Let me tell you a story of two families. At the center of both of these families are two women who recently gave birth to beautiful baby girls. Each care for two equally adorable little boys at home.
In the first family, both parents work; the father full-time and the mother part-time. In that story, the mother had a routine pregnancy with no afterbirth complications. She is currently taking 8 months off of work to stay home with her baby girl. Her husband took 2 weeks off to bond with his baby girl and to help out with the boys.
In the second family, both parents also work; the father full-time and the mother as a stay at home mom. This family also had a routine pregnancy, but experienced afterbirth complications. This mother developed a hematoma in her stomach from the C-section and was readmitted to the hospital. She was also told to take it easy for a couple of months while the hematoma healed. The father took additional time off from work to care for his wife and kids. During this time, his job was protected and he did not worry about being fired, however, the time off was completely unpaid.
Instead of both parents spending this time to bond with their new baby, they were worried and stressed about how to pay their bills without a steady income. They maxed credit cards and borrowed money from family members to make ends meet to pay for basic necessities such as rent, food, and electricity.
The starkest difference in these two families is that the first family lives in England, a nation with guaranteed paid family leave for new parents. The second lives here in Connecticut, one state in the only industrialized nation without this same policy. In the first family, the father took two weeks paid time off to bond with his new child. The mother plans to take 38 weeks off: 6 weeks at the full wage and the remaining weeks at 90% of her wage.
The only option available to the second family, who lives here in Connecticut, was to take job protected, unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Like countless other families, unpaid leave was insufficient. They are still struggling financially from their two months without income.
I am the sister of both of the women centered in this story. I have seen how a medical condition can derail your life for months – physically, emotionally, and financially. I have seen how essential it is to pass comprehensive paid family and medical leave here in our state. My sister and her husband are still struggling to pay back the credit cards they maxed and the money they borrowed. They are constantly stressed about what would happen if one of them were to get sick again.
Most families don’t plan on getting sick and many don’t have options once they do. Many don’t qualify for FMLA and many more can’t afford to take the unpaid time off that the FMLA offers. This is why passing paid family and medical leave here in CT is so important. It would give many families, including my sister’s, peace of mind to know that they will not have to choose between being there for a loved one and keeping a roof over their families’ heads.
It might even make my other sister in England want to move back home. As of now, she has no plans to do so and one reason is because she might not be done having kids. In her own words, “CT is awful with maternity leave. It’s shocking.”
By: Alisha Soto, CWEALF Intern