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- Extra Bonus Quote of the Day
- Florida Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional
- Minnesota GOP Bans Its Own Candidate
- Rand Paul on a Mission in Guatemala
Posts in "Work-Life Balance"
July 21, 2014
Continued from Dads on Capitol Hill: House Paternity Leave Not So Simple
At the recent White House Summit on Working Families, President Barack Obama spoke about the 2 a.m. feedings and soothings when his daughters, Malia and Sasha, were babies. “A whole lot of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks,” he said, citing “outdated policies and old ways of thinking” as part of the problem. “The bottom line is 21st century families deserve 21st century workplaces … and that means paid family leave, especially paid parental leave.”
But not all dads are comfortable taking time away from the office — even if that time is paid. “They can pay a price financially for it,” said Scott Behson, a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University who runs the blog Fathers, Work and Family. Behson cites a study from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law that showed men who interrupt their employment for family reasons earn significantly less after returning to work. On Capitol Hill, where face time is at a premium, stepping away for several weeks can be difficult, even with a supportive boss.
But if someone at the top takes paid paternity leave, that can have a positive effect on other staffers. “What your peers do really matters. If the chief of staff will take paid leave, that is when you’re going to get workers to take paid leave,” said Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California San Diego who authored a study published this month in The American Economic Review that backs up his point. “You just have to jump start the system somehow.”
Chris Gaston, chief of staff for Democratic Rep. Rush D. Holt of New Jersey, took the full 12 weeks offered to him for the birth of both of his children, Max and Clare. He credits his boss and former chief of staff Jim Papa with creating a culture where dads could take time off without fear of retaliation. When Gaston returned from paternity leave after the birth of his daughter, he was promoted from legislative director to chief of staff.
“I took leave twice and ended up becoming chief of staff, I don’t think it penalized anything,” he said.
Matt Dennis wasn’t used to making reporters wait for a response. But when he was on paternity leave, his newborn son Jonah took priority over his boss, Democratic Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York, so he put the BlackBerry aside.
“I was still taking calls, and packaging all the calls and emails for when the baby was sleeping,” said Dennis, now spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Democrats. “The press corps understands. If they were on deadline and I wasn’t able to get back, they knew to go to my chief of staff.”
Dennis was lucky — he received 10 weeks of paid paternity leave. But elsewhere on Capitol Hill, it’s an uphill battle for men who work in the House and want to stay home with their newborn. Leave policies vary widely by office; not all offices have stated policies, and those that do sometimes offer little or no paid leave.
The split is evident within House leadership. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., provides her staffers with 12 weeks paid paternity or maternity leave. Speaker John A. Boehner’s office offers two weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave as part of the national Family Medical Leave Act; the remaining 10 weeks are unpaid, though the Ohio Republican’s staff can use accrued vacation and sick days.
“Congress has, by tradition, delegated the responsibility of setting workplace rules to members themselves so this falls under that,” said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.
June 23, 2014
The White House Summit on Working Families rolled out a big-ticket list of speakers Monday — POTUS, FLOTUS, VPOTUS, among them — to put the “national spotlight” on such an “important issue.”
Sounds like some fantastic phrases, but what does this mean for YOU, hard-working Hill staffer?
The answer, it seems, is not much. Full story
June 19, 2014
Brigid Schulte is late.
She apologizes when she shows up. “Ironic, isn’t it?” she asks, given her recent bestselling book on time management, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.”
But Schulte is instantly forgiven; she may not realize I’d have gladly waited all day.
June 18, 2014
For new moms returning to work after maternity leave, having an up-front conversation with the boss can be difficult. Especially when it’s about breast-feeding.
Capitol Hill has stellar lactation facilities, but even that cannot always compete with the awkward conversation with the boss about why you can’t take that 3 p.m. meeting. New research out Wednesday and provided to Roll Call from Bravado Designs reports 25 percent of working mothers are not able to discuss back-to-work breast-feeding plans with their employer prior to taking maternity leave, and only 38 percent found that their employer was extremely supportive of their plan.
While these numbers are not specific to Capitol Hill — or even Washington, D.C. — the findings illustrate not all women feel comfortable making their family needs a priority at work. This is particularly intriguing for a place such as the Hill, where staffers are often expected to put their boss’ needs above their own and are less accustomed to taking time for themselves.
Hill staffers who spoke to Roll Call about pumping at work cited the need to block off time in their calendars each day for pumping, though many worked during that time. Every effort is made to allow staffers to remain plugged in — the lactation rooms have phones and TVs for watching the floor or committee hearings — yet without that initial conversation or support from the boss, staffers who feel uncomfortable are more likely to opt out of breastfeeding when returning to work.
Capitol Hill staffers are accustomed to hard work and dedication; many work on the Hill because they care about public service and want to give back to their communities. But doing so shouldn’t be at the expense of their families or themselves.
The White House Summit on Working Families is on June 23, and I’ll follow up with some of the findings reported there.
This conversation is just beginning.
More from Hill Navigator on working families:
- So You Want to Have a Baby? Capitol Hill Maternity Leave Policies
- The Other Back Room: Breastfeeding on Capitol Hill
- Adventures in Babysitting: Getting in to the House Daycare
May 8, 2014
Once the congratulations and well-wishes for expectant parents are out of the way, the conversation can quickly turn to post-baby plans.
- When are you going back to work?
- Who will take care of the baby?
- Are you interviewing nannies yet?
- Have you thought about daycare?
Well, have YOU thought about day care? If you’re a Hill staffer, start thinking about your options now. In a recent Roll Call story, I explore how the House day care, a truly remarkable place to have your young child spend the day, has a yearslong waiting list which can be nigh-impossible to surmount. Parents who secured a spot often put their name on the waiting list far ahead of time — even before there was a positive pregnancy test to celebrate.
The House day care is approximately $700 a month below market value, huge savings for the staffers who can get it, but vastly unfair for those who can’t get in. There are great advantages to being a staffer, though most of these benefits aren’t limited to a select, lucky few. The House day care should examine ways to continue their excellent care while meeting the increased demand.
Have any thoughts to add about your day care experience, House or Senate? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 7, 2014
Thinking about starting a family? Interested in having kids, but not sure when?
Start thinking about your child care options, and add your name to the waiting list for the House of Representatives day care — even if you or your partner aren’t yet pregnant.
A former House staffer who now works for a Senate Committee was reluctant to sign up before she was expecting, at the risk of “jinxing” her chances of conceiving. When she was 10 weeks pregnant, she finally gave in. ”I went to sign up,” she told CQ Roll Call, “and they were like, ‘What took you so long?’ ”
Her son was accepted more than a year later, when he was seven months old.
While it’s true a staffer doesn’t have to be pregnant, they may need luck and perseverance to secure a spot. Dan Weiser, communications director for the Chief Administrative Officer, which has oversight over the House of Representatives Child Care Center, would not comment on the length of the wait list, but staffers told CQ Roll Call it is long and it can sometimes be impossible to secure a spot.
Here’s why: The House day care is a great deal — high-quality care at below-market prices. Private day care in the D.C. area can run as high as $2,000 per month for an infant, so the $1,300 (payable by direct deposit) is a huge savings. Day care rates can change as children get older and the state-mandated teacher-to-student ratio decreases.
February 27, 2014
Hill Navigator is not yet finished talking about breast-feeding on Capitol Hill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released data showing a decline of toddler obesity, citing increased rates of breast-feeding as a likely cause. And for more good news, the original article about staffers pumping milk on Capitol Hill garnered sufficient reaction to merit another dedicated post: this time about the Library of Congress.
The LOC reached out to Hill Navigator to tout its own lactation centers. The first opened in March 2012 on the third floor of the Madison Building, the second opened in July 2013 on the first floor of the Adams Building. Each lounge has individual pumping rooms, a common area sink and comfortable seating (unfortunately, no hospital grade pumps a la Capitol Hill). Nursing mothers receive access to the facilities after applying with the Health Services Office at the LOC.
“We are advocating now for upgrades, [including] hospital grade pumps [and] refrigerators,” said Nan Thompson Ernst, the chief steward of the Library of Congress Professional Guild.
You can view a slideshow of the Library of Congress lactation center opening here.
For more information on accessing the lactation facilities at the Library of Congress, contact the Health Services Office in LM G-40, or at 202-707-8035.