Not having paid family and medical leave has affected my family in two ways. In 2010, my father was dying of cancer. He lived in Queens, NY and I would travel back and forth from CT to share the caregiving responsibilities with my brothers. By early 2010, his health was drastically failing but I had just started a new job. The amount of time I accrued was still not enough to cover the time I needed to take off to care for my father. I would often take unpaid time off or work from the hospital room when he was admitted for treatment. On top of watching my relatively young father die, I was constantly worried about the time off I was taking, how it would affect my job, and if I would be able to take time off for the funeral that would be held in Florida.
The last weeks of my father’s life were agonizing. We brought hospice into our childhood home and made final arrangements. During this time, I would still work from the hospital or my father’s apartment so that I could save the days I needed for his funeral and burial. No one should have to experience that additional anxiety about their job security and finances when they are caring for a loved one.
The second time unpaid leave affected my family was after the birth of my second son. I had hemorrhaged after labor and was very weak. I had to recover from major blood loss. I could not lift my toddler, drive, clean or cook for 2 weeks. My husband used his last week of vacation time for the birth and days after. But we could not afford him taking another week off unpaid. Family was unable to help. I physically needed the presence of my husband to help care for our toddler while I recovered from childbirth but we couldn’t afford it. When I think back to how risky that was, I am ashamed that we made that decision, because of many scary alternate scenarios. We put our bills before the healing of my body and took a major risk. This is unacceptable. We are not setting families up to succeed by forcing them to choose between their health and financial ruin.
Danielle, North Haven CT