Should paid parental leave be a baby shower gift? Lots of people think not.
On July 18, "Good Morning America" tweeted a link to a segment about a new "trendy baby shower gift."
Instead of more conventional gifts, the story explained, co-workers of new moms are donating their own paid vacation time so that their colleagues can have ample time off after giving birth.
"'It really, really meant a lot to me,'" GMA wrote in its tweet, quoting a new mom featured in the story who benefited from the trend. "I was extremely appreciative and very humbled.'"
“It really, really meant a lot to me... I was extremely appreciative and very humbled.” Donating vacation time to… https://t.co/fH2gq8vTPW— Good Morning America (@Good Morning America) 1531929600.0
Does this story just ... not sit well with you? You're definitely not alone.
People were alarmed that a "trend" like this could be framed in such a positive light in GMA's tweet.
The morning show was flooded with aggravated replies from readers — mostly women — disturbed by how the story reflects a sobering reality about how our society values parenthood.
"This is a horrifying story," the top comment in the tweet's replies read. "Co-workers making up for what employers aren't providing IS NOT A FEEL-GOOD STORY. Damn is the U.S. ever broken."
"One of my friends went back to work the week after having her baby," another reply read. "This shit is ridiculous."
To be fair, the morning show's on-air segment and online article did a much better job putting the "trend" into context and pointing to Washington's failures when it comes to parental leave policy. But the tweet's wording left many readers cringing at its sunny, lighthearted tone.
One of those readers was Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
He shared GMA's tweet with his followers, adding that ideally, big-hearted co-workers shouldn't have to provide this "generous baby shower gift" to their friends at work — the law would already guarantee it.
Schatz's take is hardly radical, of course. Research suggests that a wide majority of Americans, spanning all political leanings, agree that we need a federal paid parental leave policy.
It's absurd we don't have one already.
The U.S. remains the only industrialized nation without a federal policy mandating new parents get at least some paid time off.
Right now, the Family Medical Leave Act calls for businesses with 50 or more employees to allow parents 12 weeks time off without fear of losing their job. But there's a huge caveat: That time doesn't need to be paid.
While many white-collar workers enjoy paid parental leave benefits, many low-income parents — and, disproportionately, women of color — don't have such benefits through their jobs. They're the ones who are furthest left behind.
But as the Schatz noted to his Twitter followers, we can do something about it.
The good news is, the persistent calls for change have never been louder. A handful of states have passed promising paid-leave policies in recent years, and there's growing demand for the federal government to follow suit. Women are running for office in record numbers, too, giving hope that a potential gender shift in Washington could re-prioritize which issues get addressed in the years to come.
We need to vote to make it happen, though.
Head over to Ballotpedia to learn more about who's on the ballot in your own area ahead of the November midterms, and give your vote to a candidate who will make paid paternity leave a priority in office.