When it comes to political candidates, we, the people, present plenty of topics for them to take to the state or national Capitol.
Workplace issues often surface. Fair wages and benefits. Reasonable hours and working conditions. Time off, particularly when it concerns family matters — caring for an ailing relative, a new baby or recovery from surgery or a tragic event.
For millions of working families, paid maternity or family leave remains unregulated nationwide. Some workplaces in the U.S., fortunately, provide paid leave. That said, a woman can recover from pregnancy and delivery while nurturing her baby and adjusting (or in the case of second or third child, readjusting) to motherhood without losing income. On the other hand, some places provide unpaid leave, and some families cannot afford this.
A woman who has a normal delivery usually has six weeks leave, while one who underwent a C-section or experienced complications might have eight weeks. If a mother receives no pay during leave, however, she might return to work much sooner.
Cue the blog Scary Mommy and an entry written by Regan Long on April 1. I came across it this week in my Facebook news feed. The mom of four, who among her many job descriptions is a paid family leave advocate, wrote an open letter to future presidential candidates about pushing for that very matter.
“No, this is not a handout that American working families are pleading for. But rather as a country, this is our moral responsibility to begin putting families first and recognizing the human needs that families are being deprived of,” she writes.
Long describes the plight of a mom who returns to work just six days after having a C-section.
You read that right. SIX DAYS.
She tells of a woman leaving her workplace to pump breast milk in her car because her job does not provide a place to do it, or even refrigerate the pumped milk. A restaurant across the street kindly holds it for her.
Can you even imagine?
Long notes that paid family is not a political, parent or economical class problem but “a family issue.”
“We are being forced to choose between the families we love and the jobs we need,” she writes.
An article in the April 6, 2016, edition of Forbes magazine indicates that the United States ranks with Papa New Guinea in not guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers. Many countries provide paid leave for moms and some for dads, too. Four years ago, ABC’s “Nightline” featured Sweden’s 14-month leave for both parents to share and is 80 percent covered by the government.
Last year, President Obama touched on America’s lack of guaranteed paid maternity leave in his State of the Union address. Federal law guarantees 12 weeks off for new parents at companies with 50-plus employees, but it isn’t always paid.
I’m sure this issue will resurface for our next president. Let’s hope it’s resolved to provide assurance and peace of mind to families and their bundles of joy — our future.