Government shutdown threatens newborns, their families
By JENNIFER MUIR BEUTHIN, Contributing Columnist
Like many expecting moms, I spend a lot of time reading anything I can to prepare for my babies to come.
I’ve found a great community of moms online from around the world who are due around the same time I am. On internet message boards we share recommendations for baby gear, philosophies on parenting and a whole lot of “is it normal when my body does x, y or z?”
The discussions are generally supportive and never political – just moms-to-be sharing their swirling questions, fears and hopes before they bring new lives into the world.
It was in that same spirit that some U.S. federal workers and spouses of federal workers began posting about the government shutdown on one of those boards.
With babies due in a month or two, many expressed deep fears about how they would be able to put food on the table or pay rent or their mortgages without receiving a pay check.
Additionally, when the government is shut down, some said they (or their spouses) are not eligible to receive pay for time off they have already planned to care for their babies. In fact, many are working now for free because their jobs are vital for the safety and security of our Country.
“There’s no leave during a shutdown,” one mom, a government scientist, posted. “So if this drags on or our little guy comes early, I go out and there’s no guarantee I’ll get paid for any of it. And hubby doesn’t know what to do because he is also a fed, so does he stay home and help and risk no one is getting paid?”
New parents already face so many fears when they’re preparing to welcome children – adding the real possibility that they won’t be able to feed or house their kids is cruel and immoral. And it’s also medically risky, as high maternal stress during pregnancy has been linked to preterm labor and low birth weight.
All of this comes in such stark contrast to what’s happening in California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has three small children of his own, has already begun discussing a proposal to provide families with six months of paid leave after the birth of a child, along with a host of other improvements to prenatal and child care.
“Economists have found that about six months of parental leave is ideal” according to a report in the Jan. 6 New York Times about Newsom’s plans. “A shorter period offers fewer benefits for babies’ health and development, and a longer one can hurt women’s careers and earnings.”
In fact, the report goes on to describe how inadequate parental leave policies have caused fewer women to rejoin the workforce, which hurts the nation’s economic output.
This is another way the government shutdown is damaging the U.S. economy, both in the short term and potentially for generations to come. It compels federal workers to grapple with deciding whether to continue their career paths in the federal government, seek work elsewhere, or stay home.
And this is added to all the other impacts to our nation’s safety and security, to the economic security of some 800,000 workers who are going without pay, to moral fabric of our nation.
President Trump has already demonstrated he doesn’t care about immigrant children seeking refuge at our nation’s borders. But what about the unborn children of federal workers whose lives and futures he is risking today? Will he take action for them – for their families – and stop this political stunt over a wall he promised Mexico would pay for anyway and reopen our government?
Jennifer Muir Beuthin is the former general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.
Publication Date: January 10, 2019