Work-Family Struggle Takes Spotlight on the Hill

Congress will hear about the struggle to balance work and family today.

ByABC News via logo
June 21, 2007, 9:01 AM

June 21, 2007 — -- Today, Congress will hear about a battle that goes on inside millions of American homes: the struggle to balance work and family while also making ends meet.

The hearing of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee is the first step in revisiting U.S. policies on work and family. The subcommittee is considering bills on an expansion of family and medical leave, mandatory sick leave and a measure that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect a woman's right to breast-feed.

In roughly 80 percent of two-parent families in the country, both parents have jobs. But the United States doesn't make it easy to juggle work and home.

A recent Harvard-McGill study found that only four of 170 countries surveyed did not require paid leave for new mothers: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland -- and the United States. The study also found that 145 countries provided paid sick days. The United States requires only unpaid family and medical leave, and not all workers are covered.

Former working mom Missy Quarberg will tell her story on Capitol Hill today. The Wisconsin mother of two recently quit her job at Wal-Mart to stay at home and care for her children. Quarberg said she liked her job but couldn't afford to keep it.

"I was getting to the point where I was going to have to take and get a part-time [job] to pay for the gas to get to my full-time job to pay for day care," she said.

While talking about the struggle to juggle is the first step in creating a better work-home balance, Columbia University economics professor Janet Currie said working parents shouldn't expect a revolution to come out of the hearings.

"I don't think the hearing is going to magically produce legislation that's going to cover all of these issues, but I think it's important to keep attention focused," she said.