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Matthew Jelalian: Paid paternity leave supports family values

March 31, 2019

In parenting circles, there’s an ongoing debate of whether it’s harder to go from zero kids to one or to go from one kid to two.

Obviously, people’s experiences are going to vary. Not all children may act the same and some newborns are easier than others.

That being said, if I had to pick a side, I’d definitely say going from one kid to two is more difficult.

An energetic toddler is a lot for two people to take care of, let alone one.

But with a second child, you’re now sleep-deprived, assigned a child to take care of, and you still have to get your daily stuff done.

There’s no break. At least when there’s only one child, you can pass the kid off to your spouse and say, “He’s your kid for the next two hours.” When there are two children, that just means you get to trade who’s responsible for which kid.

Luckily for me, my full-time job offers paid paternity leave and so does my wife’s. She’s enjoying hers right now and I’ll be starting mine on Monday.

That means we’ll be able to clean the house up some, take care of the kids and figure out a new routine. I’m desperately looking forward to it.

This is the first time in my life a company I’ve worked for has ever offered paid leave. In fact, it’s one of the only companies I know of who offers leave for both fathers and mothers.

But I also recognize that most people aren’t nearly as lucky. Most people don’t get any sort of paid leave at all when they have children.

Sure, the law allows them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but how many people have that type of money set aside? A lot of polls show that Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $1,000 dollar emergency, let alone have the ability to pay for 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

In a state like Utah, where we’ve optimized and streamlined the process of child-making, this can be a big problem.

Now, I understand that we like to say everything that falls short of anarcho-capitalism is socialism. But I’d also hope that we could agree that things aren’t working as they are now. Something has to change.

Either we need to work on increasing wages, decreasing the cost of living or establishing some sort of paid paternity leave. I’d argue there’s no reason why we can’t work on all three. Luckily for us, some people are working on the paternity leave problem.

Those people include our newest junior senator, Mitt Romney.

Recently, he announced his support for a proposal which would allow parents with new children the ability to withdraw early from social security in exchange for having the necessary funds to afford leave. The idea is that this legislation would give people the ability to take paid family leave without raising debt or taxes.

Now, I have a lot of questions about this proposal. Does it make fiscal sense to have the same people withdrawing from social security, especially since these are the same people who would normally be contributing to it? Social security seems to have a solvency problem — how would this make that problem better or worse? Is this going to hurt parents later when they reach retirement age? If so, is the trade-off really that much better for anyone?

I’m skeptical that adding young parents in need of paid leave to a program designed to help the elderly have a source of income is a good idea. But at least Sen. Romney is trying to think of a solution that’s better than the bupkis we currently have.

We’re the only developed country in the world who does not have a paid maternity leave policy. Generally speaking, we’re one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid leave.

Paid paternity leave, or at the very least paid maternity leave, should be a bipartisan issue. It’s a pro-family idea and it could help a lot of people in our country.

I don’t see how you could consider yourself to be pro-life, pro-family or pro-equality unless you were also for paid leave.

Hopefully, Senator Romney and other supporters of this bill will be able to effectively answer the questions and concerns of people like me about their proposal. And hopefully, opponents will put together a better argument than, “Socialism is bad.”

Either way, I plan on enjoying my paid leave that I’m beyond fortunate to enjoy. And I will continue supporting efforts to expand that benefit to others who also need it.