For solutions on how your company can be a better place for working parents, check out Parents At Work, a joint initiative from Scary Mommy and Fatherly.
I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest stresses as a parent has centered around money, work, and finances. When I was a new mom without any guaranteed maternity leave, I was super stressed about taking the time I needed to heal after birth and bond, care for, and learn to breastfeed my baby. Then, when I re-entered the workforce, I worried about what would happen if my child or another family member ever got sick for a long period of time, or if I needed to take any kind of medical leave for myself.
I am not alone in these fears. For many American families, the financial and emotional toll of not having any kind of safety net for times like these is a huge source of stress. Often, it’s also a major financial strain. Every day, families go into debt because they have to leave jobs or take unpaid leaves of absence in order to care for their families or themselves.
I say “American” because this is a uniquely American thing. Most industrialized countries have these types of safety nets built into their laws for parents—from paid maternity and paternity leaves, to paid medical leaves of absence. In Estonia, for example, new mothers can take up to 18 months of leave after having a baby—and yes, all 18 months are paid.
In America, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees time off for new parents, but (and this is a big “but”), only 60% of parents are qualified for this time off, according to The Guardian. Not only that, but this is not paid leave.
So yes, you may be able to take time off, if you’re lucky. But even if you do, you better have savings available, because there’s no guarantee you’ll be collecting any pay during this time. (Yes, some companies do offer paid leave, but this isn’t written into federal law, which allows many workplaces to simply not offer this.)
The COVID pandemic has brought America’s defunct family leave policies into sharp focus even more. With many schools shuttered and daycare options severely limited, many parents (mostly women) have had to quit their jobs in order to care for their children. And for the first time in a long time, the U.S. government has had to say, “Oh wait, we probably need to give these folks some financial support.”
The financial support given to American families via The Cares Act and The American Rescue Plan have been awesome, and much needed. But this has all brought to light the fact that we need this type of thing even during normal times.
For these reasons and more, many of us are saying, “enough is enough.” And it’s not just parents: companies and businesses are seeing that paid leave helps keeps their employees happy and secure—and also raises company morale and retention across the board. As such, they are realizing that this is not an issue they can stay silent about.
In fact, today over 185 companies—including giants like Pinterest, Patagonia, Levi’s, Eventbrite, Once Upon a Farm (Jennifer Garner’s baby food company), and Hello Bello (Kristen Bell’s diaper company)—signed an open letter to President Biden and other prominent lawmakers urging them to create a national paid family leave plan and add it the upcoming economic recovery plan.
The letter—sponsored by Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US)—is fantastic, and a breath of fresh air.
“We cannot emerge from this pandemic and remain one of only two countries in the world with no form of national paid leave,” the letter rightly points out. “We need a policy that is inclusive and that protects all workers equally, regardless of what kind of work they do, where they live, or whom they love.”
Yes. Amen to that.
Scary Mommy connected with Alison Crawford, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Ripple, one of the co-signers of the letter, to get some thoughts on why companies like hers are rallying together to make family leave a reality in America.
“Paid leave is critical for our nation’s economic recovery,” says Crawford. “This letter is calling for Congress to create and pass a federal policy around paid leave, so we can build stronger, more equitable workplaces for families and businesses while growing our economy. More than 75% of businesses agree that a national paid leave policy would help them be better positioned to weather future public health emergencies and economic crises.”
For Crawford and so many other working parents, this issue isn’t just political. It’s personal, too.
“Neither of my parents received paid parental leave (one being a teacher and the other a firefighter) and that stressful situation shouldn’t be a part of welcoming a new family member,” Crawford shares with Scary Mommy. “As a parent myself, I saw firsthand the difference paid leave can make during the first crucial months of having a child.”
Crawford understands that her situation is not the norm, but wants to do everything in her power to make it something that is available to all American parents. “I am proud to work to roll out equal parental leave for the second time in my career, first during my time at Uber and now for all Ripple employees,” Crawford says. “It’s not lost of me that this is a huge privilege that should be available to all parents (regardless of your vocation) so I will continue to work with PL+US to gain this type of benefit on a federal scale.”
We are so on board with this. It’s about damn time. Actually, it’s way past time for this to happen. Like many, I’m hoping that having a new administration that wants to put families first, will help push this issue along and bring it in the forefront.
If you work for a company that wants to join the movement, you can use this link to sign on the letter. And if you want to send a personal note to your leadership team advocating that your company sign on, they can do that here.