Gates Foundation adjusts their 52-week paid family leave policy

((photo when I was speaking at a national conference, babe in arms, when I returned to work at 50% when he was 4 months old))

When they launched their 52-week parent leave policy in 2015, I was jealous. I had a baby that year, and I didn’t have such a policy at my workplace.

Three years later, they’re adjusting citing challenges to managing talent and back-filling for back-fills. Also, there is “growing evidence” that 6 months is the sweet spot for meeting key on health for infants and for parents’ careers.

I’ve had a few babies, all of whom were born while I was working full-time. Here’s how I handled them:

  • #1 — I was four months pregnant when I started this job. Although *I* knew at the time of my interview and offer that I was pregnant, I did not tell them for a good month into the job. I was not covered by Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): I hadn’t been on the job for 12 months. This was a public agency, so they certainly wanted to show good will within their limits. I saved, then used, all my sick and vacation time, then took a leap of faith and supplemented with unpaid leave. Total time with babe: 5 months, 1 week. Partner’s time with babe after me: 4 months.
  • #2 —  Between babies, we moved from one city to another and then another. I landed in Portland around 7 months pregnant, interviewed for a job in my maternity suit, got the offer, and stated upon verbally accepting it: “I just wanted to make it clear that I will need to take Family Leave in a couple of months.” My male manager stuttered. I think he even said, “well, let me get back to you.” I was in disbelief: a) he had no idea I was expecting and b) he seemed to be back-pedaling on a job offer! Well, I think it was just shock, and – of course – he wasn’t about to take back the offer (again, this was a public agency, and the discrimination lawsuit would have been pretty awful there). Needless to say, I was 2 for 2 now being uncovered under FMLA. I did not push too hard, knowing I could sacrifice my job, so I came back when they said they needed me back. Total time with babe: 9 weeks. Partner’s time with babe after me: 5 weeks.
  • #3 — OK. By this time, I had a couple of other jobs, and I had landed at a national nonprofit organization. I had been there for a few years already when I announced my next arrival; I had proven my worth and built credibility. They had a generous leave plan, with 3 months paid. I was also working from home a good bit. Even after I went back to work, I was able to work with minimal outside childcare until he was one year old, as he was an excellent and regular napper. I also figured out how to travel with him, securing babysitting on the other end or even bringing him when he was up to 24 months old to some staff meetings in many locations nationwide. Total time with babe: 4 months. Partner’s time with babe after me: 2 months.
  • #4 — With this one, I was with a similar organization as I was with #3, a national nonprofit organization. I had been with them a year almost exactly when I started to labor. I was provided with – again – 3 paid months of leave (!!!). Then, I did something I hadn’t done yet: I went back at the 50% level, which I always said I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t sure how to know what 50% was; I only knew “working” or “not working”. Turns out it was a nice arrangement to ease my way back to work, and it was critical to establish regular hours so officemates knew when to reach me. Total time with babe: 3 full months, then 50% for the next 2 months. Partner’s time with babe, overlapping with my 50%: 3 weeks (he was at the job 1 month before we delivered).

So, now reflecting on my sample experiences here, I do feel like 3 months is definitely not enough. I think at 5 months away from the office, I was starting to worry that the re-entry to the workplace would be tough and I was starting to want for my work-life back.

We’ve had a lot of privilege here: I had a solid full-time job with each kid, and I had a confidence that my job would still be there when I returned; I had a partner who provided additional income (although we do need both incomes to subsist); my partner also took family leave to delay our needs for full-time childcare.

Have you taken leave from work? How much time did or did not work for you? Would you agree with the “mounting evidence” that there is this 6-month sweet spot?

Family Forward Oregon: It’s Here

6a00e5523e840d8834011571a5bb2a970b-200wi Did you know that motherhood is the single greatest predictor of
poverty in old age?  Or that the wage gap between mothers and
childless women is now greater than the gap between men and women? 
Startling facts that, to me, show a gap between what we say about
valuing the work of child-raising and actually valuing it. 

idea of valuing parents and caregiving is what prompted a few Activistas to kick it up a notch!  So, we're excited to announce the creation
of a new, local nonprofit called Family Forward Oregon.  Their
mission?  "Inspiring workplaces, communities and policies that value families.

Forward Oregon
begins with the basic premise that our workplace and
government policies lag far behind the reality in which most families
live.  Namely, policies are still built on the assumption that one
parent is home full-time with kids.  Obviously this doesn't account for
all the co-parenting, single-parenting, and extended family
parenting that really goes on.  It also doesn't account for the fact
that in most families both parents work outside the home.  And it
definitely doesn't account for the fact that most of us (parents and
non-parents alike) desperately want some work/family balance.

time to value the work of caring for each other.  It's time to end the
economic insecurity associated with motherhood.  It's time to develop
communities where families can thrive. 

Family Forward Oregon
will work to bring our workplaces, communities, and policies forward. 
They are creating a movement – and asking you to join them. 

Get involved.  They will be presenting their ideas and soliciting your feedback on a family forward agenda at next week's Social Innovation Forum (hosted by Springboard Innovation). 

Your feedback is essential to creating change for all Oregon's families.  Please come and tell us what you think about where we need to go from here! 

Join us to shape this movement:

Social Innovation Forum on Family Forward Oregon
When: July 8th, 2009 6-9 pm (light dinner provided)
Where: Urban Grind NE (NE 22nd & Oregon St)

Should Family Leave be Paid? Listen up & weigh in on OPB

PPL_five_finalized1_circleboarder_with_text Where will you be from 9 till 10 A.M. this Thursday morning? 
Hopefully listening to OPB's Think Out Loud show on paid family leave. 
Our moment is here, mamas.  Whether you'll be in your car, at your
desk, or in the sandbox, this is a big one.  The question they're
asking is: Should family leave be paid?  Uh, yeah.

Here's how they describe the show – and the issue:

Should workers receive paid family leave to care for a newborn or a
sick relative?
It's a question being debated in the Oregon Legislature,
which last week heard testimony on a bill that would create a state insurance program to accomplish just that. Under the proposal,
workers at companies with 25 or more employees would be assessed a two
cent per hour payroll tax for a state fund which would then provide
$300 a week in paid leave for full-time employees up to six weeks.
Part-time workers would receive pro-rated benefits. (Similar
legislation narrowly failed in the state Senate in 2007.)

Currently, workers who meet specified criteria are generally eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave under state law (a period which can be extended under certain conditions), but paid leave is not mandatory.

isn't just an issue in Oregon. In the nation's capitol, a bill is
pending in Congress that would create a paid family and medical leave insurance program, and other legislation is under consideration which would provide some paid leave for federal workers.

Supporters of paid family leave like Regan Gray of Children First For Oregon call the bill "life happening insurance." Meanwhile, detractors, such as J.L. Wilson, a business lobbyist with Associated Oregon Industries
say the bill is "government at its worst." He worries that the program
will be unsustainable and lead to further taxes on workers or
businesses and will be unfair to those who don't need such leave.

Participate!  There are a bunch of ways to help our campaign during this show: Tell your friends and family about it, post a comment on the show's blog – they use it for questions during the show, call in and share your story or opine. Opining, of course, is always good.

Paid family leave: Five ways to help

So we're getting down to the wire, which is both exciting and nervewracking.  Exciting because this could actually happen – how cool would that be?  But it might not, which is a serious bummer. 

To make our very best effort to create a paid family leave insurance program in Oregon, we need all the help we can get in the next few weeks.  There are 5 key actions you can take  – will one (or two!!!) work for you? 

  1. Email your state legislators and urge them to support paid family leave!  Children's First for Oregon created this simple e-mail action to make it as e-a-s-y as possible for us hassled and harried parents.  Simply click here and you're good to go.  Easy as pie but very important.
  2. Join us in Salem on Wednesday, April 8th @ 2:30 PM for the bill's Senate committee hearing.  We need to pack the room to show our support.  It really matters  – and bringing the kids is an excellent idea.  We'll have ours there!  You can RSVP here, and if you want to coordinate rides, email Andrea at 
  3. We need more businesses to speak up and support this bill.  Do you own one?  Do you know someone who does that you can ask?  You can watch and share this video of an Oregon mom and business owner (and urbanMama!) over on Activistas.
  4. We need men to testify!  Mamas, mamas, everywhere.  The experts are women, the legislators are women, so we need a few good men!  Any dads out there who wished they had more leave, or who watched their partners struggle with too little?  Or who worked so many hours to cover their partner's lost income they never even saw the baby?  If that's you or someone you know, we want to hear from you – soon!  Get in touch with Parents for Paid Leave at:
  5. Share a supportive quote that we can share with key legislators: why do you support paid family leave?  Send it to: 

We're close, but close isn't gonna cut it.  Your help couldn't be more important.

This week on Activistas

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Seems like a lot of things need fixing these days (what's new?), so we've been busy trying to fix them.  Jump in if you, too, think something needs fixing.  Here are but a few to choose from:

  • Paid family leave in Oregon: A chance to learn & act.  Parents for Paid Leave is hosting two family-friendly, casual events this coming weekend.  We'll watch a short documentary about Portland parents working for paid
    leave, call and write our
    legislators, and get free professional pics of you & the kids for our grassroots postcard campaign.

The exciting thing about all this is there's a lot happening to improve the public policies that affect family life in the U.S.  And the more of us that are involved, the more improvement we're likely to see.  No time like the present!

Activistas: What’s going on?

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Lots to discuss and some important action opportunities over on Activistas this week.  Including the downtown coffee hour next Wednesday, March 4th from 10 to 11 AM.  Hope you can join us!  Some recent topics…

  • Email us your family pics to support paid family leave.  We've got this plan.  And we hope you'll help – 'cause without you, the plan can't work.  It's
    like this:  We're making photo postcards to send to our state
    legislators, to show them who we are, and how very many Oregonians
    there are who support paid family leave.
  • Attend a house party for paid family leave.  There's one in Eugene on Saturday 3/7 and another in Clackamas on Sunday 3/8 – and more in the works.  If you can't attend or that's not your neighorhood, spread the word.  The e-vites are open so anyone can invite friends & family.  The idea is to learn about the bill and our grassroots campaign – then contact your state legislator.
  • Protect us from our peanut butterWe wish we were Mumfred the Magician
    and could make this nasty peanut recall disappear.  As everyone knows by now, the FDA has
    recalled hundreds of products containing peanut butter from the Georgia-based Peanut Corporation of America.