My Turn: Paid family medical leave and COVID 19

For the Monitor
Published: 3/27/2020 8:00:38 AM

As a pediatrician and parent, I am all too familiar with balancing family as well as work on a daily basis.

My own story aside, I spend countless hours talking to families about return to work, how and when to stay home when their child is sick and when it is safe to return to daycare. More recently however, my conversations have been bent towards how families are keeping their kids occupied, up to date on homework and if the parents’ employer is continuing to pay them during this COVID-19 crisis.

There is no question that these are unprecedented times for many reasons and it is taking a toll on my patients and their families in numerous ways. I do believe that New Hampshire citizens will care for each other and get through this crisis and more broadly I expect the world to recover. In light of this I would like to highlight two important pieces I have seen as a child advocate emerging out of this pandemic.

First of these is the rapid passage of paid family medical leave in New Hampshire and at the federal level after many years and many pieces of legislation have failed. This will allow families to have a home in which they can stay safe and healthy and alleviate some of the stresses that come with mandatory school and work closures.

In the past, I have seen families with seriously ill hospitalized children having to decide between their jobs on one hand and caring for their sick child on the other. An impossible dilemma! This current rapid passage of aid for all citizens to care for children and their family members as well as themselves is common sense in light of our current challenge with COVID-19 as well as the numerous challenges we all face every day in negotiating home and work life.

Additionally, the other positive for families is the forced moment in time to slow down, play outside, go for a walk, cook food because your favorite restaurant is closed is a moment to savor in our busy lives.

My son and I watched a father-daughter duo sledding in our late March snowfall the other day, gleeful in the face of panic and anxiety that has arisen all around us.

My greatest hope is that as citizens, families and parents we continue to invest in a healthy workforce and families by adopting paid family medical leave. We can emerge from this stronger and wiser, so let’s commit to ensuring that we all can benefit in times of personal or global crisis. After going through COVID-19, we have the chance to band together and support each other when those times surely arise in the future.

Atty Moriarty, MD, is a pediatrician in New Hampshire.

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