As part of a renewed effort to win over women voters, Donald Trump unveiled his maternity leave and childcare plan Tuesday evening in Pennsylvania. Affordable childcare is also a favorite issue of Ivanka Trump, who reportedly had a significant influence on her father's new policies and was present at the announcement. She also did a subsequent interview about it with Fox News' Megyn Kelly.
In many ways, the announcement is an encouraging sign. Trump's decision to release a childcare and maternity leave plan breaks with conservative political tradition. An election season in which two candidates offer competing maternity leave and childcare plans certainly seems preferable to one in which only one candidate attempts to address the issue.
However, Trump has a less than progressive track record on modern family life — and his maternity leave plan reflects that. Trump said in 2005 that men who change diapers are "act[ing] like the wife" and in 1994 that a married woman who works is "a dangerous thing." Shockingly, he has not put forward a maternity leave policy that I believe will sincerely help women advance in the workplace. Trump's plan, as described on his website, would finance paid leave through unemployment insurance:
The Trump plan will enhance Unemployment Insurance (UI) to include 6 weeks of paid leave for new mothers so that they can take time off of work after having a baby. This would triple the average 2 weeks of paid leave received by new mothers, which will benefit both the mother and the child.
There are a lot of problems with this plan. Its funding involves a lot of what my Bustle colleague Charlie Beckerman describes as "magical thinking." It does not provide full paid time off, but rather a sort of safety net where many women would make much less than they normally do.
Worse, it's completely steeped in the kind of old-fashioned thinking that has held women back in the workplace for decades.
The entire concept of "maternity leave" reinforces the idea that only women, even working women, are responsible for childcare. While it is absolutely necessary that the United States join the rest of the developed world in offering it, paid maternity leave alone is nowhere near sufficient to make the workplace equal for men and women.
The best childcare policies provide parental leave, not just maternity leave, which encourages men and women to take an equal share in raising children. Even women who don't have children may be penalized professionally by built-in concerns about maternity leave. "A pregnancy penalty doesn't just hurt mothers or expectant women, married women or even childbearing women, it's a bias that's applied to all women," Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, told NBC News.
Moreover, many men want to take time off to help raise their children, and they are certainly as deserving as women of paid time off to do so.
Trump's plan notes "after having a baby" as the prerequisite for receiving leave. Does this mean that families who adopt children, or use a surrogate, would be ineligible for maternity leave?
The fact that Trump's "maternity leave" is gendered also fails to address the rights of many LGBT couples. A family with two fathers would apparently be ineligible for Trump's maternity leave, as would transgender men, even ones who gave birth to the child in question.
It seems like a big step forward for families that we now have two candidates willing to discuss this extremely important issue. However, Trump's maternity leave plan makes it clear that his ideas about women and family are as antiquated as ever.