Meghan Markle recalls childhood as she demands paid leave for all in letter to Congress: ‘I grew up on $4.99 Sizzler salad bar’

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Meghan Markle advocates for paid leave for all in letter to Congress (AFP via Getty Images)
Meghan Markle advocates for paid leave for all in letter to Congress (AFP via Getty Images)

Meghan Markle has written a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer advocating for paid leave for parents.

In the letter, the Duchess of Sussex, who said she was writing as a mom, acknowledged the role of the pandemic in exposing “long-existing fault lines in our communities,” as she noted that millions of women have dropped out of the workforce at “an alarming rate” so that they could care for their children.

“The working mom or parent is facing the conflict of being present or being paid. The sacrifice of either comes at a great cost,” the duchess wrote.

Meghan then reflected on her own childhood, recalling how she felt “lucky” to be eating a $4.99 salad at Sizzler because she was aware how hard her own parents had worked.

“I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this because even at five bucks, eating out was something special, and I felt lucky,” she wrote, before recalling how she’d begun working herself when she was 13.

The duchess also discussed the arrival of her and husband Prince Harry’s second child, daughter Lilibet, in June, while acknowledging that many parents aren’t able to spend those same months at home with their newborn child without having to worry about going back to work.

“Like any parents, we were overjoyed. Like many parents, we were overwhelmed. Like fewer parents, we weren’t confronted with the harsh reality of either spending those first few critical months with our baby or going back to work,” Meghan wrote. “We knew we could take her home, and in that vital (and sacred) stage, devote any and everything to our kids and to our family.

“We knew that by doing so we wouldn’t have to make impossible choices about childcare, work, and medical care that so many have to make every single day.”

According to Meghan, no one should be faced with these difficult decisions, with the duchess noting that Americans wouldn’t have to if there was a comprehensive paid leave plan in place.

In the letter, Meghan then addressed the additional ways that implementing paid leave for parents could positively impact the country, writing: “When paid leave is a right, we’re creating a foundation that helps address mental health outcomes, health care costs, and economic strength at the starting line.”

The Duchess of Sussex also referred to the many countries that have already implemented paid leave, before acknowledging that “in stark contrast,” the US “does not federally guarantee any person a single day of paid leave”.

Meghan concluded the letter stating that paid leave should be a “national right” and that, if the country is to implement a “new era of family first policies,” it is important to include a “strong paid leave program for every American that’s guaranteed, accessible and encouraged without stigma or penality”.

“This isn’t about Right or Left, it’s about right or wrong,” the duchess added after acknowledging how “politically charged” things have become. “This is about putting families above politics.

“So, on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry, I thank you for considering this letter, and on behalf of all families, I ask you to ensure this consequential moment is not lost.”

According to US News, the US is the only developed country without a national paid family leave policy, while just nine states and Washington DC have enacted paid leave policies over the last decade.

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