I never got to do the whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing. I was too busy trying to pull off my own “keep a roof over our heads when the baby sleeps” thing.
You see, I had no paid parental leave when my daughter was born. Working from home was really the very best option available to me (and one I was grateful to have). I did what I needed to do, pulling my computer out whenever her little eyes fluttered shut.
I didn’t really have a choice. As a single mom, I couldn’t afford to take her infancy off without pay. I had to be a mom to a newborn while still bringing money in, mostly by sacrificing my own sleep at every turn.
I’m certainly not the only parent who has had to make similar sacrifices. Among 41 developed nations, the United States is the only one to not mandate any type of paid parental leave. In fact, we are one of only five countries in the world not offering such leave. The other four are Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.
I was lucky that I was able to make working from home an option after my daughter was born—that I even had that option available to me at all. Far too many parents have to return to work almost immediately after their children are born, scrambling to find childcare options so that they can continue to put food on the table.
Almost a quarter of employed mothers are back at work within two weeks of giving birth. They are surviving on far too little sleep, barely given time to bond with their newborns, and they definitely aren’t getting the time to heal that their bodies truly need.
Nothing about any of that is okay.
In news that isn’t at all shocking, but is still totally devastating, all of these issues disproportionately impact already-marginalized communities. Because we are a country that apparently likes to keep people down, rather than providing assistance where that assistance is needed most.
We don’t value families, and we definitely don’t value families in marginalized communities. And it shows.
Paid parental leave has been blocked in the United States up to this point mostly because the right doesn’t like anything they see as being a handout. They care about protecting fetuses, but don’t seem to care nearly as much about protecting the infants those fetuses become.
Because that’s the thing: Paid parental leave is better for everyone. In the workplace, it improves employee morale and employee retention, therefore reducing the cost of finding new employees. And in the family unit, paid family leave reduces the rate of postpartum depression and pediatric abuse.
In other words: it gives parents time to adjust to their new roles in a healthy way, so that the family unit as a whole is better able to thrive. And that then translates into the adult members of that family also thriving in the workplace when they return.
It’s better for babies, better for parents, better for workplaces, and best of all (at least as far as the right should be concerned): better for the economy.
So why are we so far behind on something that can have such far-reaching benefits? Something that practically every other country in the world already provides?
It’s because politicians suck and somehow manage to make everything partisan when it really shouldn’t be.
Any halfway intelligent person capable of understanding research, and empathetic enough to want what is best for human beings in general (you know, people who ACTUALLY value protecting human life), should be in favor of paid parental leave. No matter which side of the aisle they typically vote for.
So please, for the love of all that is holy, get on this, President Biden. You’ve already extended leave for families dealing with COVID-19. Why not take it a step further and recognize that people have needed this option for so much longer than the pandemic has been around?
We are failing our families. Which means we are failing the next generation of kids.
And we need a president ready and willing to recognize that, and rectify it.
Here’s hoping you can be that guy.