This summer my aging father fell down the stairs and broke his neck. I am an only child and my mother died 17 years ago, so I went up to New Jersey to manage his health care and prep his home with new safety measures. I was with my dad for about five weeks. I work from home and have the flexibility to work from almost anywhere. But managing all the details of my father’s life meant that as ambitious as I was, I was only able to work a handful of days over five weeks. I am incredibly grateful that my boss is very kind and understanding, and let me take time to care for my father, and was flexible enough to let me take things day by day.
I am a freelance contractor in the television business. Most contractors, or “permalancers,” don’t have health insurance, let alone paid sick days or vacation. I am lucky to have 10 vacation days and 5 sick days. But when my father had his accident, I had already used all my vacation days for the year. Most of the time I spent with my dad was unpaid leave. It was a big drain on my bank account and a balancing act in terms of finances. My father has ongoing health challenges, and since he has chosen to age in his own home, I will continue to go up to New Jersey to help him out.
I am blessed to have a good job, a steady income, a great boss, and enough padding in my bank account that I could afford to take so much unpaid time off. I don’t have kids, but I do have a mortgage. I can only imagine how difficult life must be for the many people who aren’t as fortunate as I am and who face even more challenges in offering loved ones much needed support. Paid family leave would be an incredible help to all of us - especially people who make minimum wage, who live paycheck to paycheck, or who have to choose between paying their bills on time and caring for the ones they love the most.