Rebecca Shumard, 26, says the family is integral to American society, but we aren’t doing enough to protect it. She recently gave birth to her daughter but had to go back to work instead of staying with her in the NICU. She then shared her feelings in a heartbreaking TikTok video where she addressed the psychological and emotional stress that comes with not having paid family leave.
Being in Two Places at Once
Shumard gave birth to her daughter Eden prematurely. While she was in the NICU, Shumard had to return to work as a medical assistant. She said being separated from her daughter during this trying time was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.
As she explained on TikTok, she gets six weeks paid family leave through her job, but she is waiting to use those days for when Eden gets out of the hospital, so they can spend their time at home together.
“You have to return to work 12 days after having a premature baby at 27 weeks, so that when she is eventually discharged from the NICU you can spend what little maternity leave you have with her,” she explained in the captions.
The video shows Shumard unable to focus on work, wearing medical scrubs and filing paperwork while she wipes away the tears.
She also said she was forced to keep working because of the cost of medical care.
“How can anyone afford to stay home during a NICU stay?” the captions read. “How can anyone handle the guilt when you have to work and can’t be with your baby?”
The clip ends with, “This. Is. America.”
Shumard’s video quickly went viral online. Many commenters were quick to point out how the U.S. is the only developed country without a national paid leave policy.
The Family and Medical Leave Act gives eligible workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for events like the birth of a child, but that doesn’t help new parents pay the rent.
Nine states and Washington, D.C. have set up their own paid family leave requirements, but many workers don’t have access to these programs. Other countries have far surpassed the U.S. when it comes to implementing paid family leave. For example, parents get up to 39 weeks of paid family leave in the U.K. and 68 weeks in Sweden.
Many people also donated money to Shumard and her family so she could take time off to be with her daughter. She said Eden is growing stronger by the day and should be home soon.
“This isn’t something that should be a case-by-case basis like this,” Shumard said after the video garnered over 3 million views. “We should be able to, as Americans, get some kind of leave, some kind of parental leave, that we can depend on.”
As a Pennsylvania native, she says she will be watching this year’s Midterms elections closely to see which candidates are supporting paid family leave.
“Absolutely,” she said. “I’m definitely going to be looking at who is supporting that parental leave bill, who is going to be really here for the American people and the American family unit.”
Paid family leave was briefly included in President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which would have guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family leave for all Americans. However, the bill now appears to be stalled in Congress after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin withdrew his support.
Until paid family leave becomes law, many parents will have to juggle work and spending time with their children. Thankfully, Shumard and her daughter can now be together, but so many families don’t have that luxury.
“TikTok … because of you, I will not be forced to choose between being with my daughter in NICU or paying the bills,” she wrote in a follow-up video. “I am eternally grateful.”