Tara Hodgkins: Insurance program is the answer to family leave conundrum - VTDigger
 

Tara Hodgkins: Insurance program is the answer to family leave conundrum

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Tara Hodgkins, who lives in Ludlow.

I am writing to express my full support for the creation of a paid family and medical leave insurance program for Vermont. I support this as a mother, a caregiver to my husband, and a conservative Vermonter.

After my son’s birth in 2014, I took just 10 days off to recover. After my daughter’s birth in 2016, I took just 13 days off. Despite the fact that both of them were born via C-section and I didn’t have adequate time to recover or bond with my new children, I got back to the grind right away. I hadn’t even visited my doctor yet to have her clear me for driving let alone working.

Some people thought I was crazy. My employer actually told me I was nuts. However, the decision was made for me. I had to go back to work immediately because my employer isn’t able to offer paid maternity leave or short-term disability leave. Despite having a flexible employer, I wasn’t eligible for unpaid leave through state or federal law because my employer is so small that we don’t qualify.

Not only did lack of paid leave cut into my ability to recover and bond with my new children, but it also cut into my ability to breastfeed and caused feelings of guilt and inadequacy in every aspect of my life. I was just learning to be a mom, but I needed to focus on being an employee and getting work done. I am proud to be a hard worker and am committed to my work, but I’m also deeply committed to my family and current policies don’t allow us to commit to both without sacrificing something, somewhere.

If conservatives want to continue to hold family and hard work as traditional values, we need to do all we can to ensure programs like paid family and medical leave become a reality.

 

I also support paid family and medical leave insurance as a spouse and caregiver to my husband. He became ill shortly after we got married. He has a chronic disease that will cause him to flare up and have issues throughout the course of his life. So, I know for a fact that during my working career there will be periods of time where I will have to take care of him.

It’s incredibly important for us to be able to care for ourselves and our families, but without policies in place to help us balance work and family lives it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible. I have strong work and family values and I want to do everything I can to be a great employee and take care of my family, but sometimes it is hard to make it all work with the few resources available.

I also support this as a conservative Vermonter. We often hear about support for public programs such as this from the left and not so much from the right. But this truly isn’t a political issue. It’s a human issue with a political solution. The need to care for ourselves, our children, families, and aging parents crosses party lines.

If conservatives want to continue to hold family and hard work as traditional values, we need to do all we can to ensure programs like paid family and medical leave become a reality.

If I just had a little more time with my kids before going back to work, it would’ve made all the world of difference. I don’t want my children to have to pay bills over bonding. I don’t want them to have to choose work over focusing on the wellbeing of their family. We need to change this for the next generation because we are better. We need to prove to our kids that they matter.

We need to put more emphasis on caring for ourselves and our families. We can’t have our lives jeopardized by one surprise event or one medical issue or the birth of a child and sit there as hardworking Americans, wondering if we have job security or means to pay the bills.

We are better than this.

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