paid leave saved our family because we had freedom to focus on being good parents, were still able to pay our bills, and did not harm our ability to return to our employers.
Having paid leave saved our family because we had freedom to focus on being good parents, were still able to pay our bills, and did not harm our ability to return to our employers.
Whether someone is navigating a child’s serious health needs, a cancer diagnosis, a parent’s stroke, the birth of a new child, or so many other personal events that shape our lives, all U.S. workers—not just those like me who happen to live in one of the nine states or D.C. that has passed a paid leave law—deserve to be there for their loved ones when we are needed most.
More and more, families like mine across the country are experiencing a first-hand need for this vital, invaluable protection. We are well past the antiquated and stereotypical notion of caregiving being a “woman’s job,” and we cannot hang onto outdated concepts of what an appropriate work-life balance used to look like. Regardless of your reality, caregiving is demanding and exhausting, and having paid job protection through New York Paid Family Leave has been critical to the ongoing and future success of my family.
We are well past the antiquated and stereotypical notion of caregiving being a “woman’s job,” and we cannot hang onto outdated concepts of what an appropriate work-life balance used to look like.
Now Congress is considering the Build Back Better Act, which includes a robust, inclusive, paid family and medical leave program. A national paid family leave program is truly an essential component of any Build Back Better plan.
I hope you will join me in taking at least a few minutes to reach out to your representatives to say that alongside advocates at organizations like A Better Balance, we urge Congress to ensure that all people in this country, no matter where they live or work, can have the protection and peace of mind that paid leave gave my family. Passing a federal paid leave program will result in financial stability, peace of mind, healthier families, a stronger economy, and ultimately the freedom for parents and caregivers to better protect their families—which sincerely feels like the most American thing we can do.