By: Candice Quarles, Councilmember, DeSoto, TX, NDG Special Contributor
It gives me such great pride to say that as of last month, DeSoto is the first city in North Texas to guarantee paid parental leave for city employees. It was a long road to get here. When I first brought this matter to the city council’s attention in 2017, I knew it was a pretty progressive initiative. Yet at the same time, it was so clearly the right thing to do for our new moms, our dads, our families, and our whole city. I am so proud DeSoto stands as a shining example for other cities around Texas and across the country.
With a unanimous city council vote in favor of this measure, city employees will now receive three weeks of paid time off of work after the birth, adoption, or foster of a child. It comes not a moment too soon because all new parents deserve the essential and doctor-recommended time off to bond with their babies. This policy is an essential part of our larger task: fixing a broken system where new parents are forced to piece together vacation time, sick time, and unpaid time off from work just to get a bare minimum of time with their newborns.
This issue is personal for me and so many others. My husband and I have a four-year-old, and I enjoyed the crucial bonding time after she was born. But it was not a simple thing to do. Due to early contractions at 33 weeks, I was restricted to bed rest before the birth of my daughter, so I used the majority of my sick and vacation time before she was born. My company had a designated maternity leave of 12 weeks, so I had some time with her before putting her into daycare. Even if all goes well in a pregnancy, we should allow new moms and dads the all-important time to care, nurture, and bond with their child. Anything less is putting our women and families at risk.
Before the DeSoto City Council took the vote to pass the paid parental leave measure, we heard lots of moving testimony from people encouraging support of the policy. One of those who gave testimony was my good friend and fellow local elected official Candace Valenzuela, a School Board Trustee in Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District. With her young son Henry Jacinto in her arms, Candace spoke powerfully about how vital paid leave is for new parents and also for local communities and our city.
“Children are not a luxury item; children are an investment in the long term care and growth of a city. If your city employees are setting an example for that, you’re going to have sustainable growth for generations,” Valenzuela stated.
The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee paid family leave for its citizens. But we can do better. I’m hopeful our efforts in DeSoto will spark a wave of paid parental leave policies throughout North Texas, our whole state, and indeed the country. But it should not stop at just paid parental leave. We deserve nothing less than the adequate paid family leave we need to bond with our babies, recuperate from an illness, and take care of our loved ones.
Some will undoubtedly say these policies cost too much or they benefit some people over others. But the truth is all of us benefit from paid parental and family leave. It makes our families healthier, our employees happier, and our community stronger. And these policies are even a win for the business community. As all companies need top talent, it can be a tremendous recruiting tool for someone looking to start a family one day. This is why many major corporations (Southwest Airlines, Facebook, Bank of America, among others) provide generous Paid Family Leave policies already.
This Spring, we celebrate paid parental leave coming to DeSoto. This year, I hope to join my fellow city council colleagues in cities around the state and the country in celebrating similar policies. We owe it to all the new moms and dads out there, and there is no reason our local governments cannot take the lead.