An Open Letter to All Lawmakers About Parental Leave

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Dear All Lawmakers (especially Democrats):

I understand that to compromise with other Democrats and get the infrastructure bill introduced to attempt to be passed, the paid parental leave for parents was cut from 12 weeks to four. I just wanted to ask you: Why is it always the women that get crapped on? And not just women…but mothers?

I would ask you to forgive my language but I don’t care if it offends you. It offends me that you think raising children, especially those fresh out of the womb, is something anyone can do. It is almost as if it is an afterthought that doesn’t require much, if any, time off work.

Mothers do it all

Mothers – and not just mothers, but families – do it. They have no choice but to care for their newborn along with their other children and family. But it’s not easy. And with other children in addition to that newborn? Time and time again mothers prove that they can do hard things, like care for and bond with a newborn while a lot of other tasks and duties are in the mix. But worrying about how they’ll be able to afford to take the time to care for their newborn while their bodies heal should never be a worry in this country. Doctors’ appointments to check in and see how their bodies are healing don’t even happen until the six-week mark, by the way.

parental leave

Our country’s priorities

This country is a land of opportunity, but because of that, work seems to be the government’s primary focus. The reason we are all born: to work endless hours and pay taxes to this country! 

Democrats, I understand that you want to compromise to get the infrastructure done, and I am thankful that universal pre-K is on the priority list. That being said, I almost think that should be secondary – a distant second – to paid parental leave.

Many of you are men, and you will never, ever understand what a woman’s body goes through in pregnancy and giving birth. Paid parental leave is for their bodies to heal, as well. But it is impossible to heal when there is a new, tiny little human that is incredibly needy. They’re helpless, and need a parent or caregiver to do literally everything for them, especially for the first few months.

Read Below if You’re a Male Lawmaker

How many of you remember what it was like to have a newborn at home? How many of you remember coming home from the hospital, being so scared of breaking your firstborn, buckling them into the car seat and thinking to yourself, they’re really letting us leave?? Because you and your partner had NO idea what you were doing? 

Once you had been home for a day or two, how many of you remember praying to please let your baby not cry endlessly when you needed to put them down, or to fall asleep at night? And once they were asleep (and not on you – that’s a whole other ballgame), you kept checking on them because you wanted to make sure they were breathing? Or you laid down but were startled awake several times with phantom baby cries, so much that you didn’t even really get to nap (not that it would have been a good nap…not in those early days)? 

Parental Leave: Is it possible for men to understand?

When my son was a baby, those days and weeks after he was born felt like a blur. I remember my husband told me once, “You got four hours of sleep, didn’t you?” because I complained about how tiring it is to try to sleep when he was asleep. As tired as I was, worrying whether my son was still alive as he slept, then hearing phantom cries sporadically, made it impossible to fall asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. My son eventually napped for two-three hour spurts, meaning maybe I’d sleep for an hour, two if I was lucky. So if he napped four times throughout the day, my husband thought I should feel refreshed because I had slept for four hours.

One day he got it

Except on one Saturday when he took care of our son all day, he apologized to me because he realized that is not how it works. Not by a long shot. But sadly, the lack of sleep is only one challenge of raising a newborn. There are hormonal changes, risks of postpartum depression, and in general, not feeling like your full self as you try to take care of the family and maintain your relationship with your partner. 

Times have changed

Many of you who are men raised families decades ago, when the world was a different place. There weren’t many dual income families, child care wasn’t astronomically expensive, and the world in general, was less expensive. Expenses are only increasing as we feel endless ripple effects from COVID.

So that is why I ask you, why do you choose to cut corners for mothers, the very people who raised you into the lawmakers you became today? They fed you, bathed you, clothed you, and taught you right from wrong. They made sure you were warm, safe and loved. The truth is, they probably sacrificed more than you’ll ever know for your well-being. For many of your mothers, paid leave was a non-issue because your mother may have not worked outside of the home. But times have changed. And nothing shows more disdain for the people who are carrying, giving birth to, and raising the youth of America than a lack of parental benefits. 

To the Female Lawmakers

To the lawmakers that are women: I can only hope you voiced your disdain for needing to cut back paid parental leave from this bill. Maybe you aren’t a mother yet, so you don’t yet understand the importance of paid leave. But I’ll leave you with something I read over the weekend: if the government can afford to pay police officers while on administrative leave as they’re being investigated for improper conduct, why can’t the government pay mothers for a few months after they give birth? And we aren’t even asking to be paid our regular salary while we care for our newborns – although, we definitely deserve to be.

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