It's Time to Do Something About ​​Paid Family Leave​ in America​

Thursday, August 13, 2015

"We’re introducing an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads that allows them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption," as stated in the August 4th Netflix blog post.

Whoa...did I just read that right? Up to a year of paid leave for both moms and dads? Did I go to sleep and somehow wake up in Europe? Because this can't be happening in the United States, the only country other than Oman (a country I've never even heard of) and Papua New Guinea to not guarantee paid maternity leave according to a 2014 United Nations study.

The report, conducted by the International Labor Union, also states that the US offers new mothers fewer weeks of maternity leave than any other Western country. Way to go 'Merica! Obviously, I am less than thrilled with our country's treatment of new working mothers and am in a state of ​wonder at Netflix's new policy, which not only creates opportunities for new working mothers, but new working fathers as well. Talk about a giant leap forward.

Some are predicting that this plan may backfire, but regardless, Netflix has at least brought this very important but rarely looked at topic into the national spotlight, challenging others to step up their game​.​ By setting the bar so high, maybe Netflix will spur companies who never even considered offering leave, to at least start thinking about it - which is a small, but very imperative, step in the right direction.

"Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home," asserts Netflix in their post. Shocking. As a working mom, I can state first hand that I worried a lot the first year of my daughter's life. Leaving her at just three months of age to go back to work was one of the hardest decisions of my life. She was so tiny and she still needed me. But I was leaving her because I wasn't ready to stop working either.

I absolutely feel blessed to have a career I am proud of and genuinely enjoy. I also know that I am extremely lucky that my company offered pay for part of my maternity leave, and that my husband and I were then able to live on one salary for the remainder of the time I stayed home. I can't imagine if I was the sole source of income for my family and I had no choice but to go back to work after only six weeks. It would have broken my heart. But even so, looking back, I wish I could have spent more time at home with my daughter when she was little.

Several factors including finances, fear of losing my job and fear of losing an important part of who I was as a person, pushed me back to the office. I 100% believe that if I had been offered a year of time "to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances" my quality of life and, in the end, quality of work would have both improved. There should be more options for new mothers to balance work and motherhood so that women feel empowered by being working mothers rather than constantly stressed and worried they are letting everyone down. ​

I applaud Netflix and the other Silicon Valley companies for their new and trending parental leave policies, but it can't stop there. We as a nation need to be talking about this and actually doing something. And wouldn't you know, there is something we can do. We can pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) of 2013, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. The bill would establish a national paid family leave insurance program to offer 12 weeks of paid leave for reasons of childbirth, serious illness, or care for a sick family member.

This is not asking for the moon here people. In fact, this isn't even asking for a space ship to get to the moon. This is pretty much the equivalent of ​asking for a seat on the bus that will take you to Cape Canaveral where they have the space ship that takes people to the moon. New mothers deserve the right to at least start this crazy, emotional, difficult, life-altering journey of raising a child on the right foot.

​All this Act is asking for is 12 weeks to care for an innocent little human being and not have to worry about how to pay the rent or buy groceries at the same time. It's about big picture thinking and committing to a person, not the hours they give you. In a country filled with those who love to tout family values, I am shocked that we do not put a higher value on supporting new families, especially mothers, in what seems to me an obvious and humane way. As stated in the UN report, "Equality for women represents progress for all."

John Oliver's Mother's Day segment from this past May is still one of my favorites. “Mothers shouldn’t have to stitch together time to recover from childbirth the same way that we plan four-day weekends in Atlantic City.” Amen to that, John. Although I wouldn't mind a quick vacation to Atlantic City, too.


If you would like to learn more about this very important issue, here is a link to the full UN report. "The study reviews national law and practice on both maternity and paternity at work in 185 countries and territories including leave, benefits, employment protection, health protection, breastfeeding arrangements at work and childcare." And here is more information on the FAMILY Act. Please consider reaching out to your State's Representatives and letting them know that you support this Act.

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