Sunday, February 15, 2015

New Republic editor argues for paid maternity leave; but what about the men, the childless, the unpaid overtime?

Rebecca Traister has a hawkish essay on p. 12 of The New Republic, where she is senior editor. “Labor Pains: More women than ever are having babies at the peak of their careers; When will we stop punishing them for it?” link here
Indeed, the average age for a first child in 1970 was younger than college graduation age.  My one spate of heterosexual dating in 1971 involved a recent graduate.  Now, the first baby is likely to come well into a first job.
And it’s also true that the experiences of working women with pregnancy are extremely variable.  Some jobs are physical, and some symptoms can interfere.  She actually mentions morning sickness, the possibility of vomiting at work.  As relevant, it seems, is the possibility of extreme complications, and the need for bed rest.  They seem unpredictable.
She also discusses European countries, as well as the willingness, even eagerness, of higher end employers to offer paid parental leave (sometimes for fathers, sometimes for adoption).  (Are the US and New Guinea the only countries with no mandatory paid maternity leave?)  These employers include TNR (as well as biggies like Facebook and Google).  Paternal leave also needs to come into discussion.  Some studies show that men undergo biological changes during wives’ pregnancies and when doing child care. (Oh, the Family Research Council uses that as an argument against gay marriage.) 
In the clip below, the father says he needed paternal leave because his wife’s leave ran out.
But again, the problem I always have with this kind of advocacy.  People who don’t have intercourse and have children have to subsidize this, sometimes sacrifice for it.  (Unpaid “salaried” overtime of the childless, and the responsibilities of employers – and their shareholders – come into play.)  This was never an issue in the workplace in the 70s and 80s, when everybody took care of his or her own stuff, but in the 90s it starting coming up.   “I need”.  Or her or she “needs”. 
On the other hand, and indeed partly because of the contributions of the Internet and, ironically, the gay marriage debate, the perspective of marriage and childbearing is shifting back to a broader sense of community social responsibility, away from the idea that it is just a private choice and an “afterthought” to public accomplishment and individual accolades .  (Does the premise of the book and film “Five Shades of Grey” – Movies blog, Feb. 13, fit here?; also my “BillBoushka” blog Sept. 30, 2014)   Today, with fewer kids and longer lives, more people are likely to face doing eldercare personally.  Should that be included? (It’s unpaid by the FMLA.)  Larger families are used to the idea that sometimes childless relatives wind up raising siblings’ kids after tragedies.   The idea of providing for others as a moral social obligation, in a democracy (not just in an autocratic environment like Putin’s Russia, or strict Islam) seems to be going back on the kitchen table. This topic even jives with the national service debate. 
Life isn’t always fair.  Maybe it shouldn’t be.
Update: later Sunday

Vox (Danielle Kurtzleben) reports that paternity leave policies get new dads to do their share of the housework. Cornell University studied a "fathers only) paternity leave program in Quebec. 

Update: May 10, 2015

ABC has a major article May 6 about the paid maternity leave debate, with many lively comments, here

1 comment:

Bill Boushka said...

Benjamin David Steele commented on the "equality" comment above mine, and I got the comment form AOL. "Most people don't care about abstract ideas like 'equality'. Most people want to live in a society that gives them realistic opportunities to better themselves and their families". True, but this pattern of thinking could have justified slavery in the past. Maybe I wouldn't be around it I were just at someone else's beckon.