Meghan Markle’s top adviser has been working behind the scenes to promote the Duchess’s pet issue
Dear Leader Schumer and Chairman Pelosi,
I am not an elected official and I am not a politician. Like many, I am a concerned citizen and parent.
And because you and your congressional colleagues play a role in shaping family outcomes for generations to come, that’s why I’m writing to you at this very important moment — as a mom — to advocate for paid parental leave.
Over the past 20 months, the pandemic has exposed long-standing fault lines in our communities. At an alarming rate, millions of women were out of work, staying at home with their children because schools and nurseries were closed, and caring for loved ones full-time. The working mother or parent faces the conflict of being present or being paid. The sacrifice of either comes at a high cost.
For many, this sacrifice goes back further than the past 20 months; it’s 20 or 30 years, even longer – giving decades of time, body and endless energy not just in the pursuit of the American dream, but simply in the dream of stability.
I grew up with the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler—it may have cost less back then (to be honest, I can’t remember)—but what I do remember was the feeling; I knew how hard my parents were working to pay for this because even for five dollars dining out was something special and I felt happy. And as a Girl Scout, when my troop was going to dinner for a big party, it was back to that same salad bar or The Old Spaghetti Factory—because those families could afford that, too.
I started working (at the local frozen yogurt shop) at the age of 13. I waited for tables, babysitting, and pieced jobs to cover the odds. All my life I’ve worked and saved where and when I could – but even that was a luxury – because most of the time it was about making ends meet and having enough to pay my rent and fill my car with gas.
I expect many of your constituents have their own version of that story. Maybe you too. The people of our country work incredibly hard, and yet the demand is soft; for a level playing field to realize their version of a common dream – which is fair, equal and right. Many of our economic systems are past their sell-by dates, and as you know, too many Americans are being forced to sell themselves short when it comes to what matters to them.
In June, my husband and I welcomed our second child. Like all parents, we were overjoyed. Like many parents, we were overwhelmed. Like fewer parents, we weren’t faced with the harsh realities of the first few critical months with our baby or going back to work. We knew we could take her home, and in that vital (and sacred) stage, dedicate anything and everything to our children and our family. We knew that that would mean we wouldn’t have to make impossible choices about childcare, work and medical care that so many have to make every day.
No family should be confronted with these decisions. No family should have to choose between earning a living and having the freedom to care for their child (or a loved one, or themselves, as we would see with an extended paid leave plan).
By taking care of your child, you care for your community and you care for your country – because when paid leave is a right, we create a foundation that helps address mental health outcomes, health care costs and economic strength at the start line. Instead, as it stands, we as a country spend a fortune on symptoms rather than causes. I understand that with everything going on these days, people may find it easy to be apathetic about what is happening in Washington DC. so high none of us can afford to let apathy win.
I am writing to you on behalf of millions of American families who are using their voices to say that extended paid leave should not be a place to compromise or negotiate. In fact, most countries already have paid leave policies. Estonia, for example, offers more than a year and a half of leave for new parents. Many other countries have robust programs that give both parents (birth or adoption) months to be at home with their child. In stark contrast, the United States does not guarantee a single day of paid leave to any person. And less than one in four employees has paid family leave through their employer. I’m sure you’ll agree that if we want to remain exceptional, we can’t be an exception.
The families you represent need your strong leadership. With paid leave on the cusp of becoming a national reality, I trust you will meet this moment. I know you need to hear from your constituents about the choices they have to make every day to make ends meet and provide for their families.
Paid time off should be a state law, rather than a patchwork option limited to those whose employers have policies in place, or those who live in one of the few states that have a leave program. If we want to create a new era of family first, let’s make sure it includes a highly paid leave program for every American that is guaranteed, accessible, and encouraged without stigma or punishment.
I know how politically charged things can – and have – become. But this isn’t about right or left, it’s about right or wrong. This is about putting families above politics. And for a refreshing change, it’s something we can all agree on. At a time when everything feels so divisive, let this be a common goal that unites us.
So, on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry, thank you for considering this letter, and on behalf of all families, please ensure that this important moment is not lost.
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex