I’m going to suggest something that some may find un-American … Here goes: perhaps, just perhaps, our families would be better off had America remained a British colony. Gasp! I can hear it among you. But ponder this: in the United Kingdom, all fathers get two weeks paid paternity leave (as well as the typical five weeks vacation most employees receive, but don’t get me started on that one!). Last week, the UK Children’s Minister, Beverly Hughes, asked that paternity be increased to four weeks paid. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a country where our government and business leaders admire and even encourage men to participate more in their children’s lives?
Think about the ripple effect it inevitably would have on our society as a whole. Paid leave is linked to lower infant mortality rates and lower rates of families in poverty. Child development experts also say the more time a family spends together, the more likely children are not to take drugs, participate in aggressive or violent behavior, or to drop out of school. Experts also show that the more time sons spend with their fathers, the more likely they will be active in the upbringing of their own children.
Surely, these are all good things for America, especially since gun violence is increasing in our schools—typically all at the hands of boys. Our teenagers need good role models and I’m fairly sure there are plenty of them tied to their desks in an office environment that doesn’t allow them to even think about coming home before 8 p.m. No family dinner, no time to help with homework, and little time to just relax, goof off, and talk to their children. How can we expect our children to talk to us when we’re not around? What are your thoughts? Is it time for a cultural adjustment in our business environments? Should Congress step in with a national policy?
Certainly government can’t dictate what hours are deemed acceptable at offices across the nation, but we can create national laws providing paid family leave. MomsRising, a non-profit grassroots organization, is calling for paid family leave for moms and dads and it seems a good step in the right direction. Currently, California is the only state to provide any paid family leave. The California law, passed in 2002, allows parents to take six weeks of paid leave at 55 percent of their regular pay. This applies for births, adoptions, and the need to care for a sick family member. The insurance to cover this plan is designed to cost workers less than $3 per month—so this plan doesn’t cripple companies with excess costs, as many opponents fear. Many states have introduced paid leave bills that build on the California initiative—including New Jersey, Washington state, Massachusetts, and New York.
So what can you do?
Let your voice be heard. Go to MomsRising.org to read about how you can sign digital (or email) petitions that will be sent your state legislators, asking for a paid family leave bill to be introduced in your state.
It’s shocking to realize that America ranks with developing world countries in its lack of family-friendly policies. The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world, for instance, that doesn’t provide paid leave to mothers (163 others do). Australia is the only other industrialized country that doesn’t give paid leave, but it actually guarantees a year of unpaid leave—compare that to our meager twelve weeks of unpaid leave provided in our Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). (For more information on the FMLA, see: “Maternity Leave on Your Dime”.)
I don’t know if America will catch up with Europe and the rest of the developing world in my lifetime—as far as family-friendly policies go. But in the meantime, let’s let our voices be heard. If we could fight against Britain’s tea tax, we can certainly stand up for a father’s need to spend time with his family.