Duchess Meghan passionately argues for paid parental leave in open letter to U.S. Congress

By Zach Harper

Duchess Meghan has written an open letter to members of the United States Congress to voice her support for a comprehensive paid leave program for new parents.

The Duchess of Sussex began by saying she was writing to lawmakers as a parent and a mother, adding the coronavirus pandemic has prompted millions of women in the United States to opt to stay home and care for their children instead of returning to work. That's something she pointed out back in May when she made a speech during the VAX LIVE concert to advocate for vaccine equity.

"The working mom or parent is facing the conflict of being present or being paid," she continued. "The sacrifice of either comes at a great cost."

Meghan added that the struggle to balance work and family life is something she saw with her own mom and dad growing up. She pointed out that she understood meals out with her parents were "something special" because of this. But she also recognized things are much different for her now, and while she and Prince Harry felt "overwhelmed" after the arrival of daughter Lilibet, other parents were dealing with things that didn't affect them.

"Like any parents, we were overjoyed. Like many parents, we were overwhelmed," she continued of their second child's arrival in June. "Like fewer parents, we weren't confronted with the harsh reality of either spending those first few critical moments with our baby or going back to work.

"We knew we could take her home, and in that vital (and sacred) stage, devote any and everything to our kids and to our family. We knew that by doing so, we wouldn't have to make impossible choices about childcare, work and medical care that so many have to make every single day.

"No family should be faced with these decisions. No family should have to choose between earning a living and having the freedom to take care of their child (or a loved one, or themselves, as we would see with a comprehensive paid leave plan)."

Meghan and Harry welcomed Archie, their first child, in 2019. Photo: © Getty Images

Archie and Lilibet's mom went on to say many other countries, such as Estonia, already have paid leave plans for parents. She added that while Washington, D.C. has become politically charged in recent years, families should be put "above politics."

"And for a refreshing change, it's something we all seem to agree on," she went on. "At a point when everything feels so divisive, let this be a shared goal that unites us.

"So, on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry, I thank you for considering this letter, and on behalf of all families, I ask you to ensure this consequential moment is not lost."

Meghan has partnered with three American campaigns on this issue to help bring it to the attention of lawmakers. She's working with Paid Leave for All, the Marshall Plan for moms and PL+US on it.

You can read her full letter at the Paid Leave for All website.

The duchess' letter to Congress comes as U.S. President Joe Biden's social safety net bill that's part of his plan for the U.S. economy's recovery from the pandemic, is being scrutinized in Washington, D.C. As part of the Build Back Better Act, the U.S. president had proposed giving parents up to 12 weeks of paid leave and also give those providing care for sick family members or people dealing with a serious illness or medical condition the same amount of time off. According to The New York Times, the plan would give parents two-thirds of their income while they are on leave.

In recent weeks, there have been questions about whether paid leave will end up being cut from the package, which has prompted advocates to organize in support of giving parents what they say is vital time that will also help reinvigorate the American economy.

After Lilibet's birth earlier this year, Meghan and Harry revealed they would both take parental leave from their roles at the Archewell Foundation. They both had 20 weeks off, which is what the organization grants employees.

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