The Value of Family Leave – A Dad’s Voice
Last year I was invited to participate in a national symposium on the topic of paid family leave hosted by Senator Rick Santorum. The timing hit me like a brick wall: my wife and I had just learned that we are to become parents. Suddenly a policy issue wasn’t theoretical, but deeply personal.
One of the speakers, Dr. Jenet Erickson, Institute for Family Studies shared that research shows that the early bonding of both mothers and fathers is crucial for the long-term mental health and resilience of children. Fathers produce the love hormone “oxytocin” when with their newborn, and begin to form bonds that should last a lifetime. She explained that the value of these bonds is often underestimated. Dads energize their children (think of a dad tossing his baby in the air) and their support helps to regulate a child’s aggression and even helps to promote cognitive development.
Efforts that encourage businesses to be family-friendly are gaining traction driven in part by the challenges the pandemic puts on families. The Bosses for Babies initiative led by the Children’s Movement of Florida and CEO Vance Aloupis brings together business champions for early childhood, highlighting the many ways companies can make an impact and inspiring others to take action. Paid family leave could be one such option.
As someone who works at a small business, I’m sensitive to both the costs to parents who cannot access paid leave. Consider this: a Pew Research study reported that for parents making under $30,000 per year who did not receive paid family leave, 57% took on additional debt and nearly half went on public assistance.
And, now that my own baby girl is crawling around, I’m of the opinion that perhaps family leave should be framed just a bit differently. During the pandemic, I saw adult children who needed to care for parents, and wondered if critical sick leave shouldn’t be part of the conversation as well?
Another innovative way to help new parents comes from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Steve Daines (R-MT) who announced this week more family-friendly legislation via the Family Security Act 2.0, based on Senator Romney’s Family Security Act which would consolidate existing federal spending to provide a cash benefit for working families starting during pregnancy. The benefit amounts to $350 a month for each young child and $250 a month for each school-aged child.
As my first Father’s Day as a dad rounds the corner this weekend, I’m still a bit weak-kneed about the responsibility that I’ve taken on. If you have an interest or ideas on this topic, I hope you’ll join the conversation.
Santiago Avila is the state chair of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Florida. He is currently running for mayor of Deltona, Florida.