I am a proud resident of Polson, Montana and I work for Safe Harbor. SAFE Harbor is a non-profit organization that provides emergency services to male and female survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking for all of Lake County, which includes a majority of Flathead Indian Reservation.

Working for a small nonprofit, and by small I mean 5 people including myself, is a gratifying experience. I am able to connect with community members on an individual basis. The change we are able to make is both inspiring and uplifting. With all the good we do, working for a small organization also has its downfalls. As a small organization, we operate with a tight budget. Therefore, we do not have the luxury of receiving paid leave. Without paid leave employees are forced to make an arduous decision, and like many others before me, I was forced to make this decision.

As you can imagine, this decision was heart breaking. I was forced to make a challenging choice – paying my bills or spending time with my newborn. I wanted to provide for my child, both financially and emotional, but, sadly, this was not possible. Caring, nurturing, healing, and bonding with my newborn came in direct conflict with my financial ability to provide for my child because I did not have paid leave. No family should go through the struggles I have endured. When we are forced to choose between earning money and caring for our families, we suffer physically, emotionally, and financially.

Paid family and medical leave is a common-sense solution that puts Montana families first. As parents, we need time to parent. We need to start support new parents so they have time to bond with their kids, without financial pressure. We need time to parent and we need to be able to put our children first, right from the beginning.