Working Mothers: A Policy Test for Congress and The Presidency

The fall conference injected new energy and direction into my project. Originally, I intended to investigate the expansive historical linkages between the Presidency and Congress and parental leave policy, with a focus on the impact of the right to work. Since then, my paper developed a more narrow focus. My paper now looks at how parental leave policies have shaped the policy framework of both the President and Congress since the World War II era. This paper answers whether or not president of Congress is more likely to promise reforms of this particular issue.

During my research process I have discovered several important sources that have had disruptive impacts on my paper. Under the guidance of my mentor, I investigated the current legislative efforts occurring in today’s political landscape. From that I stumbled upon several important CSPAN features focusing on the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (the fundamental framework for parental leave). This introduced me to the major actors involved in the process and other key information. This proved helpful as I used data aggregating sites such as ProQuest and govtrack to delve into the Congressional records and gain a first-hand knowledge of the policies being put forth by Congress.

A particular piece of research that surprised me was the timeline for policy promotion. I believed that there would be a high incidence of policy promotion in the late 1880s. After further investigation I found no significant policy waves began until the 1920s, corresponding with the labor shifts that occurred amongst women and American society.

The research that I came across altered my perception of parental leave. At the beginning of my project I fully supported modern-day expansion efforts for paid parental leave, or a leave more encompassing of the entire workforce. Understanding the arguments and positions of Presidents and Congressmen opposed to parental leave policy promotion enlightened my perspective. I have grown to understand the issue’s multitude of areas of impact (economic, social, political, cultural). Although my research continues in the hopes of achieving a more sound and engaging piece, I am amazed at parental leave’s level of complexity. The reach the issue has just within the Congress is unique. Although I still stand behind the principle of providing the opportunity for parental leave, I will leave this fellowship position more aware of the multitude of perspectives and opinions surrounding the issue, and more cognizant of where I will stand in the future.

Lucas Hernandez-Rollins College 

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