Dear Mr. President,
My name is Patrick, and I’m writing to you as an excited, but appropriately terrified father-to-be. And there’s a lot to be excited about! My wife, Caitlin, and I just got back the results of the genetic screens (nothing bad), and we’re going to find out whether it’s a boy or a girl shortly. She’s made it out of a exhausting first trimester, and she’s got a noticeable baby bump that’s a fun reminder of what’s happening.
I met Caitlin when I was living in San Francisco. I had earned a degree in Computer Science from the University of Washington in 2008, and moved to the Bay Area to start my first real job. Caitlin was attending Berkeley at the time, and after I met her, she went on to get her Masters from Cal State. We both pride ourselves in working hard, and making the most of our opportunities. And we’ve both gotten extremely lucky, both in the opportunities that we’ve had, and in meeting each other.
Two years ago, Caitlin and I moved from her home state of California to my home town of Seattle. We bought our first house, across the street from my parents. We’ve endured the endless “Everyone Loves Raymond” references knowing that it was going to be a perfect place to raise kids. We got married this last summer, and as the in-laws have been vigorously reminding me, it’s time to have kids!
When I was in San Francisco, coworkers regularly left to take care of their spouses and newborns. It made all the sense in the world. They weren’t going to be able to focus knowing that their loved ones needed them, and our software bugs weren’t going anywhere. And here’s the rub. All those benefits are gone now that we’re living in Washington.
Now this is no sob story. We’re going to be fine. Caitlin was too ill to work during her first trimester, but I’ve been able to support us. I worked through the holidays, and I’ll be able to save up enough time off to spend a few weeks with my baby when it comes. We’ve got great insurance, and a stable living situation. But given that both me and my brother were 10+ lbs babies, I suspect Caitlin’s going to need some recovery time. Hopefully I’ll have enough PTO to bridge the gap until I need to go back to work, but it’s impossible to say. I’ve stopped taking days off entirely, because how can I justify taking off time now, knowing that it means a day I don’t get to spend with my newborn later?
My question to you is this: What could I have done differently to deserve more time with my newborn? Caitlin and I prioritized education, worked hard, bought a house, and got married. I’ve been so so fortunate, and done everything “right”, and even I won’t get much time with my baby. If Caitlin has a rough delivery, it will be all I can do just to take care of them for the few weeks before I’ll need to work again. I can’t pretend to understand the political forces at work, preventing California’s benefits from becoming widespread, but I’m hoping you can help. Because not everyone gets this lucky, and we’re still scared.