When our twins were born in 2019, I took six weeks off work. My husband did too—thanks to his then-employer’s family leave plan, offered equally to new mothers and fathers alike—and it’s impossible to overstate how indispensable his leave became.
It wasn’t that I had a difficult physical recovery. Mercifully, I didn’t, especially by the standard of multiples pregnancies. But I found I couldn’t set myself up for tandem nursing alone, which meant that without my husband’s help, I would have been nursing 50 percent of my hours every day—not my waking hours, all my hours. And if each twin took a full hour to eat, every two hours, nursing would’ve occupied 100 percent of my days and nights. I literally could not have done it by myself.
I’ve been thinking about the importance of paid family leave again recently, both because of personal circumstance—we’ve had some childcare disruptions, and once again my husband’s job made it possible for him to shoulder that task—and because it’s the subject of increasing political attention.
Paid family leave is financially messy in the United States, where many of our benefits come through our employers. Some smaller businesses and organizations truly wouldn’t be able to comply with a mandate to provide lengthy leave, unless it were subsidized at a high enough level to pay both a new hire and the person on leave.
If employers of any size believe they can’t afford to comply, they might respond by refusing to hire people—especially women—who strike them as likely to have more children.
Moreover, one poll shows lower- and working-class families (who are least likely to have paid family leave now) strongly prefer having one parent (usually the mother) at home full time, which partly shifts the paid leave issue to a single-income household issue. These families also rank cash assistance or wage subsidies over leave if asked to choose among federal childcare support options.
But if the execution side of this issue is complex, the Christian stance is simple: We should provide the best family leave possible. Christians who own or manage businesses ought to lead the way on family leave, based on three Christian convictions.