Meet Mary Ignatius
"I first used Paid Family Leave in 2009 when my first son was born. When you are a first-time mother, everything is challenging. There is so much happening during the first month that you're trying to figure out. To think that a parent would have to navigate the stress of sleepless nights, changing diapers, feeding a baby and all of that—in addition to finding quality, affordable child care so they can go back to work—is frightening. It's hard to make good decisions under those circumstances.
"And it's not fair that new parents have to make those decisions. During those first few weeks of your child's life, you're just getting to bond with your baby, nurture him, watch his face while he sleeps. These are the moments that every parent lives for, and your baby should be your priority. It would have been heartbreaking to miss out on that time with him.
"In addition to the emotional burden and stress of being a first-time parent, I had problems breastfeeding but knew that it was important for my baby. If I would have had to juggle work with the stress of breastfeeding and a hungry baby, I would have probably given up.
"Our second son was born with clubfeet, a birth defect that is effectively treatable if you start early enough.
“From his second week through his 10th week he had to receive weekly casts, undergo an ankle procedure and is currently wearing braces. This was extremely stressful for our family, and if I had not been able to take paid leave to care for him, I don't know what I would have done—how could I have possibly concentrated on work?
"I am privileged that I work for an organization that is very accommodating to new parents, but not every parent has that kind of employer. This is why Paid Family Leave is so important—it ensures that mothers and fathers don't have to choose between being good parents and good workers.
"My husband is self-employed and he doesn't pay into Disability Insurance, so he's not eligible for Paid Family Leave. With the birth of our first son, he was home for a week and then had to return to work. He said to me that he did not really feel like a father until our son turned one and was able to say "Papa". I think that's because his bonding was limited to nights and weekends and he wasn't able to spend that much time with his son.
"Now that the hardest part of my youngest son's treatment is over and I am back at work, I can concentrate better and can do my work more effectively because I could take paid time off. I wish that everyone in this country had access to the rights of Paid Family Leave."
--Mary Ignatius, San Francisco, CA