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The Optimal Duration of Paid Family Leave

Brigid Schulte wrote for our pop-up blog on Slate about the optimal duration of paid family leave. 

Ask American mothers and fathers how much time they can take off work to care for and bond with a new infant, and the answers are all over the map

Lauren, who works for a big financial services firm, is on the 19th week of what will be six months of leave paid by her employer at 100 percent. When she returns to work, her husband will take three months off at 100 percent pay. Their baby will be eight months old by the time he starts child care. “We are fortunate,” she says.

Most other Americans aren’t. Chris, who works as a restaurant server, took eight weeks of unpaid leave, which—even with her husband working 70 hours a week—threw the family into financial chaos and her into postpartum depression. She would have loved more time to heal and for she and her husband to adapt to their new family life, but the financial stress was too much. “It takes the joy away a bit. Not that we don’t love our son, but we worry all the time for money,” she said. “Honestly? I feel robbed.”