Brandon Billinger makes the case that the United States is well behind the global curve when it comes to paid parental leave and suggests ways that men and women can help change that trend.
The phone rang. I was in a glass edit bay looking out a newsroom buzzing with activity. I had been out in a live truck all morning covering an overnight shooting in the Kansas City metro area.
It was Mrs. Rookie Dad. This was the third time she had called me that day. I had been anticipating a phone call from her to tell me that it was time to go to the hospital for a few days now. The newsroom had been put on baby watch, knowing that at any moment I would have to leave.
But that morning, the calls from Mrs. Rookie Dad had been what I like to call the “nothing” phone call. A call that can wait until I come home to discuss. We were at the point in the pregnancy that I couldn’t just let the phone go to voice mail.
I picked up the phone and, in my head, I remember thinking, “Now what!” but on the other end of the phone before I could get out a hello, I heard:
“My water broke!”
Instantly, a feeling of guilt rushed over me as I stopped momentarily to think and regret what my thoughts were that morning. I realized that would be a memory I would never forget, the thought that went through my head when the Kid was born. That immediate regret turned into a smile and happiness though when the Kid was born at 2 a.m. the next morning.
The moment that the Kid was born, my paid paternity leave started. It was only two weeks of paternity leave, more than what most new fathers get. Most get none. I was one of the lucky ones.
The most disturbing part of this—Mrs. Rookie Dad had NO maternity leave. She had to bank her PTO and sick days in order to have 7 weeks off with the Kid. Even then, we had to repay her employer with time that she had taken off to spend with our newborn son.
This is where the U.S. Department of Labor is starting to step in. They are seeing this trend and have created the following video to demonstrate just how far behind the United States of America is on paid leave:
According to the Labor Department’s website, the only states that have paid leave are California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. This is where the United States is behind the world in paid leave. Take Germany for example, 14 weeks of paid leave. 14 weeks!
The Labor Department is now taking a stand on paid leave for families. The Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, wrote in a recent blog post:
More employers are recognizing that providing paid leave is not just the right thing to do by their workers; it’s the smart thing to do for their business. Strong, competitive companies, from multinational professional services firm Ernst & Young to New Belgium Brewery, have implemented progressive leave policies and thrived not in spite of it, but because of it.
He also mentioned that the Labor Department has announced new grants for states to conduct studies for implantation and development of paid leave.
With Congress showing little interest in acting upon paid leave, Perez believes that we need to hit it at a grassroots level, saying that, “Sometimes change comes TO Washington, D.C., not from Washington D.C.”
This doesn’t stop at just giving mothers paid leave, it also goes to fathers as well. Perez gives an example of Jason from West Long Branch, New Jersey (one of the states WITH paid leave). Jason’s twins were born at 28 weeks and, for 2 months, spent time in the NICU. It was only because of New Jersey’s paid leave law that Jason was able to stay home with them.
As Americans, we can’t forget what creates a strong United States, a strong family. Join me and Labor Secretary Tom Perez in the fight for paid leave for families.
If you would like to help spread the word, the Labor Department encourages you to use the hashtag #LeadOnLeave
Originally appeared on The RookieDad.com