America's paid family leave situation is a scandal — and frankly insane
IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

America's paid family leave situation is a scandal — and frankly insane

On this 25th anniversary of MSNBC, I’m looking to the next 25 years. May my kids have the choice my mother never did.
Illustration of MSNBC host Katy Tur and a photo of a mother kissing her daughter.
This reality could spell economic disaster for all of us in the not-so-distant future. MSNBC; Getty Images

Help us celebrate MSNBC’s first 25 years by joining us every day for 25 days as our anchors, hosts, and correspondents share their thoughts on where we've been — and where we’re going.

My mom only spent one night in the hospital after I was born. She might have left the same day if I had been born in the morning, instead of the afternoon. Once she got home, she got right back to work. My dad set her up on couch with a phone and a police and fire scanner to listen for possible breaking news.

My mom only spent one night in the hospital after I was born. She might have left the same day if I had been born in the morning.

Only a few weeks later, she was off the couch and in the air — sent to New Mexico by CNN to cover, of all things, a story about a woman who was duped into selling her baby. What was supposed to be an overnight trip turned into a week and what would have been a pause on breast feeding turned into an abrupt weaning for me. Did I mention it was also Christmas?

When I first heard this story, I thought it was badass. My mom was tough and resilient and a dedicated journalist. But 14 years into the same career and now with two kids of my own — one only 10 weeks old — I think it’s also insane. And sad.

It’s a scandal that our country didn’t then — and doesn’t now — do more to support families.

My mom wasn’t having it all. She didn’t have a choice. Neither of my parents did. They were self-employed, co-founders of their own newsgathering operation; a tiny upstart they called Los Angeles News Service. Every hour they spent not chasing a story was an hour they weren’t making money for dinner or rent. So work always had to come first. And there was definitely no paid time off to bond with a new baby.

For most American parents, nothing has changed since then. While some states have paid family leave policies and Congress passed a 12-week paid leave policy for all federal employees in 1993, only 20 percent of private sector workers are as lucky. That means 80 percent are in the same situation as my parents — making a choice between a paycheck and newborn.

Again, that is insane.

If you’ve watched my show or follow me on social media, you know I can recite a big long list of reasons why it is insane. But if you have a kid, you already know how important it is to be there with them. How necessary that time is for the whole family. And if you don’t have a kid, chances are one of the big reasons why is because you know you won’t get much support to make it work.

What has changed, in a painful twist, is that everyone already agrees that our current situation is broken.

That’s a reality, by the way, that could spell economic disaster for all of us in the not-so-distant future.

What has changed, in a painful twist, is that everyone already agrees that our current situation is broken. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents support paid family leave. In fact, there are bills in Washington right now — including some bipartisan proposals — that have been under discussion for years. And still, nothing.

The problem is in the details. The problem is deciding how it all gets paid for and who bears the biggest burden. But in the meantime, we all bear it. I’ve been beyond fortunate to work for a company that does offer substantial paid time off, but my own kids might not make the same choices or be so lucky. So, on this 25th anniversary of MSNBC, I’m looking to the next 25 years. May my kids have the choice my mother never did.