Corporate America Needs to Step Up And Support Paid Family Leave (August 13, 2017)
By: Jonathan Church, The Good Men Project
When I first heard my daughter Lincoln cry as she came out of the womb at 6am on a Tuesday morning last September, I was numb, sleep-deprived, and in disbelief. The baby had arrived, and however brave a face I tried to put up, I was not ready. The day before, I had a life of my own that I shared with my pregnant partner Kara. The next, I was responsible not only for myself and an exhausted partner, but also a living, breathing, newborn daughter being handed over to me to claim as my own.
The disorientation was profound. And yet, as a father, I had not endured hours of labor and delivery. Nor did I have to carry a fetus for nine months. Nor did I have months of breastfeeding awaiting me.
I did, however, have three months of paid leave to help the mother of my child recover from delivery and make the transition to newborn care. My employer allows a new father to use paid sick leave to care for a newborn, and I took advantage of the option. I considered myself incredibly fortunate in the ensuing months, as I encountered the challenges of adapting to life with a newborn infant who requires care and attention every hour of the day. Sleep deprivation. Changing diapers. Cleaning breast-feeding equipment. Going to doctor appointments for medical check-ups and vaccines. Shopping. Cleaning. Laundry. It never seemed to end. But ultimately, other than the challenges of caring for my family, the most anxiety I felt stemmed merely from trying to find time to do things I love, like reading or exercising. Never did I have to worry about such ‘mundane’ concerns as paying the bills. I was exceedingly grateful, but too tired and distracted to recognize and appreciate how paid leave was a rare privilege that currently does not extend to many if not most American parents, who must go back to work within days or weeks, simply because they cannot afford to take time off work (under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees who work for companies with 50 or more employees have the option to take 12 weeks of leave, but it is unpaid).