Moments of Motherhood

What every American needs to know about paid family leave

I recently viewed the screener for the first ever film on paid family leave, Zero Weeks, produced by Ky Dickens, and these alarming facts left me nothing short of mortified.

Out of 39 industrialized countries in the world, the United States ranks in the following:

• 19th out of 39 in overall happiness

• 28th out of 39 gender equality

• 34th out of 39 in life expectancy

• 39th out of 39 in maternal health

• 39th out of 39 in child health

• 39th out of 39 in family friendly policies

This is what this great nation has allowed our values and priorities to fall to?

Did you know that one in four mothers return to work within 10 days after giving birth? Both inhumane and unfathomable.

However please note, the Humane Society of the United States advises that kittens and puppies stay with their mothers for 12 weeks and legally they cannot be separated for eight weeks.

Please tell me what I’m missing here? We place a higher value of a kitten or puppy staying with their mother more than a human baby?

Former United States Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, poignantly asks, “Why is it that the rest of the world has figured this out and we haven’t? We’re making people choose between the families they love and the job that they need. No other nation on the planet is making these choices.”

Here are a few examples of countries that offer paid family leave:

• Iraq 9 weeks

• China 13 weeks

• Nigeria 16 weeks

• Vietnam 17 weeks

• Iran 26 weeks

• Russia 28 weeks

• Estonia 82 weeks

• Latvia 94 weeks

• Lithuania 106 weeks

• Bulgaria 111 weeks

• Finland 167 weeks

Because our great country is without a paid family leave:

• Millions of women go back to work within days after having a baby.

• Workers go bankrupt who can’t keep their job while battling cancer or other serious illnesses.

• Parents are forced to leave their children in the hospital.

• Families are depleting their savings accounts and are being forced to rely on government assistance.

Most people don’t think about paid family leave it until they need it. This isn’t just the birth of a new baby but rather this applies to everyone. Everyone reading this will either have a new child, a life event, a sick spouse or a dying parent.

Paid leave is an insurance program and we know this because it’s already running in a handful of states. In California over the past 10 years, business owners said in terms of morale and retention and good will, 99% support it: ninety-nine percent support this who have been doing this for the past decade! What is the rest of the country waiting for?

The next question people have is how would this look. This would be a small payroll deduction that comes out of your paycheck that then goes into a big fund so WHEN you need paid family leave, you get paid out of this insurance fund. Employees would pay into this for about the price of a cup of coffee per week! So when those who are uneducated on paid leave respond that it’s not necessary or affordable, they find themselves quite misinformed.

During your paid leave, your business can hold on to the money that they would be paying you, to keep or to give to employees working over time, or to pay for a temporary replacement, however, most keep it so the business actually is benefiting.

So as you can see, this is great for small businesses, too. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy; more than half of the America workforce is employed by a small business, which would be applicable for them.

To the individual who is working two or three jobs, to the small business that only has two to three employees, this plan makes it accessible to everybody regardless of the work that they do.

The Family Medical Leave Act that is currently in place is unpaid … and here is the other kicker, 40 percent of Americans do not even qualify for this unpaid leave. Unless you have been at your place of employment more than one year, you work at that particular place of employment for more than 25 hours a week and only if it has more than 50 employees, only then you would qualify for this unpaid leave.

And then the 48 percent who DO qualify for paid leave cannot afford to go without a paycheck, so only about two in 10 Americans can afford to take the unpaid leave.

Although 83 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans currently support paid family leave, this is neither a Republican or Democratic issue — this is a people issue. This is a core value that every other industrialized country in the world makes a priority besides the United States and Papua New Guinea.

Americans are faced every day with the unconscionable choice: Do I keep my job or do I take time to heal? This is America’s family leave crisis and it’s not political, my friends, but rather smart economics.

Long is a local author and mother of four, entrepreneur, paid parental leave advocate and health coach. Her column is published on the third Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section. To keep up with Long, visit