By Jarred Lebedevitch
(Jarred is the husband of USBC’s Workplace Project Manager, Cheryl Lebedevitch)
Meeting my wife was the start of an incredible journey through which we have enjoyed many highs and also experienced a few lows. Our two children are wonderful, caring, thoughtful bundles of fun, and are each other’s best friend. But the early years of their lives were a struggle.
When my son was born eight years ago, my wife was attending school and working three jobs. I was also working multiple jobs, including a full-time overnight shift stocking shelves. Needless to say, we were very busy, and we worried about the financial commitment a new baby would bring to our lives.
My son’s birth was very hard on both his body and hers. We experienced complications during his birth that resulted in significant oxygen deprivation and injuries to our son’s shoulder. His face was covered in bruises, making breastfeeding challenging.
I had no access to paid parental leave and was forced, financially, to return to work just three days after my son’s birth. My wife is an amazing, intelligent, strong women who is the best mother in the world, but even she needed me there longer than that brief period to help her get acclimated to our new life. When my wife needed me the most I was not able to be there because someone had to be working. It was my job to care for them in those first weeks, but because I had to return to work so soon, I failed at that job.
My wife had to return to her jobs just five weeks after her first delivery. She cried so much the first time she left our newborn son! We knew how important it is for the mother, father, and baby to spend the first months together, but no matter how we added things up, staying home just wasn’t an option.
With no extra money to afford child care, we worked opposite schedules so that one of us would always be home with our son, and later our daughter. Looking back on the experience I’m not sure how we made it through early parenting. Sometimes I see old pictures and we look like sleep-deprived zombies. Well, mostly me, my wife is beautiful. This wasn’t a healthy solution for us as parents or for our kids.
If we had paid parental leave in this country, I could have actually been there with my wife and enjoyed the happiest moment of our lives together. I feel cheated sometimes that I didn’t get a chance to soak up those emotions and experiences of our children’s early lives, and I know that I am not alone. I have spoken to many fathers that experienced the same situation. How many more will have to feel this guilt before something is done?
As a nation, we need to pull together and make it possible for everyday families to stay home with their brand new babies while not worrying about the bills. It is time for America to join the rest of the world and offer paid family leave to its citizens. Dads: please join me in raising our voices and our votes in support of this issue. It is long overdue.
In celebration of parents across the country, the USBC is hosting a social media advocacy campaign this spring which combines both Mother's Day and Father's Day celebrations into what we've dubbed "Parents' Month." Through the Parents' Month: Celebrating, Centering, Connecting campaign, we are bringing forward the stories of families, in order to identify the ways in which each of us can help shape our policies and systems to work better for more families. Share your perspective at the hashtag #Parents3Cs or via our support story collection tool.