The Importance of Paid Family Leave for Children, Families, and Beyond
By Sara Pappa, WI-HER Technical Advisor
Enacting public policies that provide parents with paid family leave from work to care for their young children is critical to the healthy development of children and families. As we observe the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, let’s talk about #AllWomenWork and #EqualityforAll. With these themes, I think of parents, particularly mothers, in the workplace. In 2016, when I gave birth to my daughter, the company I worked for at the time offered fairly good benefits that left me with a steady paycheck, or a portion of a full paycheck, for about four months. This was through a combination of saved-up vacation days, short-term disability, and a few weeks of fully paid parental leave.
In 2020, when I gave birth to my son, the situation surrounding my family leave improved, and that same company offered me the same amount of time off, fully paid, which then allowed me to have some vacation days when I returned. Those “vacation days” were used for frequent, early daycare pick-ups when my son had a low-grade fever, his first of many colds after months of limited exposure to germs, pediatrician appointments, and, in that first year of the pandemic, potential COVID exposures – which meant no vacations. Still, I was lucky. Lucky, or I guess we could say ‘fortunate,’ for the benefits that my company had decided to offer.
For many parents, this is not the case. Paid family leave is a must, and it is essential to ensuring equality in the workplace, and at home, for women…and men, because let’s not forget that men are parents too, and they have a caregiving role for both their children and their partner. For many working mothers, the postpartum period is a time of emotional and physical recovery from childbirth. This also may go without saying, but it’s still important to address: the situation is different for each and every parent. The postpartum period is not one size fits all, as some families, for example, grow through adoption or surrogacy.
Regardless of how a family grows, this period in a family’s life needs to be supported, appreciated, and taken seriously. Paid family leave would offer parents more opportunities to support and build their families and to me, personally, it would signal a commitment to women in the workplace, and importantly, equality in the workplace – by my employer, my government, and my community. As we observe 16 Days, I will continue to support paid family leave for all!