On May 21, my daughter Kira was born. I’m now a mom.
It’s somewhat surreal. It feels a bit like I’ve been in a different dimension for the past three months, probably due to the stark shift in my sleep habits and so many other wild changes.
I am seeing a human being grow in visible ways on a daily basis. What used to be thoughtless tasks, like cutting my nails or folding the laundry, now need to be intentionally squeezed into unpredictable stretches of nap time. Countless little things needed to be figured out: how to correctly strap her in her car seat. How to get those little arms into long sleeve little shirts. The most strategic places to keep burp cloths around the house so we would have one when needed (which turned out to be everywhere). Every day we discover more of who she is.
I had expected it to be stressful and hard to have a newborn and to figure it all out. It certainly has been at times. But I had forgotten to anticipate that it would also be deeply, ridiculously, wondrously meaningful. Parenting is an extraordinary part of the human experience. And for the past three months, I had the privilege of being devoted to it. To learning a new job. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t overwhelming, either.
That’s because I had paid parental leave.
Thanks to the leadership of our board of directors, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona offers 12 weeks of paid family leave (PFL) to all full-time employees. Since PFL is a national policy Prevent Child Abuse America advocates for, the board chose to ‘walk our talk’ and apply what we believe in to our staff.
Preventing child maltreatment means strengthening families. Strengthening families means ensuring all parents have what they need to nurture their children, and that includes paid family leave.
And there’s a strong case for it. PFL has shown improvements in both parental and child health and household financial well-being. PFL contributes to fewer low birthweight babies, fewer incidents of pediatric abusive head trauma, fewer infant deaths, and higher rates of breastfeeding.
PFL isn’t just great for families and kids, there’s also a strong business and economic case for it. Studies show that paid leave improves worker retention and reduces turnover costs, something that is particularly relevant today.
Yet only 17% of American workers have access to PFL.
That means I am extraordinarily lucky. I started back at work feeling stable and supported. I happen to work with an organization that has the capability to implement paid leave and chooses to prioritize it.
I’m so grateful. But I wish parents didn’t need to rely on luck to have the support they need to nurture their newborns. PFL shouldn’t be such a rare exception for a privileged few.
Investing in children is never the wrong answer. Nationally implemented, PFL would make America’s families stronger, more stable, healthier, and more resilient. Our children would have the solid foundation they require to become the leaders our nation needs.
To learn more about PFL as a national strategy to strengthen families and protect children, visit Prevent Child Abuse America’s Paid Family Leave Toolkit.