When now President-Elect Biden was vice president, he told his staffers that he would be disappointed to learn that they were working "while missing important family responsibilities."

By Maressa Brown
November 12, 2020
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America's toxic work culture has far too few employees—especially parents—feeling like their employer is truly supportive of work-life balance. And the problem has only been highlighted and made worse by the pandemic, which is driving some parents out of the workforce, given continued pressure to be omnipresent on the job without the necessary support systems like child care. But the tide could very well be turning. A 2014 memo from then Vice President Joe Biden has resurfaced and is giving people hope about the family-friendly tone the new President-Elect could set from the top down.

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CNBC reports that the note was distributed just before Thanksgiving break in 2014.

Biden addressed the memo to his "wonderful staff," writing, "I would like to take a moment and make something clear to everyone. I do not expect nor do I want any of you to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work. Family obligations include but are not limited to family birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, any religious ceremonies such as first communions and bar mitzvahs, graduations, and times of need such as illness or a loss in the family."

He continued, "This is very important to me. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if I find out that you are working with me while missing important family responsibilities, it will disappoint me greatly. This has been an unwritten rule since my days in the Senate." Biden then thanked his staffers for their "hard work."

The president-elect's personal history has likely served to reinforce this view. In 1972, just weeks after he was elected to the Senate, he lost his first wife Neilia and their 1-year-old daughter Naomi in a harrowing car accident. His sons, Beau and Hunter, who were 3 and 2 at the time were critically injured. From that point on, he prioritized his responsibilities as a parent while serving in the Senate, spending four hours a day on the train so he could tuck his boys in at night.

President-Elect Biden has also opened up publicly about how he never works on December 18, the day of the tragedy that took the lives of his wife and daughter.

And in 2016, Joe Biden bowed out of running for president in order to grieve the loss of his eldest son Beau to brain cancer the year prior.

It's no wonder he understands and champions the need for parents to have time and space away from work to care for themselves and their loved ones. In 2016, he reiterated his position on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, noting, "I don’t want anybody on my staff feeling an obligation to do something for me when there’s something that matters in the family. There’s nothing noble about it.”

Seeing just how passionate the president-elect is on this point will be beyond heartening for millions of Americans, and working parents specifically, who have felt all too often that they have to choose between their paycheck and their family. Here's hoping Biden's family-first approach has a trickle-down effect on employers around the country—and leads to legislation that will ease this struggle for parents.

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