Family Leave: a Family Affair

Example 1: My daughter got pretty sick in October and I ended up taking two days off of work last-minute. I called the office staff and asked them to call all my students and reschedule their appointments. I knew I didn’t need to call my boss (the dean) to ask permission. I just took the days off and knew I could make up the time later. When I texted my co-worker to let her know and apologize for missing a meeting that day, she texted back, “We’re fine, your daughter is your first priority.”

Example 2: In February 2014 we went to our first ultrasound for our first pregnancy. Rather than see a healthy baby swimming around, we found out that I had miscarried a couple of weeks prior. We were devastated and called our jobs to tell them we wouldn’t be coming in the rest of the day. Fast forward three months to my husband’s performance review at his job. His boss informed him that he did great, but he was not receiving the highest score because one time he had called off work the morning of.

My husband: “Do you mean the day my wife had a miscarriage?”

Dumb boss: “Yes. You still called off the day of, so I have to mark you down for that.”

My husband’s example still makes me mad when I think about it. First, what a jerk boss. We were very happy when my husband quit a few weeks later. Second, are you freaking kidding me? If your wife had been in a car accident and you had to call in, would it be expected that you would receive consequences for calling off work? Absolutely not. That guy sucked.

fmla

What a novel idea! Via Keep Families First

Looking at these two real scenarios, they are just a small glimpse into why a real “family leave” policy is necessary. I’m not here to argue about what exactly needs to happen, because I know there are a lot of factors involved. BUT I do think it is important that things change. During the election this year (barf to all of it), I was pretty frustrated when I read how Donald Trump’s plan was described by a female legislator.  And this post isn’t about how much I dislike him, I would hate this no matter who it came from. As quoted in the Washington Post,

“This is a family issue,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). “We know men always want more money. What do women want? More time. And we are thrilled to finally have a president of the United States who is going to put the focus on working with women to make certain you can achieve your American dream.”

This (and the rest of his suggested policy) bugs me for several reasons, but what drives me crazy is where the heck do people get the idea that women have the monopoly on loving their children? I’ve loved watching my husband love our daughter and know that he would prefer spending more time with her over making more money. I’m sorry for any woman who feels her husband would prefer the other way. I’m extra sorry that kind of mentality is used in shaping policy for the entire country.

  • What about when a child is adopted? This plan is just for when a mother delivers.
  • What about if two gay men adopted together? Would neither get leave? Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, that’s an important piece to consider.
  • What about elder care? The boomers are getting there, they may want to consider who’s going to take care of them as they look at these policies.
  • What if a non-newborn family member has a medical or mental health issue? I had a teacher in high school quit her job so she could focus on helping her daughter with an eating disorder. Not everyone can just quit, how are they able to meet all their obligations?
How I felt when I first qualified for FMLA. Via MemeGenerator

How I felt when I first qualified for FMLA. Via MemeGenerator

Family leave isn’t just about having babies. There are families who don’t have children who still need the job security of family leave for a variety of reasons. Because families are complex. Because bad things happen. Because we love our families and want to help them. Because we believe that living the American Dream isn’t just about going to work, but being able to take care of our own in every way. I believe that a strong woman builds a strong family, and a strong family builds a strong woman.

I don’t pretend to have an amazing policy in mind that would fix everything. I very much value fiscal responsibility and I don’t know how to ensure a smart financial plan in regards to it. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t an important topic in our country. I think people from all sides bring in valuable concerns and solutions. I just really want people to be open to understanding that their family situation isn’t the only family situation, and there are likely many things they haven’t considered. We need some major bipartisan pride-swallowing and unity. An effective family leave policy will need to incorporate a broader view of family concerns, not just baby-making and not just for moms. It needs to truly be for families.

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