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Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pens letter to Congress advocating for paid leave

The Duchess of Sussex has penned a letter to Congress advocating for a national paid leave program for new parents. The letter, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, describes the Duchess' experience growing up and becoming a mother herself. 

The Duchess said she and her family lived in poverty, requiring her to begin work at the age of 13. She described feeling like buffet-style meals and $4.99 salad bars were luxury items, so far out of the realm of what families like hers could afford. 

"I worked all my life and saved when and where I could—but even that was a luxury—because usually it was about making ends meet and having enough to pay my rent and put gas in my car," she said.

Now, Meghan is a mother to two children, son Archie and daughter Lilibet, who was born earlier this year. In the letter, she describes the emotions she and her husband, Prince Harry, felt when welcoming their second child. 

"In June, my husband and I welcomed our second child," the Duchess wrote. "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."

"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."

She also highlighted the effect the pandemic has had on women leaving the workforce, saying parents constantly face "the conflict of being present or being paid," a choice that leads to sacrifice no matter the decision.  

"No family should have to choose between earning a living and having the freedom to take care of their child (or a loved one, or themselves, as we would see with a comprehensive paid leave plan)," Meghan wrote.

Paid parental leave has been a highly debated topic in the past several years, with an increasing amount of Americans in favor of the concept. An average of 7 in 10 people say fathers should receive paid parental leave, while 8 in 10 agree mothers should get leave, according to Pew Research.

"Paid leave should be a national right, rather than a patchwork option limited to those whose employers have policies in place, or those who live in one of the few states where a leave program exists," the Duchess wrote. "If we're going to create a new era of family first policies, let's make sure that includes a strong paid leave program for every American that's guaranteed, accessible, and encouraged without stigma or penalty."

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