In the weeks leading up to my daughter’s birth, a friend told me that all my travel experience would come in handy during those first sleepless months. “Taking care of a new baby is kind of like a long road trip,” he said. “Someone’s always driving, and if you’re not driving you better be sleeping because you’ll be driving again soon enough.”
Of the countless pieces of unsolicited advice I received, this was perhaps the second best. The first was from my manager when he encouraged me to take full advantage of Blend’s family leave policy to spend time getting to know my baby and soaking in the love of our new family.
After my wife and I joyously discovered she was pregnant, and having later perused Blend’s employee benefits guide, I was thrilled to see Blend’s 16-week 100% paid leave of absence policy and impressed to learn it wasn’t limited to maternity or paternity leave for new parents. In fact, it covers parental bonding, serious health conditions, family care for serious health conditions, and military leave. I was thrilled, yes, but I also felt relief, gratitude, joy, and pride — proud to be working at a company with a long-term vision that so clearly values its employees as to require no length of tenure to qualify for this kind of policy. I even found the writing in the benefits guide touching and worth sharing:
Blend’s leave policy applies to all full-time employees — men, women, gay, straight, trans — regardless of their path to parenthood (adoption, surrogacy, or giving birth). There’s no length of service requirement, no nitpicky rules. Simple and transparent.
Some of my friends here in New York City — new fathers working as architects, engineers, production designers — took paternity leave when their children were born, but some were back to work in just two weeks.
The current state of maternity and paternity leave in the US
Even as I write this, the $1.8 trillion domestic-policy bill that’s making its way through Congress includes only four weeks of paid family and medical leave. The USA is one of only six countries in the world — and the only rich country — without any form of national paid leave.
There is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers or fathers of newborn or newly-adopted children. But there are caveats for eligibility. New parents only qualify if they work for a company with 50 or more employees, have been an employee at that company for at least a full year, and have worked no fewer than 1,250 hours. And even then, this leave is unpaid.
Currently, seven states (California, Washington, Massachusetts, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) provide paid family leave, none of which is 100% paid. And in the coming years, Connecticut, Oregon, and Colorado will each implement their own policies of 12 weeks of pay capped at $1,100/week (Colorado) or less.
Life beyond work and Blend’s paid leave policy
While our country’s progress toward paid family and medical leave has been incremental, it is heartening to see both small and large companies doing what they believe to be right and fair for their employees. At Blend, I feel valued and seen — both as an employee and an individual. “Life beyond work” is exactly what Blend calls this category of benefits that includes parental leave, medical leave, family planning assistance, wellness reimbursement, as well as PTO.
Perhaps also worth noting is that Blend’s 16 weeks of parental leave can be taken beginning when the baby is born up until they are one year old. Employees can take it all at once or break it up, depending on their needs and family plans. Personally, I took my leave all at once starting at my baby’s birth.
The 16 weeks I spent as a new father with my wife and our brand-new daughter were absolutely incredible — blissful, stressful, challenging, humbling, and sleeplessly psychedelic. Thinking back to those early weeks, I’m nearly overwhelmed by the emotion infused in those memories: my wife’s postpartum recovery, our baby’s squeaky cries, our first family adventures out of the house (if only to the corner coffee shop), the strange exhausted contentedness that fills the room in shared moments of fleeting sleeping baby silence…
My friend was right. There were many moments, often just before dawn, when I was the only one awake, sitting behind the wheel on a road trip into the unknown. And I can only applaud the millions of Americans who have children and become parents without the benefit of a paid family leave policy. Certainly, it can and will continue to be done with grace and grit. I’m simply forever grateful, as an employee at Blend, to have had the chance to start this long road trip in a comfortable vehicle with a full tank of gas.