Editor's note: Derrick Goodrich is a dad from Arizona who wrote to Secretary Tom Perez about the need for paid leave. Here is his letter. Read letters from other dads here.
Dear Mr. Secretary,
As a boy, I remember rocking back and forth under the kitchen table for hours trying to console myself, as I waited desperately for the lock to turn to our front door and for my mother to walk in from a late night’s shift at work. My twin brother and I were often left alone because my mother could not afford a sitter while waitressing at various restaurants and my father had long forgotten we existed and did not provide any financial assistance. Those nights alone often forced my brother and I into circumstances a young child should never have to endure.
Nights were not the only issues we faced due to my mother’s financial inability to find us a sitter. When my brother or I became sick, we went to school. Period. And, because of our impoverished diet, we were often sick. But, our mother could not call her supervisor and say she needed a day home to care for us. As anyone who has worked in the service sector knows, my mother was often reminded how her job would be put in jeopardy should she call in sick and care for us. So, she was left with two miserable choices: tell her sick children they had to push through their illness and go to school or call in sick and risk being fired and come up short on rent. It didn’t take too long before my brother and I grew to know our mother’s horrible predicament and would put on a brave face for school even though we felt miserable to make the decision easier for her.
After high school, I enlisted in the military. Shortly after being deployed to Iraq, I was shot while clearing Baathist airfields and began a long recovery in various hospitals. There are lifelong issues I will face from my injury but the experience has not been without a silver lining.
Because of the monthly pension I receive because of my disabilities, I have been able to give my son all the things I so wished I had under that kitchen table as a young boy. Because of this secured source of money, I am never forced to take a job that would ever put my son in the situations my brother and I faced late at night. I am never forced to take a job with an employer who wouldn’t hesitate to fire me if I ever wanted to stay home and care for my sick son. I never have to do what my mother had to do and look at my son in his tear-stained eyes and tell him he has to push through with school despite a night of vomiting and fever chills.
I get to be the dad I always hoped I could be because I was shot serving my country. Should it really take that great of a sacrifice to be able to be there for our children?
My brother and I certainly didn’t deserve what we endured and neither do the countless children today who face even harsher realities than those we faced. The country I served is a country that has achieved extraordinary things. But there is so much more we can accomplish. It’s time we take another step and give every American the chance to be the mother or father they’ve always wanted to be by making paid family and sick leave available to every worker, while also strengthening and expanding child care subsidies. No child should ever fear going home and we can make that a fear many children no longer have to live with by putting these policies into place.
We want to hear from other dads (and moms): How would having paid family leave make a difference for your family? If you have paid leave already, how does it help you now? Share your story at dol.gov/PaidLeave.