By Cuinn Huber
The topic of parental leave is frequently misrepresented and misunderstood in the United States and the criticism of Secretary Pete Buttigieg is a strong example of this. Recently, the secretary adopted newborn twins with his Husband Chasten and took an eight week parental leave to help take care of the children. This would seem normal but there were a lot of people particularly in conservative circles who seem to not understand parental leave and the need for it and why parents take it when they can. The ugliest comment was made by known Fox News pundit and television host Tucker Carlson when he said “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went.” Besides the obvious that they are bottle feeding the point of why he took the leave is completely missed. Parental leave is not a vacation, it is extremely hard work especially when your newborn twins were born prematurely, as was the case with the Buttigieg. Another pathetic criticism is that Pete is not doing his job and that since he did not give birth he should not have access to parental leave. Although, he is doing his job by taking care of his family. You are replaceable at your job, not to your family. To the point about him not being the birther of children he is still the one taking care of them 24/7 so he should be able to take the leave and actually have the time to do that. Speaking of paid parental leave, the United States is the only developed country without guaranteed leave and that needs to change. Not having guaranteed parental leave harms millions of families and children across the country in particular those who are low income. According to the Human Rights Watch the lack of the right to parental leave has led to parents putting off their child’s vaccines as well as health problems such as postpartum depression. Many parents have also been forced into debt because they chose to take leave despite their employer refusing to pay them. This is large part due to the major misconception that a lot of Americans have is that paid parental leave is a kind of vacation which could not be further from the truth since often times taking care of a baby is harder than your “real job” since you are on call round the clock 24/7 as opposed to just during the day. Paid parental leave being guaranteed would provide many benefits such as improved mental and physical health for the child and the parent as well as increased parental involvement with their child according to the national partnership for women and families. The evidence is clear that parental leave being guaranteed will improve the health of American households leaps and bounds and it is far past time for us to implement it considering every other developed country already has it.