Welcoming a new child should be a time of joy for families, but for many it’s also a time of financial hardship. In Oregon, too many parents are forced to sacrifice their economic stability in order to care for their families. Mothers in particular struggle to maintain their earnings while caring for a newborn and face barriers to staying in the workforce. This leads to wage gaps, wealth gaps, and economic insecurity. When families don’t have access to paid leave, the choices many parents are forced to make impact their families for life.
Kelly* is an on-call caregiver who works with pregnant women and nursing moms. When she became pregnant with her second child, she had no benefits or access to paid leave. She and her husband worked hard to save enough money so that she could afford to take eight weeks off in order to care for her newborn. Despite their efforts to plan ahead and save, the loss of Kelly’s income impacted her family long after her leave ended.
While caring for their newborn, Kelly and her husband found themselves relying on food stamps for the first time in their lives. Kelly had to take her oldest child out of preschool for six months, denying him crucial early learning, because the family couldn’t afford the cost. Once there was nothing left that the family could cut out of their budget and they used all of their savings, Kelly was forced to leave her newborn early in order to return to work. Ultimately, Kelly felt that, although it was cut short, taking time off from work to recover and bond with her newborn was necessary and important. However, her family never recovered from the financial burden and now lives paycheck to paycheck.
Kelly and her family aren’t alone. Across our state, families face long-term economic hardship as a result of caring for their newborns. But there is a solution. In February, the Oregon legislature introduced the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program (HB 3087), which would enable parents to take the time off they need to welcome a newborn or adopted child or provide necessary care for a loved one. United for Kids partner Family Forward is driving the effort to win paid family and medical leave in our state. This legislation would prevent families like Kelly’s from the wage gaps, wealth gaps, and economic insecurity that too often come with welcoming a new child. Caring for families is important work, and it’s time our workplaces and public policies keep up with the growing number of working parents.
*Kelly’s story provided by Time for Oregon.