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Dear Paul Ryan: Welcome to the club millions of moms and dads already belong to

Reuters/Eric Thayer
We value family time just as much as you do.
  • Jenny Anderson
By Jenny Anderson

Senior reporter, Editor of How to be Human

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

US lawmaker Paul Ryan wants a bigger job but he also wants to see his kids.

Welcome to the club, dude.

Pew Research shows that 56% of mothers and 50% of fathers find juggling work and family life difficult. Among those with children under the age of 18, 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers say they always feel rushed.

They could probably do with some balance.

Part of why they feel so unbalanced is that the United States has abysmal family policies. We are the only developed nation without maternity leave, or paid parental leave policy. (This map shows we are in good company: Papua New Guinea and Suriname also do not provide any cash benefits to women during maternity leave, and nor do the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, NauruPalau, and Tonga.)

Many workers have access to unpaid leavethanks to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993. But according to Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post, only “53 percent of workers report being able to take some type of paid leave for their own illness and only 39 percent report being able to take some type of paid family leave for the birth of a child,” according to a 2014 White House report.

Ryan is part of that problem. The Wisconsin Republican voted against a bill that would have given federal employees four weeks of paid paternity leave.

He does not support women’s right to abortion. His party has repeatedly blocked efforts to expand family benefits.

Now he wants to be Speaker of the House—third in line for the presidency—but have his weekends to spend with his family (this was one of three conditions put on his taking the job, the others being that the Republican party gets its act together).

I would love to rally behind a powerful elected official making his work conditional on the right to spend adequate time with his family. Most sensible men and women would get behind that cause in a heartbeat.

“We need work to work for parents—and having leaders who weigh responsibilities as fathers as much as their responsibilities to their jobs shows all of us what is possible,” said Sheryl Sandberg on her Facebook page (it is unclear whether he is leaning in, or out).

But it is hard to cheer for a man uniquely empowered to fight for American families to have the balance he so ardently wants. Given some balance, will he drag the US out of the dark ages and pass legislation mandating maternity leave? (I am sure this is what he would have wanted for his wife, the mother of the three children he rightly wants to see grow up.) Will he reconsider the importance of paid leave?

Senator Elizabeth Warren called Ryan’s attention to the plight of others here:

I’d like to welcome Ryan to the very large club of moms and dads and partners scrambling to balance work with the occasional family dinner. But it doesn’t seem to be a club he much wants to support.

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