A Message From Senator Gillibrand: The USA Needs A National Paid Family Leave Program

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A Message From Senator Gillibrand: The USA Needs A National Paid Family Leave Program

Kirsten Gillibrand

When I gave birth, I needed time. Time to recover. Time to learn how to nurse and care for my baby.

But if you’re a working mom, then odds are you didn’t have that time. Instead, after a very short stay at home with your new baby, you probably had to make this choice: You either remained home without a paycheck — and maybe even risked getting fired for missing work — or you rushed back to work before you felt ready. In other words, working mothers in America are getting a raw deal.

Some of you might have found a way to cobble together enough vacation and sick days to stay home for a few extra weeks. A small number of you might have even used the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but that doesn’t pay anything during time off. Some companies and states already have paid leave plans that cover all their workers. But most employers and most states don’t.

We need to fix this. The paid leave laws we have now are completely outdated, and totally ignore the huge number of moms in the workplace. That’s because these laws weren’t written by working mothers. So let’s change that. Use your voice and tell your story, because I promise you, people will listen and learn from you.

All of you have the power to push back against old workplace rules that still don’t accommodate working parents. Here are a few ideas: Encourage your own employer to change the paid leave policy where you work. Call your local government leaders and tell them your hometown needs a citywide paid leave plan. Demand that Congress pass a national paid leave law for all working Americans.

I was still a lawyer when I gave birth to Theo, my older son (he’s 13 now). My law firm didn’t have a parental leave policy when I started there, so I wrote one. I was lucky that my firm let me write a parental leave policy, but I know that many working parents don’t have that opportunity. If we had a national paid leave program, it wouldn’t even be a question.

When I gave birth to Henry, my younger son, I was already in Congress (he’s 8). We showed my colleagues that an office doesn’t fall apart when a working parent needs some extra time to be with their baby. In fact, the opposite happened when my own staff needed to take leave to be with their families: Morale and loyalty went up. This is obvious to any working parent who’s had access to paid leave, but it was news to a lot of my colleagues.

As a working mom in the U.S. Senate, I know how badly our country needs a national paid leave plan that covers everyone who works — including, of course, working parents. My most important legislation is my paid leave bill: the FAMILY Act. The FAMILY Act would guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid leave with two-thirds of your paycheck. It would cover all workers, whether you work for a huge corporation or you’re self-employed. And not surprisingly, it now has more support from other Senators than ever before, because they’ve realized that in the year 2017, a lot of mothers are working.

I’m proud to be one of the millions of working mothers in this country (and I’m also proud to be the first U.S. Senator in history to nurse while serving in the Senate). Our perspective, our stories, and our voices must be heard. So call your member of Congress, post on Facebook, and tell everyone you know why we need paid leave. There are still plenty of members of Congress who don’t understand how important paid leave is for new parents and their families. So raise your voices and tell them exactly how important it is!

Kirsten Gillibrand is a U.S. Senator from New York and proud mom of Theo (13) and Henry (8). She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Off the Sidelines and is fighting to pass a bill, called the FAMILY Act, which would create a national paid leave program for every worker in the country. She is also the first U.S. Senator in history to nurse while serving in the Senate.