I want to tell you about a very unfortunate situation I was in and why I support universal healthcare and paid maternity/paternity leave.
Eight years ago I worked for a community mental health agency and I absolutely hated it. The job involved a lot of driving and driving is something that makes me really anxious. I should have never accepted the position but it paid more than my previous job.
At the same time, my husband and I wanted to start a family and in 2015 we found out we were expecting.
Many pregnant people in the US are familiar with FMLA – the Family Medical Leave Act. It allows you to take off up to twelve weeks unpaid from your job for a medical reason. For most American mothers it is the only way to have maternity leave.
There’s a catch – to apply for family medical leave, you have to have been with your employer for at least a year. So when I got pregnant, I was stuck at my miserable job. If I found a new job, I wouldn’t be able to have maternity leave. Let’s be real – no one is going to hire a pregnant person anyway.
My daughter came and I took eight weeks off. Family Medical Leave is typically unpaid but my employer required me to use all of my sick and vacation time while I was off. It only covered about two weeks and it turned out to be disastrous.
When my eight weeks were up, I went back to work and my daughter went to daycare. She was tiny and it was gut-wrenching to leave her with strangers. As many parents know, when you send your kid to daycare they get sick – a lot. My daughter had only been at daycare for a week when I had to take her to the hospital for a fever of 104.
So here I am with a sick kid and no sick or vacation time to stay home with her. I had no options. I took a day off anyway and when I returned to work I got written up for it.
I continued to work at my miserable job but I was also looking at job postings. Then an amazing opportunity came up for my husband. He started a new job and it was good money – and we desperately needed money. Since you have to work for an employer for three months to get health insurance, I stayed at my job so my husband could go on my insurance. I stopped looking for a new job and stayed put.
Also, let me tell you how horrible the health insurance was at that job. My annual salary was only $20,000 and the health insurance offered had a $5,000 deductible.
My husband was working at his new job and finally got health insurance. A few months later, I was laid off. Getting laid off should be terrifying, but I only felt relief.
Working at that job was one of the darker periods of my life and I was absolutely stuck there for nearly four years.
Today, I only work part-time so I am on my husband’s insurance which thankfully, is pretty good. My husband and I both have chronic health conditions so going without insurance just isn’t an option.
That’s it. That’s my sad story. That’s why I will always push for universal healthcare and paid family leave.
Fellow Americans, what’s your sad story?