On Father’s Day, Renewing a Commitment to Supporting Working Families

My dad coaching the Mantador softball team.

Growing up in the small town of Mantador, North Dakota, I always looked up to my father and his innate ability to bring together not just my siblings and me, but the entire community. Having served in World War II and knowing the importance of connecting with other veterans, he started Mantador’s VFW. He spearheaded the city softball league which kept my brothers, sisters, and me busy for countless summer nights, and he worked with our neighbors to make sure our town was a welcoming and safe community. He passionately believed in getting a quality education, and pushed me to think bigger and one step ahead.

My father when he served in the military.

I know firsthand that the impact parents — both mothers and fathers — have on their children is limitless. Which is why when we talk about supporting working families, we must make sure that includes supporting hardworking and loving fathers. It’s especially important as the dynamic of working families has changed and both parents are often expected to work to make ends meet.

Talking with families across North Dakota has made it clear that we need family-friendly policies that support the many different kinds of families in our state and country. That’s why I’m pushing for a federal paid family and medical leave program through the FAMILY Act to make sure no parent — mother or father — has to choose between their family and their job.

Currently, less than 35 percent of North Dakota’s working adults are eligible for and can afford unpaid leave, and almost 46 percent of North Dakota’s private-sector workforce cannot earn a single paid sick day. That isn’t right.

Brad Bergstad from Bismarck was fortunate enough to have paternity leave when his son was born, which allowed him and his wife to tackle the demanding responsibilities of being a new parent, and make sure he had the opportunity to take care of and bond with his son. Brad was able to share the responsibilities with his wife which helped them create a patented system for midnight feeding shifts and care during the day that they were able to put to the test when their second child arrived.

Brad Bergstad from Bismarck with his children.

The fact that Brad was able to take time off work without the fear of losing his job or not getting a paycheck was critical while he and his wife started growing their family, especially in the Bismarck-Beulah area where child care is hard to come by and there aren’t many alternative options.

Life throws curve-balls — you never know when parents may become sick or need end-of-life care, or when you’ll want to start families. We need a strong, practical federal program in place that allows folks to have the paid leave they need when life happens, whether to care for a newborn, a sick child, or an elderly parent. And that’s what I’m pushing for.

So this Father’s Day, I’m asking folks to join me in fighting for policies that not only support the loving and supportive fathers in our own lives, but that give working families of all shapes and sizes the tools they need to grow and succeed.

My family at Christmas.