Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to urge you to support a national family and medical leave program.
Twenty years ago, my father passed away within a year of a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis. Since that year of endless doctor visits, oxygen tanks, and more hospital jello to satisfy a lifetime, my mother had the unique privilege of serving as the primary caretaker for five more chronically ill family members. In total, my mom has spent nearly one-third of her 65 year-old life as a primary caretaker for now deceased parents and siblings.
In addition to coordinating doctor appointments and complicated medicine regimes, my mom offered love and support during profoundly uncertain and vulnerable periods in my grandparents and aunt’s lives. On one memorable morning, my beloved aunt, recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, called my mom in tears because her fingers no longer cooperated and she couldn’t fasten her undergarments. So my mom did what any loving sister would do. Called in sick to her administrative assistant job, rushed from Silver Spring to Baltimore, and attempted to restore my aunt’s dignity and pride by getting her dressed and ready for the day.
This is but one example of hundreds of daily caretaking responsibilities my mom accumulated over 20 years. Any employer would admire the organization, communication, and resourcefulness she exhibited time and again during each of these illnesses, yet her caretaking experience was completely uncompensated. My mom took weeks of her own sick time to care for those around her – but it meant that she held two jobs. One that paid her bills and another that occupied all her time, for which she was never paid.
How amazing and fortunate it would be if a temporary insurance program existed, from which my mom, even for a short period, could have been freed of the daily obligation to report to work every day in order to uphold her other – and more essential – daily obligation of bringing light and love, and daily feeding, clothing, and cleaning, to her closest relatives at the end of their lives.
My mom is not alone in her struggle to balance a paying job with the more time consuming and emotionally draining job of caring for relatives. Family leave insurance would have made my mom’s life easier while she was busy supporting her parents and siblings. For this reason, I urge you to (1) support a national family and medical leave insurance program, and (2) urge local mayors and governors to support paid family and medical leave laws in their jurisdictions.