I used to think creating work-life balance was a matter of just taking control over your own life. And to a certain extent, it is. But there are factors in our society as Americans that have really gotten out-of-control. In other countries, new mothers have an opportunity to take real time off to spend with their new babies. New fathers can spend a little time at home too. And without fear of losing their jobs or taking pay cuts for doing it. Here, that's hardly ever the case. After I became a parent, I realized work-life balance is actually very hard to come by here, especially in California where so many families need to have both parents working in order to just pay the mortgage.
Hillary Clinton, in a week of initiatives focused entirely on women, released a proposal to provide greater family leave options. The press release listed key components of the plan as creating a new State Family Leave Innovation Fund that will "expand paid leave across the country". She also proposes extending FMLA to 13 Million more Americans and requiring sick leave of at least 7 days a year. (How does this work with lame PTO programs that lump vacation and sick days all into one, I wonder?) She's promoting model workplaces and a federal telecommuting initiative (woo-hoo!), she has an affordable childcare component (no details here), and she's working to prevent discrimination, particularly in the case of pregnant women.
This week, Hillary Clinton has also spoken on a number of women's issues and for women's organizations. This is a key component of her campaign, of course, since she's the first viable woman candidate for president, but I personally believe it is much more than that. Having read a great deal about her now and having talked with and read stories about people who have known her well, it is clear to me that she has a deeply rooted commitment to women and families. This is a big part of why I support her candidacy.
It's not just about Hillary Clinton being pro-choice, a woman, a mother, or particularly vocal on key issues generally identifiable as women's issues like healthcare. Reading accounts from former staffers, she walks her talk. When she was First Lady, she allowed some of the people who worked for her to take long leaves for medical, pregnancy, post partum and childcare purposes, work flexible hours and in one rare case, bring a child to work.
If someone had told me all of that before I became a mother, perhaps I would have thought it was a weak policy or unprofessional. But now I realize how hard it really is to balance work and family in a way that is both satisfactory in allowing children to be properly nurtured and cared for while allowing parents to develop meaningful careers. Work-life balance is not some pie-in-the-sky idea that can only happen for the uber-wealthy or those who make major sacrifices. Look at Europe - it is possible. Hillary's plan is just a first, much needed major step.
I am lucky to be able to attend a lunch this Monday in California that will be hosted by former California State Senator Jackie Speier, a woman who has been a long-time champion of women and families. I won't go into too much detail here because I've blogged about this before, but Jackie Speier herself is admirable in many respects through all she's been through personally. I worked for her briefly before I had to go on bed rest in my pregnancy and she was so understanding; I never would've expected that, but she knew I made the right choice in resigning my post so I could make sure my pregnancy was sustainable and that my daughter would be born healthy. I think it's very fitting that she is hosting this event for Senator Clinton after a week of women's initiatives. It shows the real commitment that Hillary has to these new proposals and I have no doubt we will make tons of progress in this area if she becomes president.
Also posted at sairy.com
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