Dear America, please tell Congress we want paid leave

Dear American parents, sons, and daughters,

I recently learned some truly disturbing facts about paid leave in our country while working on an eye-opening documentary called The Milky Way. Did you know that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have mandated paid leave? It is one of only four of 173 nations surveyed that doesn’t have it. The other three are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Liberia (or Lesotho, depending on the source.) It’s true. Look here, here, or here. Oh, and here. From the survey:

Out of 173 countries studied, 169 countries offer guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks paid leave. Although in a number of countries many women work in the informal sector, where these government guarantees do not always apply, the fact remains that the U.S. guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force, leaving it in the company of only 3 other nations: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.

You may know that back in 1993, Congress passed the FMLA, which provided 12 weeks of unpaid leave to a small number of employees that met a list of eligibility requirements. Most of you probably didn’t even get that. Or couldn’t take it because of that pesky need for money to buy food and such.

How many of you got paid leave after your kids were born? How many of you were paid when you had to take time off to nurse a sick parent to heath?

I’m guessing too few. If any.

And here’s why I’m writing. The long-overdue next step is here. Congress has in their possession, right now, a bill that provides 12 weeks of paid leave that would cost us about the same as disability or unemployment insurance. Two tenths of one percent, that’s all. Which ends up being about $1.50 a week for the average worker. (Some people have called it the “price of a cup of coffee” but they either haven’t bought coffee in ten years or don’t even drink it.) And there isn’t a long list of eligibility requirents. It is called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY act. According to this fact sheet provided by National Partnership for Women and Families, The FAMILY Act would:

– Provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income when they take time for their own serious health condition, including pregnancy and childbirth recovery; the serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner; the birth or adoption of a child; and/or for particular military caregiving and leave purposes.

– Enable workers to earn 66 percent of their monthly wages, up to a capped amount.

– Cover workers in all companies, no matter their size. Younger, part-time, lower-wage and contingent workers would be eligible for benefits.

– Be funded by small employee and employer payroll contributions of two-tenths of one percent each (two cents per $10 in wages), or about $1.50 per week for a typical worker.

– Be administered through a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration. Payroll contributions would cover both insurance benefits and administrative costs.

Sign this petition to tell Congress we want paid leave!

In January, the wonderful National Partnership for Women and Families sent the members of Congress this letter on behalf of 433 organizations and millions of Americans urging them to support the bill. But they were way too nice; they have to be.

I don’t.

I’m in the Navy, and I curse like a sailor when I’m not around my kids, and I’ll bet a lot of y’all do too, so here it comes.

What the f*ck is going on in our country that such a crucial measure to protect our families is barely a blip on our government’s radar? The bill is already buried in committees in both houses. According to the site and some legislators out there, the bill is a nice idea but will never pass. To which I say:

Bullsh*t. Have you actually talked to any of your constituents? Because I’ll bet that mom who just had her baby and is already trying to figure out pumping schedules would sure like to know that she could actually spend some time bonding with her baby first. And that guy who has to take off work because his mother has fallen ill would feel a lot better knowing that he’d have a paycheck coming in for a couple months while he helps her get better.

Go here to sign the National Partnership for Women and Families petition. Please.

I have been talking to people about this everywhere I go, and so far not a single person knows that there is a bill in Congress that could give us 12 weeks paid leave. Not. A. Single. Person. Once I told them about it, especially that it would be mandated, low-cost, and doesn’t add to the federal budget, every one of them enthusiastically agreed that this bill should pass.

Of course it should pass! And you know why? It is high f*cking time that the U.S. catches up with the rest of the world and supports families, specifically new mothers and fathers. What can be more important than nurturing the next generation?

I keep hearing that the bill has little to no chance of becoming law, and I refuse to accept that. I know that if the American people knew about it, Congress would feel public pressure the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Vietnam. I would be the first leading a charge of protests and rallies to get our mamas time with their babies instead of watching them cry as they hand off a newborn to a daycare provider.

Our country is at a tipping point; mothers are having to go back to work too soon after giving birth. The breastfeeding relationships suffer because, rather than being able to bond with her baby and recover, the new mom has to start thinking about pumping and working and childcare. Depression is rampant among lower income new mothers because the stress is overwhelming. It’s hard enough to deal with the sleep-deprivation and already existing stress of a newborn. Going back to work too soon isn’t good for mother or baby. Why are newborns, the seeds of our future, so low on the list of priorities?

Please share this. And keep sharing this. Tell everyone you know. Sign every petition you see, like this MomsRising one. Write or call your Senator or Representative; you can find them using the links below. Please help me wake up our country to what is possible for our families. I want our government to hear our voices so loud that this bill will move to the top of the priority list where it belongs.

Thanks so much for reading, and for spreading the knowledge that will make such an important difference to American families.

More info:

Petitions: Petition for Paid Parental Leave
National Partnership for Women and Families petition petition

Track the bill:
View and track the full bill in the Senate, S. 1810.
View and track the full bill in the House, H.R. 3712.

Contact your Congressperson:
Find your Representative.
Find your Senator.

National Partnership links:
Please check out out their page. They are an incredible power for change.
(Here is their fact sheet referenced above also.)

58 thoughts on “Dear America, please tell Congress we want paid leave”

  1. The problem with this is the lazy ass people who will take advantage of this. They already take advantage of FMLA and now you are recommending paying them to not come to work? I’m not suggesting you are a lazy person, clearly you are not, but the majority of the people who have become qualified for FMLA abuse it. Don’t compare the US to other countries, you work to get paid, you get paid to work. Benefits are offered to employees to lure them in and keep them, that’s very nice, but if you aren’t working you aren’t making the company any money. Next thing we’ll be talking about is giving teachers more money and more time off.

    1. Jenna is right. That is not a valid excuse why the majority of Americans should suffer because of a small percentage that may abuse this.

    2. MT, thanks for taking the time to comment. I concur with Jenna and Sha; there will always be a small minority of people who take advantage of programs, and there are plenty of ways to mitigate those incidences.

      I appreciate you saying that I’m clearly not a lazy person, but I’d also appreciate it if you could apply that attribute to the 51% of the population who are women and mothers just trying to take care of their families. We are the only industrialized nation without paid leave. The. Only. One. Where are America’s supposed family values?

      And as far as “if you aren’t working you aren’t making the company any money” – it has been proven in California, New Jersey, and Washington state that paid leave reduces turnover, increases productivity, and increases the companies’ bottom line. So I beg to differ; with paid leave, people actually are making the company money while they’re not working.

      1. I agree Eve. If women end up leaving their jobs to devote more time to their families, companies need to factor in the additional costs of selecting and training a new employee, as well as the potential productivity costs of having a newer employee.

    3. Here in Canada, mothers get paid leave for 14 weeks and the remaining 35 may be split with their partner- or taken in full (pay is 50 percent of income up to a max insurable income of 49,000). You do not qualify if you have not worked 600 hours in the previous year, because this insurance is deducted from your wage when you are working. You have one full year to take this time- as a father this flexibility has allowed me to spend more time with my child in this precious period of their life, while maintaining my status of employment and being paid to take care of my family. My employer benefits from how healthy this is for me and my family, I can afford to dedicate more energy in the time I am at work. Maybe if this persons parents spent more time raising them they would better understand the importance of hard work when it comes to raising your child. Plenty of time to teach them your values on laziness by example. There is no replacement for good parenting in the beginning of a child’s life- American society would definitely benefit in many ways from a policy that considers this fact.

  2. What’s really sad is that no one sees the bigger picture. Parents can’t be there for their children which created a big mess in America. Now there are so many programs to fix all these angry kids,when all they needed is a little bit more parenting. Same with health care : Healthy people= Happy people and happy people work better and are better parents. You could also make a chart for countries that pay for education/college. The US is behind on that as well not to mention recycling….and,and,and….something needs to change….

    1. Amen. I believe that so many of our issues are a direct result of the low priority placed on mothers and children in our country. We could be so much healthier, happier and more successful if our Republican Congress gave a damn about the family values it spouts. Want us barefoot and pregnant? Then monetize motherhood and pay us to stay home.

      If their constituents get loud enough, they’ll have to listen to us or lose the vote. Here’s hoping we can rile people up!

  3. To prevent abuse have a company dr evaluate illness as well. Most people won’t abuse it because they need 100% of pay to survive…not up to 66%. I think its a good idea. We spend enough tax money on other countries. It’s time to care for our own. Also, I’d require this to only apply to US citizens or those with valid papers to be here.

    1. Well 66% is better than nothing at all. It is a stepping stone. I am due here in a couple weeks and I have worked up until today. I have a physically demanding job and have pushed through so we can continue to pay our bills. We are hoping I can stay home for a few months at least but the lack of finances makes that a very very difficult goal. Even if just 66% that would at least help a little. I believe it is rediculous that we are the one of the only countries who do not support the next generation, and how do we expect to change anything for the better as a society? It just baffles me.

      1. There is no law that requires companies offer paid vacation time. But 90% of companies do (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Women can take advantage of this voluntarily offered benefit just the same as men can.

        It is unequivocally the job of the parents, not the state, to support the next generation. It is up to them to decide how they need to arrange their finances and work schedules to support their children. This legislation is not helpful, and causes at least as many problems as it seeks to solve.

  4. I’m happy that there is a bill that will give 12 weeks of paid; however I feel that isn’t enough.
    I took partial of the extra time my state allowed me, but got push back when I wanted to take the full
    Time. I had trouble pumping at work, which caused my supply to drop. I had ppd, because I had so much anxiety about working and feeding my child. My child has 4 doctor’s appointments a month to try and control some of his health issues. However, I need to work. We need my health insurance. It is better for me and also, I worked hard to get where I am and if I leave then I have to start all over.
    What I want, is time with my babies and the flexibility to ease back to work.
    So to the woman who says women take advantage of the system… I hate blanket statements, bc not everyone does take advantage. I compare to my friends who live in the uk and Australia who get to spend the year with their babies and aren’t penalized becAuse of it and not forced to make a choice or even forced to go back, because they need the money or the medical insurance and they do not have the stress that I do trying to juggle a newborn baby, me being a new mother, and my family.

    1. MJ, thanks so much for your comments. It breaks my heart when I hear statements like “I worked hard to get where I am and if I leave then I have to start all over” and “…but got push back when I wanted to take the full time” because it just reinforces how low mothers and babies are on America’s priority list. Where do you live? Would you be willing to do an interview to talk about your experience? If so, please contact me. Eve at moveovermen dot org. Thank you!

  5. Combine lack of maternity leave with

    A) the rate of post-partum depression (14% according to one recent study),

    B) the higher rate of child sickness when in daycare with the first 2 years (kids were 4.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for illness in one study:, and

    C) recent studies about how kindergardeners perform as a function of the style/type of care the year prior… (Daycare children performed at a lower level than kids either with family members/nannies or in a pre-school setting)

    …more and more evidence points to allowing a parent to stay home as long as they can.

    1. Maybe you would’ve found a link to ‘C’ if you could spell kindergartners.. Duh, kids do better with less passing around, but if you feed them nutritionally sounds diets, keep them cleaner and spend the time you should, daycare worries aren’t so pressing. People feed their kids for convenience, not health. Ever seen a 60 lb 4 year old? Or a kid that’s had a snotty nose his whole 5 year old life? Poor or uneducated parenting is responsible for nearly all our kids health and learning problems. More time at home, awesome. More knowledge, same.

  6. Forcing will always end up harming those the law intends to help. (Most) companies will only stop hiring young women and they will end up being worse off than without the law. Leave it to the market to figure it out; there are already many companies that offer paid leave without a super government on top of them telling them what to do.

    The intention is great. Nevertheless, the cost of the law will end up being higher than the benefits it will bring about.

    1. If companies don’t hire women based on their age and the possibility of them having children, well that my friend is discrimination. There are already enough companies out there that fire/ “lay off” pregnant women based on BS excuses but really only because of their pregnancy. It is despicable and women should not have to face such treatment in this day and age. Companies should not have such a dictatorial power whatsoever. This law is important, and instead of saying ‘no don’t put that law in effect, because it might backfire’ is the wrong attitude. We should work on how to avoid backfiring (such as offering incentives for the companies that provide paid maternity leave, or other thing) and how to better the broken system out there instead of leaving it where it is. I was raised in Germany. Paid parental leave is great and it should become a right of the people in the workforce in the US!

      1. Discrimination? Maybe. But companies discriminate in all sorts of ways. It’s how they choose between any number of candidates. How does the more qualified get a position? Discrimination, that’s how.

        But let’s look at this on the other side of this law. You’re saying that people should be FORCED to pay someone else for not working. Oh, and you’re saying that women alone should get this benefit. How is this NOT discrimination?

        Whether you’ve owned a business or not, you can see why businesses would resist this, as they get no value out of someone’s lack of work product.

        If you have owned a business that has had the opportunity to hire people, you know that simply hiring a woman, or paying a pregnant woman, doesn’t increase revenue on principle. To adapt to a law like this, they will have to decrease wages for everyone. Why? To equilibrate labor costs in the face of flat revenue.

        I’m all for equal opportunities for women who want to take advantage of them. This is not equal opportunity. It isn’t justice. It’s theft. Call it whatever you want, but at its essence, that’s what it is. It’s taking from one entity, a business (which is owned by people), and giving what was taken to people who did not earn or are not earning it.

        Certain types of benefits may voluntarily decide that making employment attractive to working moms-to-be is worth the expense such as extended paid maternity leave. However, that should be their choice, just as it should be the choice of said moms-to-be to accept or reject the just terms of employment.

      2. Its very apparent that you did not read anyone’s comment before you went on your nonsensical tirade. This measure would benefit people with children mom or dad seeing that most countries offer the leave to the fathers also. If you offer incentives to your employees you will find that it actually increases productivity because these benefits are are available but will largely remain unused unless needed. People like perks with their job. CEOs of big companies get the, politicians get them why not level the playing field.

  7. I structured my life Si that I could start home with my kids. I’ve never had a brand new car or high end furniture, but I and no one else took care if my kids and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now you want to take money from the duke income earner in my family, and don’t fool yourselfs into thinking companies actually pay anything, in order to pay someone something I do for free? It doesn’t seem fair to me!

    1. Many typing errors with one hand but you get the jist. Kids raised by a parent thrive, there is no more important a job than them. If your not gonna raise them, don’t have them!

      1. You could’ve also worked nights and school days to be home when they were.. Some of us had to. And still raised our kids. Sounds pretty shallow you think that people that work AND parent aren’t ‘entitled’ (remember the WORK part) to what you do while staying home to do half of the job. Providing is just as important as parenting and can be done in conjunction. So who pays your bills? Your partner, spouse or the government?

      2. Wow Ninjamama1966 – you really are stupid. Mothers or fathers who stay at home ARE WORKING. Just because they don’t earn a paycheck doesn’t mean what they do isn’t work. Being a stay at home mother or father is a full-time job. There is no sick or vacation time. You are on call 24X7. My husband may make the money; but it was our personal decision for me to stay home to be with our kids. Incidentally, our choice to have me stay home also yields thousands of dollars in savings as my child isn’t in daycare or day camps (in the summer). Your ignorance is pathetic.

    2. Do you have a daughter? Are you going to tell her to work hard, go to college, be anything you want as long as it ends with being a stay at home mom? Your judgement of working parents is disgusting. I fully support and admire your desire to be at home with your kids – it is important. But don’t look down on those who do equally important jobs outside of the home.

    3. Because you choose to stay home & structured your life to do so, don’t assume other people have the luxury.Some of us were or are the only parent. You either had someone to work for your keep or pay for your bills. Most of us work for our kids AND take care of them. Really wish I had more home time to myself. I structured my life so I could work while they were at school or asleep. That way I was there to parent and could still provide. (New concept for you?) Paid leave for families is a great idea, should they work it out, we’ll see. You don’t think it’s fair that other people (who work for their kids) should have the time to be there and still be able to afford to eat? I don’t think it’s fair you don’t provide, yet think people that do should be denied what you take for granted.

  8. It’s interesting to me that the party of “Family Values” doesn’t really value families. Cheap labor always trumps families it seems for some. And it’s supposedly so we can be competitive with all these countries that are doing what “we can’t afford”?
    Also I note how many people are assuming the bill only only applies to women. In many of these countries and in companies with real coverage the parents take turns and the child gets twice the required time with a parent.

    1. Indeed. And I think too many people forget that it applies to caregivers of sick family members also. So even if someone isn’t planning on having kids, they may still use this for sick siblings or parents.

  9. It’s funny to me that people will say how important it is to have a parent at home but then somehow not support a bill like this.

    The way our economy is structured today, it’s incredibly difficult to have one working parent who makes enough to support a family.

    I’m about to be a First Time Mom, and both me and my husband work full time. I desperately want to stay at home as I agree it’s better for our child. However, in order for us to move out of our one-bedroom condo (responsibly – not getting some lone we cannot afford) I have to continue to work full time.

    Some people are lucky in that have the ability to structure their life so they are able to be a Stay at Home Mom, but not all of us are that blessed.

    Also, I honestly feel that “lazy ass” people have very little room to abuse the FMLA law. Disability, yes, but FMLA – there are qualifications you must meet, including the size of the company and length of time working there. Also, it’s very limited to how long you can take off and keep your job protected. Plus, FMLA is not a “paid leave” – it’s just a law protecting your job. Companies are allowed to hire temps to cover you while you are out if needed.

    For my maternity leave, I have to use Short Term Disability in order to get any pay.

    People say they value family, but then are unwilling to pay $1.50 a week to help ensure that parents can have only 12 weeks (which is very little when you consider all that happens in the first year alone) with their newborn child… seems a bit hypocritical to me.

  10. Is there a link to a petition? I didn’t see one when reading the article. What is the process for telling congress?

    1. Hi Maddy! At the bottom of the article you will find three links to petitions, and also links to contact your Congressperson. I’m also planning on creating another petition as well.

  11. Interesting article. Good luck. Careful with the numbers, though. Germany for instance has 54 weeks – 2 before the due date, 12 after, and then 40 under parental leave legislation which can be claimed by the mother OR the father OR both. If both claim another 8 weeks are added, totaling up to 62 weeks of paid leave.

      1. I agree with Cornelius I think your European numbers are low.

        Your Canadian info makes our system look better than it is.

        In Canada we actually get 52 weeks leave 50 paid more if you are unable to work during pregnancy due to illness or the type of job you do. It is part maternity leave, only taken by the mother and part parental leave, which can be taken by either parent.

        However , most parents only get EI ( Employment Insurance) during the leave. When I had my kids it was just over 700 every 2 weeks. It is not enough to cover the bills if you are a single parent . People who work for the federal government get topped up to close to their regular salary but few other employers top up

  12. It’s despicable. Some of these legislatures bend over backwards to try to dictate what a woman can and can’t do with her body for the sake of a child/ “the family”, but a bill that would do much for children and family gets burried, hid and ignored…

    1. I’m determined not to let that happen! There are too many people that would benefit from this, and it’s high f*cking time that the U.S. gets with the program.

  13. interesting post….but i think Americans forget how much taxes those other countries make their citizens pay in order to get the paid maternity leave. i am American, my husband is Dutch and we lived in the Netherlands for 4 years. Any Dutch citizen in the Netherlands who makes over 55,000euro/year (exchange rate at about $75,000) in salary has to pay 52% in taxes!!!!! whereas here in the USA its approximately 25% at the same salary (exchange rate at about $75,000). if you make 33,000euro ($45,000)/year you pay 42% in taxes in the Netherlands versus in the USA you pay approx 15%!!!! Americans forget these other variables when making blanketing statements such as this post.

    1. Interesting comment. However, you aren’t quite comparing apples to apples here.
      (a) You’re comparing marginal tax rates, not taking into account tax credits and deductions
      (b) You’re leaving out US Social Security (+6.2% flat), US Medicaid contribution (+1.45% flat) and US state taxes (around 5% on average) which adds another 12.65% to the average income tax burden in US
      (c) You’re also leaving out the cost of health insurance premiums. In most European countries it’s covered by income taxes (I think that in the Netherlands, there’s a 7% tax up to 50K). In the US, well… count the actual premiums ($5,600 on average per person), then add any deductibles if you get sick
      (d) You’re ignoring all the kick-backs, like housing benefits (rent subsidy), childcare subsidy and child allowances, generally much more generous in Europe
      Americans tend to forget these variables when making blanketing statements about tax burdens.

      1. Brilliant retort, I’ve
        lived in the UK and US, I end up paying about the same amount, based on overall taxes. ie sales tax, property tax, med ins. and get far less in return than in the UK.

    1. The chart isn’t very accurate. E.g., in Denmark 18 weeks is the minimum for the mother and 2 weeks the minimum for the father (both at full pay); the parents get another 32 weeks at 100% pay that can be allocated between them as they decide.

    2. Rhiannon – yes Canada does have paid leave. You just pulled up the Ontario site – it’s not paid leave by the province, but by the federal government. There’s even a line in the webpage you posted: “In contrast, the federal Employment Insurance Act provides eligible employees with maternity and/or parental benefits that may be payable to the employee during the period he or she is off on an ESA pregnancy or parental leave.”
      Try this site:

      1. Dave – you are still wrong. Canadian federal gov’t provides a portion of the missed salaries for the mothers. But very far from 100%, especially for an educated woman who makes a professional salary.

  14. South Africa actually changed our local law and now allow up to 24 weeks (6 months) maternity leave. It’s at the company’s discretion to pay the mother or not (a lot of the bigger companies do), otherwise a mom may claim up to two thirds of her salary from the government’s Unemployment Insurance Fund for up to 6 months leave.

  15. I work for a large global company. I was fortunate enough to get 6 weeks paid under disability and 1 week paid of “new parent leave” which my company provides for mother and father. For my first child, I took another 12 days vacation time, and then for my second child I took and additional 5 weeks unpaid under FMLA. For my second child, I supplemented my income for those 5 unpaid weeks, by using all my vacation time. I worked up until the day I had both of my kids, to make sure to save all my vacation time. Did I think any of this was enough time – not at all! It is upsetting to me that coworkers in other countries are able to take off so much time – when I returned to work, these people are in disbelief, and ask what it is like to leave a baby so young. As for all the negative comments, they seem to come from those who will not be personally impacted by the program – someone who is spiteful that this wasn’t in place when she had children, or those that will not have/birth children (mostly men from the comments I’ve read). I don’t see this being enacted anytime soon though – Americans are too dedicated to their jobs. In other countries, workers get much larger amounts of vacation time, they take off 5 weeks to go on “holiday” and still have vacation time to take at other times of the year, while I figure out where I’m going to divvy out my 2-3 weeks of vacation time. Not to mention, while I my vacation, I am practically tethered to my laptop and smartphone, working at least 1/2 of my vacation. And let’s not forget those that don’t even use all their vacation time. From that standpoint, I think some are bitter or even jealous that other Americans would get benefits that were not available or do not apply to them. Of course there will always be those that take advantage of the system; however, there are so many, many more that will not – that is a really poor excuse.

    1. Totally agree. And I always try to remind people of a very important fact here: this program isn’t just for new parents, it’s also for caregivers of sick family members. People pay hundreds of dollars a month in multiple insurances. This is about six – SIX – dollars a month to have 12 weeks’ income if you need it.

  16. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a
    little homework on this. And he in fact bought me dinner because I
    stumbled upon it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this….
    Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to
    discuss this topic here on your web site.

    1. I’m glad I got you dinner! Hope it was yummy.

      Does your friend want to work with me on getting the word out? I’m on a coalition with the National Partnership for Women and Families, and we’re working on raising awareness of the FAMILY Act. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t even know that 12 weeks paid leave is just waiting for the asking.

      Thanks for the comment, and please share to help us get the word out. Have a great day!

  17. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some of the post I realized
    it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and
    I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often!

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