As a dad, I was pleased to hear President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night — particularly his comments about family leave. It’s surprising but true: The U.S. is still one of only four nations in the world that fails to guarantee paid maternity leave. (The others are Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papa New Guinea.)
“My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure,” he told Congress — and millions of attentive Americans.
It is just as important for a child to develop a paternal bond during his or her early development.
Paid family leave was not addressed in detail. After eight years under an administration that attempted to change our country drastically, there is much to be done to put our nation back in order — so broad strokes were understandable in the president’s primetime speech.
I have three children and was fortunate enough to be there for the birth of each. My first concern after their births was to ensure that their mother was there for them during those critical first few months. My first marriage took place during my time in the Army, and my wife was a stay-at-home mom. Even though I deployed to South Korea for over a year, I knew my children were getting the maternal care and attention that children need.
I had my third child with my current wife, who at the time had a full-time job. She had six weeks of maternity leave, but then had to return to work. I took an evening job in retail so that our son could have one of us always there — we didn’t want a stranger watching him. It strained our marriage somewhat — we were apart for most of the day — but we thought it was best for our boy.
I hope new paid family leave policies will change with the times. In many households today, the mother is the primary breadwinner. It would be best if she could return to work knowing her child’s father is on paid family leave and can care for their baby.
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In this age of stressed equality of the sexes, it seems biased to offer paid family leave to women only. It is just as important for a child to develop a paternal bond during his or her early development, and prudent to have laws or regulations that cover fathers.
Many organizations are looking at how to best support families with programs that are forward-thinking and realistic.
“We can specifically address the issue of parental leave by allowing parents to save tax-free for an upcoming period of leave,” wrote Hadley Heath Manning, senior policy analyst and director of health policy for the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C., in The Washington Times.
“At the Independent Women’s Forum, we’ve starting to advocate Personal Care Accounts,” Manning continued. “Workers, employers, or third parties (such as charities) could contribute and save tax-free, and then workers could use the money for situations eligible under FMLA [Family Medical Leave Act]. Unused funds could simply be rolled into retirement accounts. This would be a much fairer and more flexible way to help workers navigate and afford a period of time off.”
Many large corporations are more forward-thinking, too, signaling a respect for families and the importance of work/life balance — with generous paid leave allowances baked in to employee contracts.
Amazon launched several new programs in 2015 to support new parents after employee backlash over poor family leave policies. In addition to giving new mothers up to 20 weeks of paid leave and new fathers up to six weeks paid leave, Amazon rolled out its first program, Leave Share. It allows employees to share their paid leave with their partners, if their partners’ companies don’t offer their own paid leave program.
Its second program, Ramp Back, helps new moms and other primary caregivers ease back into work. Over eight weeks, new parents can work a lighter schedule as they become re-acclimated to a work schedule with the added responsibilities of a new baby at home.
Thankfully our commander-in-chief is a smart businessman. Since paid family leave for both parents is just smart business, I am confident our president will do the right thing in pursuing policies that really work for families, supporting a great start for children during those first critical months of their lives.
John Cylc is an eight-year U.S. Army veteran and lives with his family in eastern Tennessee. His primary advocacy is promoting and protecting Second Amendment rights.