A little over a year ago, my extremely healthy and active mother, Jan, and broke her femur resulting in hospitalization and surgery. Mom’s only prior hospitalizations were for childbirth. She’s entirely unfamiliar with the medical system which limited in her ability to manage major medical services while injured. None of her children live in Great Falls, so it would have been possible to help while also working.

Unfortunately, my stepdad has some chronic orthopedic challenges and would not have been able to care for Mom when she came home from the hospital. It would have risked another injury for either of them if she had gone home from the hospital without additional support.

Fortunately, my older sister and I have paid sick leave at our jobs, which allowed us to take time off for a family medical incident. I am the director of a Missoula nonprofit and Tammara works for the state in Helena. We were both able to be there initially during the surgery and then took turns helping Mom while she recovered at home. I’ve been in my job for many years so I had sick leave built up. I was also able to do some work online to help me keep up. With Tammara as back up, I was able to come home for an overnight a few times to complete pressing work and personal tasks.

With the support of paid leave, at least one of us was in Great Falls for over a month – helping Mom shower, dress, driving her to medical appointments, cooking, and walking with her as she began to rehabilitate. I could not have afforded to take three weeks off work without pay – I’m a single woman with a mortgage. Tammara has a mortgage and student loans; she can’t be afford to live without a paycheck either.

I’m happy to report Mom is back at her part-time job, teaching exercise classes at a Great Falls health club.

I think most of us will face a family crisis at some point. It would have been terrible if I had not been able to take time off to help Mom get through this injury. I am incredibly grateful to work for an organization that understands the importance of family leave, that offers paid sick leave. It’s an organization with only 20 employees. Over 30% of us have been there for over 10 years in part because we the benefits support the flexibility necessary to manage our family lives. It would be great if that were the case for all Montana workers.