I am a preschool teacher two years away from retirement. I am paid hourly, and I receive five paid vacation days of my choosing annually and five paid days in August when the school closes for a week. I also receive two paid sick days and one personal day annually, but I do not have paid family and medical leave.
When my mother had heart surgery several years ago, my husband had a good job, and I could afford to work a part-time job so that I could take care of my school-age children. When I took time off, it didn’t put a dent in our financial situation, but husband lost his job in 2008 and is now working as a store clerk for little over minimum wage.
Now my mother is 89 years old and has a chronic lung condition. She gets pneumonia several times per year, but because she lives in Florida, I can’t afford to take time off to take care of her. We live paycheck to paycheck with nothing left over, and we don’t have anything to fall back on.
I can’t afford to retire, and we’ve already gone through all our savings. I don’t have the resources to take care of my mother when something happens to her. I will use whatever vacation days I have during the year, but if I had paid family and medical leave, I would be able to take care of her for more than eight days without taking a financial hit or using the paid sick days I need for myself.
Life’s been tough, but having to choose to use my paid days off between myself and my mother makes it even harder. Working with young children – who often sneeze and cough in my face and leave germs everywhere – I often get sick. But I can’t afford to take time off to stay home and get well, even if I have a fever.
I probably go through 4-6 pairs of rubber gloves to keep the children from catching the illness and make them use separate soap from me. I’m also diabetic, so I use my two sick days for doctor visits. If I had paid family and medical leave and more paid sick days, I could use my paid days off for myself instead of saving them for my mother, and we wouldn’t have as many sick children. I believe everyone is entitled to a good living wage with paid family and medical leave for birth, childcare, preventative care, and times of dire need.
Jeanne Lamp, CT