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Still, Fleury, editor-in-chief of Down East Magazine, and Collins, a local attorney, struggled to piece together enough sick and vacation days to cover time with their babies.
“I started to understand … if I’m having this hard of a time [with paid leave] other people must be struggling much, much more,” she said.
It’s true — as I reported in another piece for America Tonight — that parents across the country are struggling with the reality of unpaid parental leave. The U.S. is the only developed nation in the world without a federally mandated paid leave policy for families.
When Fleury had her second child in October 2014, she decided political solutions were not coming fast enough.
“So I started thinking about how we could do something while we wait for the political landscape to change,” Fleury said.
That year, a friend of Fleury’s with only one paid week of leave managed to raise $1,500 for extra time with his newborn through an email campaign. It was a simple concept, but Fleury thought it could be scaled up. And with that, the idea for MyBabyBond.com was born.
Collins joined Fleury on the venture, and in the summer of 2015, the two launched the first crowdfunding site specifically dedicated to “giving the gift of time to new parents.”
MyBabyBond aims to be an alternative to traditional baby showers; instead of registering for material goods, parents can invite friends and family to help fund the maternity and paternity leave that’s often not available to them through employers. The families can set goals for how many weeks they need funding, and each donation appears on the site measured in time, not money.
The duo says the mission isn’t about making money for them. They’d like to help change the culture in the U.S. surrounding paid leave; by simply existing, the site could help draw attention to the realities so many parents face, they say.
“It’s babies. It’s a generation,” Fleury said. “And yet our workplace culture doesn’t invest in that.”
She says that’s why they called it MyBabyBond: a place to make an investment in a bond between parents and children.
For Collins, it’s a site that can also help bridge the gap between federal policy and reality. While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows certain employees across the U.S. up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, its not available to everyone — and it doesn’t help pay the bills that pile up during that period.
"We have FMLA,” she said. “[MyBabyBond.com] allows people who can take the time to actually afford the time.”
The site is young; only a handful of families are using it for now. The campaigns have gotten various levels of funding, but they’ve yet to successfully reach their goal. They hope the site will gain traction as more people come to see it as a type of baby registry, but the founders say America has a long way to go in overcoming the taboo associated with this kind of fundraising — much in the way people are still adjusting to the kinds of registries that allow newlyweds to ask for honeymoon excursions or money toward down payments on first homes.
“We’ve gotten feedback that it’s still sort of tacky to ask for money with this,” Collins said; in many ways, it’s more socially acceptable for newlyweds to ask for money “than asking for money for [their] baby,” Fleury said.
“We are in a consumer culture,” Fleury said. “People spend thousands and thousands of dollars on baby gifts but are turned off on helping financially by just giving them money.”
Their hope: As the conversation around paid leave evolves, there will come a tipping point that makes this kind of contribution more normal.
“Modern parenting has lost the concept that it takes a village,” Fleury said. “And the most important gift you can give is time.”