Thank you, lawmakers, for the gift of paid family leave

I first became aware of the concept of paid family leave while serving in the Army in the early 2000s in Germany. I was about 19, and a guy in my tank platoon had married a German girl and was just starting his family. While the Army was among the priorities in my fellow soldier’s life, he was grateful that his wife had access to Germany’s generous paid family leave program, which allowed her to focus on the newest addition to their family.

At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer to me that a society would take care of its families, and, because I didn’t know any better as a 19-year-old guy, I assumed this was true of every developed nation. I didn’t find out until years later that my country was one of the few developed countries that didn’t have a federal paid family leave program.

My daughter was born in August 2017, before Washington state’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave program existed. I used two weeks of vacation to stay home after her birth, went back for a week to ensure I didn’t fall too far behind at work, and then took another two weeks of unpaid leave to spend time with our newborn. The whole experience was stressful, seemed rushed, and because I was a manager, it left me feeling like I’d let down my family and my employer.

We started thinking about a second child last year and followed developments around Washington’s law that enacted its Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program. When we learned it would go into effect in 2020, my wife and I tried for a summer baby so we could take advantage of the best time of the year in Western Washington. Because most of our family support lives in the Midwest, we planned out a strategy of “divide and conquer” with our little ones so I could keep our daughter, who was about to turn 3, active with outdoor activities like camping and hiking and my wife could focus on our newborn. This plan became crucial as the pandemic exploded, and we were left with no support when our son was born in June.

I spent the first part of the summer with my daughter, camping at places like Potlatch and Jarrell Cove state parks. We spent hours on sunny days flipping rocks and catching shore crabs, spotting harbor porpoises and poking lion’s mane jellyfish washed up on the shore. My daughter’s imagination and wonder grew with the natural world around her. In late summer, when it was easier to travel with our infant son, my wife and I used Airbnb to rent a few places on Hood Canal and did the same activities as a family. This summer strengthened our family’s bonds first in two-person teams, and later, all together, as a growing family.

The experience on family leave with my son was entirely different than it was when we brought our daughter home. Time together without

After Isis, Yazidi women forced to leave their children behind

As bombs crunched into the ground around them in February last year, three young Yazidi women cowered in dug holes in the eastern Syrian desert, cradling their terrified children.

a large crowd of people: Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP via Getty Images

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP via Getty Images

In the month that followed, hundreds of people hiding near them were killed by devastating barrages that destroyed what was left of Islamic State’s so-called caliphate and freed the former slaves and their toddlers from five years in the terror group’s clutches.

But the ordeal of their lives was yet to begin. The trio, then aged 19, 20 and 24, and their five toddlers were thrown on to the last lorry out of the town of Baghouz, the black banners of the extremists replaced by the white flags of surrender, and driven to al-Hawl refugee camp where tens of thousands of people from towns and cities seized from Isis were being interned.

a group of people on a stage in front of a crowd: Women and children evacuated from Baghouz arrive at a screening area, in March last year

© Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP via Getty Images
Women and children evacuated from Baghouz arrive at a screening area, in March last year

The women lay low in the camp, worried about being discovered by Kurdish guards who would identify them as former captives and separate them from other detainees. For a month they lived with a dilemma: being identified could deliver freedom, but it could bring a greater heartache than the horrors under Isis – being separated from their children, maybe for ever.

For Yazidi women who gave birth to children of Isis fighters, those worst fears have now been realised. Their communities in Iraq have demanded they leave their children in Syria before they are accepted home. The forced separations have led to dozens of women being estranged from their children, some of whom they were told to hand over as soon as they gave birth.

Nearly two years after the collapse of Isis, what to do with the children born to extremists, and how to reunite families created and broken in such circumstances, remains far from being resolved among Yazidi communities and Iraqi officials. Even in Europe, where many Yazidis have been given asylum, those with the children of Isis have not found governments welcoming.

“I have 22 young mothers in my care,” said Dr Nemam Ghafouri, the founder of Joint Help for Kurdistan, a charity that supports Yazidi women. “There are 56 children in the orphanage in Rumaila in Syria. We believe there are many dozens more such women and children.”

When the three women were found in al-Hawl, officials arranged to send them home to their families in the ancestral Yazidi homelands of northern Iraq. All three had been seized from the town of Sinjar in mid-August 2014 as the terror group swept in from the south, unleashing its wrath on a community it had long targeted as “godless”.

Their ordeals traced almost the full arc of the Isis rule over western Iraq and eastern Syria, from their enslavement on 3 August 2014, weeks after the group had overrun Mosul and charged towards Erbil,

The Couch Is The New Step-and-Repeat. Where Does That Leave Fashion?

Photo credit: Getty Images; Chung and Zendaya courtesy of Eco Age - Instagram
Photo credit: Getty Images; Chung and Zendaya courtesy of Eco Age – Instagram


Photo credit: Hearst OwnedPhoto credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.

Some of the most talked-about red carpet looks of recent months bear little resemblance to what we might have seen in the pre-lockdown days. There was Regina King making a powerful statement by wearing a Breonna Taylor T-shirt to accept her Emmy for Best Actress from her couch. Julia Garner and Rachel Brosnahan wearing pajamas (albeit very luxe ones) to the virtual Emmys. Even the landscape looks different—the usual sea of black-clad publicists is replaced by a few close friends and family members sprawled in the living room.

Even though fashion, in all its forms, is decidedly more casual right now, that doesn’t mean that red carpet attire has become synonymous with loungewear—even though much of the action is taking place on the couch. What’s happening instead is a shift towards what Lorenzo Marquez of Tom and Lorenzo calls “low-key elegance.” Co-creator Tom Fitzgerald concurs. “Right now, the general tone of celebrity style seems to be hovering around ‘dressy casual.’ The kind of looks a star might wear to make a talk show appearance rather than the kinds of looks they’d wear on a red carpet,” he says. “Celebrities like to pretend that promotional work like red carpets and public appearances are a pain, but most stars don’t become stars without a healthy need for attention now and then. There was no way they were all going to stay home in their sweats and yoga pants for most of the year.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Eco AgePhoto credit: Courtesy of Eco Age
Photo credit: Courtesy of Eco Age

But the line between relatable and glamorous is a tricky one to walk, particularly right now. When much of your audience is experiencing mass unemployment and struggling with grief and economic pain, how do you dress to impress without alienating them?

One way of squaring that circle is to recycle your greatest hits. At the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, where the focus is on sustainability, vintage looks dominated the virtual red carpet. Zendaya was in archival Versace from 1996 (which also happens to be the year she was born), while Alexa Chung re-wore a Prada dress she’d previously been seen in in 2016. At the Venice Film Festival last month, Cate Blanchett repeated pieces she’d worn to prior high-profile events.

As distinctions between fashion seasons have flattened along with time in general, that approach feels apt. “I do think that as a lot of us have been stuck at home, some people have had that moment of thinking, ‘wow, why do I have all this STUFF when I am only wearing the same six things?’” says Jessica Morgan of Go Fug Yourself. Marquez has observed “a heightened appreciation for less showy looks and a sense of thriftiness or sustainability right now. There’s still value in stars sending messages through their fashion, and at this time, the message the