The 2020 Election, One Year Out: Federal Paid Leave and Why We Need Working Moms

Becoming a mom has been the most empowering experience of my life; it has made me a better person and better at my job. The personal growth I’ve experienced through motherhood wasn’t miraculously delivered with the birth of my first child. Rather, it grew over time—it bloomed in my relationship with my child, and it was earned through countless moments of bonding and attachment—especially in those first, early (and hard) months of motherhood. 

Every mother deserves to feel supported during this special time of personal growth. However, in the absence of a federal paid leave policy in the U.S., one in four moms is returning to work within 10 days of giving birth. Ten days is not enough time to heal from birth. It’s not enough time to bond with a child. And it is not enough time to navigate the transition to motherhood, let alone enough time foster any kind of personal development that comes with that transition.  

Lack of Paid Leave is Not Just a “Family Problem”

The U.S.’s lack of paid leave has a direct impact on infant health and the mother-baby bond. As with any relationship, bonding is built through an investment of time, presence, and consistency. Longer bonding periods contribute to healthier babies. Just 10 weeks of paid maternity leave in the US would reduce infant mortality rate by 10 percent; that’s about 2,300 babies each year.  And, of course, bonding and breastfeeding go hand-in-hand. During the first weeks and months of life, breastfeeding not only provides the best possible nutrition for babies, but it also acts as a delivery mechanism for bonding. Working women who do not have access to paid time off have lower breastfeeding initiation rates and shorter breastfeeding tenures. 

It might be easy to compartmentalize the lack of paid leave as a “family problem,” but in reality, we’re all taking it on the chin when we lose moms in the workforce. Our companies are losing out on the brainpower, innovation, ambition and badassery that working moms bring to the table. And, our teams and networks are losing out on working moms’ leadership, emotional intelligence, and productivity. We’re even losing out when it comes to GDP. According to a 2012 study, if women’s participation in the workforce were at the same level as men’s, we could raise the U.S. GDP by 5 percent. Babies don’t just need their working moms, we need them too!

Working Moms & the 2020 Election

With the 2020 election year upon us, many of us are bracing ourselves for volatile debates and partisanship. In a year that will be focused on our differences, the issue of paid family leave is unique in its bipartisan support. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has proposed 12 weeks of paid family leave funded by mandatory employee and employer contributions. California Senator, Kamala Harris is calling for up to six months of paid family leave, which rooted in protecting children’s rights. Senators Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney, along with Representatives Ann Wagner and Dan Crenshaw, are taking a more conservative approach with the New Parents Act. It suggests the optional use of personal social security to fund paid leave. 

While each candidate’s approach to paid leave is different—and, in my opinion, some are better for American families than others—I am optimistic that reform is on the way for the simple fact that there is a recognition across party lines that working mothers have a right to recover from birth and/or bond with their babies without facing financial peril, as well as the right to feel supported in their transition to motherhood. 

I am sure that the 2020 election will be historic for many reasons, but as a mother and a business owner, I am hopeful that paid family leave will finally earn its place in the national conversation and get the attention it—and America’s families—deserves.

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One Comment

  • I love and fully support the idea of mothers taking time off postpartum. But the lingering question in my mind is WHO will pay for it? Already women are not earning as much as men in the workforce. Will our pay be even lower due to the extra cost our employers will have to put out for covering our mat leave? In my eyes, this is part of our total compensation package and our employers will treat it as such thus lowering pay in order to offer this added maternity leave cost. This is why I don’t support MANDATED paid leave where employers must pay.

    If the gov’t will pay then it will come out of our taxes so we pay for it in the end anyways. And if you have only 1 child and someone else chooses to have 5 then you’re paying for their 5. Having a child is a choice and requires sacrifice: emotionally, physically, mentally, financially etc. If we as women choose to have a child then we must make the necessary sacrifices based on our lifestyle.

    The intro of the FMLA act gave us the option to take unpaid leave which is the best thing that has happened. We as women can take this extra leave without any fear that our jobs will be taken away. If we can afford to pay more in taxes or get lower salaries via mandated mat leave then we can afford to be proactive and save a postpartum fund to cover our unpaid leave. FMLA gives us the tool we needed. Of course it’s only 12 weeks and I hope to see this be extended in the future.

    I think to address the true root cause of this issue we need to educate our population to have more discipline in being financially prepared to have a child. And I don’t mean budgeting for baby luxuries like walkers and bouncy toys. I mean to cover your time off with them as a mother, focus on breastfeeding (IBCLC support), and cover the basics like diapers and health care. Many people think having a baby is expensive simply b/c of all the unnecessary luxuries our society has convinced us we need. In fact all a baby needs is their parents, love, warm touch, and milk. Everything else just becomes details…

    I truly hope to see more mothers (and fathers) take time off with their babies.


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