Through my work at 1,000 Days, I have had the opportunity to listen to countless stories from new moms across the country struggling with little or no paid time off.
Women like Samantha whose son was born three months premature and – after spending what maternity leave she did have at the NICU – was forced to make the horrible decision between caring for her son and returning to work. She decided to quit – a choice no new mother in this country should be forced to make.
I heard Stephanie’s story – a single working mom working at a high-end hotel restaurant, which offers no paid leave for new parents, yet offers healthcare for employees’ pets.
I even had the opportunity to share some of these stories with Members of Congress in Washington, DC. Earlier this year we teamed up with our colleagues at the National Partnership for Women and Families to deliver more than 230,000 signatures from men and women around the country calling on Congress to support paid family leave.
Six months ago my work became personal when I gave birth to my baby girl. And just like that I had something in common with all the women whose stories I had heard.
But here’s where my story differs – I had paid leave through my employer 1,000 Days. I was not forced to choose between my job and caring for my daughter. I am that lucky.
During my leave I was very aware of my luck.
In the sleep-deprived haze of those first few weeks of my daughter’s life, in which I was recovering from surgery and learning to breastfeed, I can distinctly remember thinking that I could not imagine going back to work after just two weeks. Yet so many new moms in America are forced to – 1 in 4 according to data from the Department of Labor.
I was incredibly lucky to have had the time I needed to care for myself and my daughter. But the health of America’s moms and babies should never be left to luck.
Parents need time to bond with their newborns. Moms need time to recover from childbirth. And mom and baby need time to establish breastfeeding, which is proven to have significant health benefits for both women and children.
While 80% of women initiate breastfeeding, only 50% of women meet their breastfeeding goals.
Right now we have a patchwork of policies, where some lucky Americans (just 12%) have access to paid leave through their employers. Some people live in states like California and Rhode Island with paid leave policies, and the rest are just…out of luck.
American families deserve better.
All workers in America should have access to paid leave – it’s in the best interest of all of us, as individuals and as a society.