My husband and I both work full-time, and we are lucky that we each have access to a few weeks of paid leave each year through our vacation and sick time. However, while we are in our early thirties and would like very much to start a family, the lack of paid maternity leave is one reason we have put off childbearing. We simply can’t figure out how we would manage several weeks off without my paycheck.
Even if I were able to use all of my saved vacation and sick time after giving birth, it would still only amount to about three weeks of pay, while doctors recommend taking a minimum of at least six to eight weeks off after childbirth. That means that even in the best case scenario, taking the minimum amount of leave recommended by a doctor, I’d have to figure out how to go without nearly a month’s worth of pay.
My husband and I consider ourselves to be very fortunate compared with so many of our neighbors; we have good jobs with decent salaries that allow us to make ends meet most of the time. But even we can’t afford to miss a month or more of pay. Considering the high cost of daycare, we’re going to need every penny we can get as it is. So, we wait. Eventually, I suppose we’ll take the leap, and just hope we make it to the other side somehow.
If a system of paid family leave is created, it would position Connecticut as a national leader on this issue; only 12% of workers in the United States have access to any amount of paid maternity leave. In fact, the U.S. is the only advanced country without paid maternity leave. Both babies and parents would benefit from additional time to adjust, heal, and bond – time that can never be taken back once it’s gone.
Employers would benefit when they welcome back happier, healthier, more well-rested employees. Our state’s economy would benefit, too, because parents would be able to keep their jobs, continue paying their rents, mortgages, and bills, and purchase the necessities required for those first critical months of a newborn’s life.
While paid maternity leave is one of my personal reasons for supporting this bill, it is not the only one. The fact is that everyone in our state would benefit from a system of paid family and medical leave at some point in their lives: the baby boomer, like my mom, who still works full-time but must also care for her elderly mother; the husband who must drive his wife to chemotherapy treatments; the worker who must take time away from work to heal from an unexpected surgery or illness. None of us can predict life’s ups and downs. By contributing just a small fraction of each paycheck, everyone in Connecticut would gain the security and peace of mind that they will be able to care for their loved ones, and themselves, when life happens. And that kind of security is priceless.
Shannon Houston, New Haven