How Christians Can Take the Lead with Paid Family Leave
By Katelyn Beaty
“Jane” is a young mother who has worked at a call center for two years. When she was pregnant with her second daughter, she worked full-time up until she went into labor. “My work doesn’t pay for maternity leave, but they told me they would hold my job if I returned within the month,” she said. Like 20 percent of new mothers in the US, Jane returned to work two weeks after giving birth. She said she is sad she can’t breastfeed and be present with her child in the crucial first months of life.
Jane is a client of Parenting por Vida, formerly known as Mom’s Place, based in Phoenix. It’s one of the hundreds of faith-based nonprofits that give expectant and new moms financial and emotional support throughout pregnancy and beyond. Many clients grew up in poverty, steeped in trauma and abuse. But director Susan Leon said she’s impressed by the young parents’ resilience. After 17 years, the first cohort of children raised by these parents is finishing high school, and among the second generation, teen pregnancy is rare.
Even still, Leon says, most of her clients find the work-family balance extremely precarious. A majority of them work low-wage shift jobs that provide little flexibility and have no maternity leave policy, even unpaid. Yet working outside the home is an economic imperative. For low-income families, childcare presents less-than-ideal options, such as expensive childcare centers or care from extended family, which can be dangerous if there is addiction or abuse.
Jane is one of the dozens of parents that Center for Public Justice (CPJ) resident fellow Rachel Anderson and I profiled for a new report, “Time to Flourish: Protecting Families’ Time for Work and Caregiving.” The report picks up on larger cultural conversations about paid family leave. In 2017, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Brookings—two DC think tanks on different sides of the ideological spectrum—released a groundbreaking report arguing the need for federal paid family leave.