The first senator to give birth while in office wants family-friendly policies “for the 21st century”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth this week welcomed her second child, a daughter named Maile Pearl, making her the first senator to give birth while in office. Her op-ed was originally published as part of a Moneyish series to mark International Women’s Day — read more here.
When the Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law in 1993, cell phones looked like giant walkie-talkies, the World Wide Web was just a few years old and scrunchies were “in.” Twenty-five years later, we have smartphones, Wi-Fi exists and scrunchies, thankfully, are a thing of the past. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is America’s family leave policies.
Even as countries across the globe prioritize family-friendly policies for the workplace, the U.S. remains one of the few industrialized nations that doesn’t offer paid parental or family leave. Too often, this lack of family-friendly policies forces working parents to decide between taking care of a sick family member or their kids and potentially losing their job and their health insurance.
This issue doesn’t only affect parents: When we lose people from the workforce because of a lack of access to affordable child care and paid family leave, our economy loses too. Additionally, Americans who drop out of the workforce to take care of their kids or family members often face steep obstacles if they try to rejoin the workforce later in life.
As a working mom of a 3-year-old and with another baby on the way, I know firsthand the challenges working parents face, and I’m not alone. Millions of women and men across America struggle each day to balance the demands of their careers and loved ones.
It’s 2018. We no longer carry around cell phones the size of bricks. Why should we be content to stick with decades-old family and parental leave policies?
Luckily, there are several bills in Congress right now that would modernize America’s family leave policies. One of those bills, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act, would create a universal family and medical leave insurance program. Sen. Patty Murray introduced a bill, the Child Care for Working Families Act, to ensure every family has access to affordable and high-quality child care. Last fall, I introduced the Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools Reauthorization Act to improve access to on-campus child care for student parents.
I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting these bills that improve and expand our family leave policies and will ultimately strengthen our country and economy. This International Women’s Day, it’s time we got with the times and updated our family and parental leave policies for the 21st century.
Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, is a United States senator from Illinois.
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