Sunday, April 06, 2008

Workplace and family responsibility: more debate needed


Amy Joyce has stimulated quite a bit of discussion with her “Returning to Work after Baby” (a kind of "best title for the story" in a "Weekly Reader" quiz) piece on March 30, 2008, link here, Actually, the full title was “After a Baby, Full Time or Part?
When Family and Career Collide, Working Mothers Struggle With Their Answers.”
There is a transcript of her online discussion about “baby” from March 31 here.

On April 6, there was a followup “Full vs. Part-Time, Continued,” on p F4 of Outlook, here.

One angry comment (the third one down) says “ … After 30+ years in the workplace, I am very sorry to say that I rarely see a woman with a young child who does all the work that her position requires. And I am tired of being expected to pick up the slack, without additional compensation, for these mothers, who continue to receive full salary. … Having a child is a choice, not an obligation. …”

That was indeed an issue for me, a single male, at times toward the end of my IT career. Some times I picked up the beeper call for other people, who could not do it because of family obligations. I was not compensated directly. There is a caveat. For a while, in the middle 1990s, we had a “night programmer” but five of us “volunteered” to rotate to be her backup. We did get extra compensation built into our raises. But when she finally gave birth, I was there one whole weekend covering end-of-month.

Of course, the is a lot of tension between parents and the childless, as Elinor Burkett documented in her 2000 book “The Baby Boon: How Family Friendly America Cheats the Childless.” But some people feel it is the other way around: childless adults are “cheating” society, as Philip Longman suggested in his 2004 book “The Empty Cradle.”

Rounding out this discussion is Vickie Elmer, “Sitting across from a questionable query,” in the Jobs Section, p K01, The Washington Post, April 6, link here. She notes that questions about family situation (and in many localities, sexual orientation) are clearly illegal. Employers are not supposed to discriminate on the basis of having eldercare or child care responsibilities (either), even though in many salaried jobs (without overtimes) they can present issues that affect other employees. In “retirement” and in my eldercare situation, I find that if I mention it, employers don’t want to call back. Of course, they can’t admit it.

I also found, that in an attempted "career switcher" situation in relation to substitute teaching, it's much easier to fulfill social expectations of "surrogate parenthood" if one had been a father oneself (I haven't), as I wrote here on my GLBT blog.

This is a big problem deserving real debate. Presidential candidates, where are you on this?

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