Congress is finally discussing paid leave. That’s great, but there are good and bad proposals. Family caregivers like me will be excluded if a bill provides only parental, not full family and medical, leave.
After battling heart and kidney failure, my father in Texas required surgery. I requested time off from work to take care of him and was allowed four unpaid days. I made the trip, took him to the hospital, and then had to leave. I took a 12-hour bus ride back to my 45-65 hour workweek. He wasn’t getting better. I made medical decisions over the phone, not next to him, with doctors, discussing options. And those four days without pay meant I fell behind on my car payment and light bill.
Then, his doctor called with bad news, asking me if I wanted to take my father off life support. It was devastating. I waited for my shift to end so I could go to Texas and make his final arrangements: I thought about him taking his last breath, alone. I had to stay to close up at 10 p.m, then go home and pack. That day changed me: I became a leader with 9to5, a working womens group fighting for paid leave.
No matter who makes up your family, family leave is vital. Many in the LGBTQ community have family members bound not by blood or marriage but by commitment. Any paid leave proposal should include all care and every family.