A woman squeezing the sample liquid on a test strip while carrying out a Covid-19 rapid self test at home.
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Kayla Meyers is a Minnesota mom who’s been parenting throughout the pandemic and is pregnant again.
She used up some of her paid leave during multiple shutdowns at her son’s daycare due to COVID-19.
She said mandated federal paid leave would be a “game changer” as she approaches maternity leave.
Kayla Meyers has been worrying about colds since March 2020.
She returned to work from parental leave after having her first son on March 27, right when her home state of Minnesota — and much of the rest of the country — shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“I’ve been parenting throughout it,” Meyers told Insider. “The first month I kept my son home and just tried to work with him, which was a bit of a catastrophe, but it worked.”
Since then, Meyers has been on alert any time her son is ill, wondering if he has COVID-19 and trying to get him tested. She said the past three months had been the hardest since the onset of the pandemic — their daycare switched to a part-time schedule because of staffing shortages, and they’ve had three 10-day quarantines since the first week of November. During a fourth quarantine, the whole family had COVID-19.
“Every time I got the quarantine message, I was just thinking of the dollars lost on an upcoming maternity leave,” said Kayla Meyers, a mom in Minnesota.
Meyers, who is expecting another son, said she was “extremely fortunate” to work for an organization that would give her 12 weeks off — partially paid — for her maternity leave. She works for a local nonprofit.
She’d been planning to use additional paid time off around her parental leave. But she said it “gets complicated when you’re also trying to use your time off to support your kids” as they’re home for quarantines.
Those three 10-day quarantines that she had to take paid time off for happened while she had another job; she hasn’t used any paid time off in her new role, which she began in early January.
“It was hard,” she said. “Every time I got the quarantine message, I was just thinking of the dollars lost on an upcoming maternity leave.”
Like parents around the country, Meyers is having to balance the paid leave she has through work with sudden quarantines or childcare constraints. It’s an issue that’s kept mothers out of the workforce and exacerbated labor shortages as parents struggle to keep working without consistent childcare or leave policies.
‘It would be a game changer to know that I could just count on a federally funded 12 weeks bare-minimum paid leave’
Meyers is back at work now, but during two weeks at home after contracting COVID-19 she split work time and childcare duties with her husband, who’s a healthcare provider. Missing clients would’ve affected his pay, she said.
“It would be a game changer to know that I could just count on a federally funded 12 weeks bare-minimum paid leave,” she said. “It should be so much more comparable with other countries of our size, but here we are.”
She said the most concrete benefit of paid leave would be having a guaranteed income when unexpected hardship hits.
“My husband and I are honestly just genuinely fortunate to work good-paying jobs that we know that if we take a hit for 12 weeks we can weather it and we can come out on the other side,” she said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 27% of full-time private-industry workers had access to paid family leave as of March 2021. It said two-thirds of low-wage workers didn’t have access to paid sick leave.
“We think about what can we budget for and what can’t we budget for,” Meyers said. For instance, they’re thinking about her husband taking time off with her after she gives birth. She cited research suggesting that arrangement has benefits including a decreased risk of postpartum depression.
“Fathers get even less leave often,” Meyers said. “That’s another thing that actually has huge impacts for mothers. One thing that I wish we could change is having a guaranteed time off for him as well without it being a direct income hit to us.”
‘Our country has really been built on a lot of unpaid labor largely done by women’
Meyers said the pandemic had shown the “massive system failures” that happen when women’s unpaid labor is not valued. “Our country has really been built on a lot of unpaid labor largely done by women,” she said.
“We’re trying to debate, should we keep kids in school or out of school?” she added. “What we’re really debating in that debate is who should be responsible for watching kids. And we’re not paying women to watch them when we’re sending them home.”
Meyers said she was grateful and privileged to work for organizations that offer her support. But she said that the leave that parents get is too short and that she didn’t think any organization could handle offering that much time off paid or unpaid.
“We keep operating on the assumption that families and especially mothers will take on anything we give them,” she said. She added that while parents “are just remarkably strong and remarkably resilient,” the country would have to “start valuing people’s work and people’s time and supporting them if we want to be a fully functioning society and a fully functioning economy.”
Economy, Markets, Economy, Paid Leave, family leave, Sick Leave, paid family leave, Mother, Pandemic Parenting
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