It’s all over the news. Microsoft and Netflix are now offering pretty amazing maternity and paternity leave options for their employees. I, for one, could not be more excited that two big companies in our country are finally getting their shit together on this topic. Will I ever work for Microsoft or Netflix? Most likely not. Will I ever have more children? Definitely not. So, in a way, this news doesn’t apply to me. But really, it does apply to everyone in our country.
Back when Justin and I decided to have kids, we knew we needed to save money and sick time to make it work. That was something we were willing to do. We put ourselves on a five year plan so we could travel (but we forgot to go any place), and save loads of money (but we forgot to do that too) so that we could comfortably afford for me to stay home with our children until they were school age. After our first child, we just weren’t ready for me to be a full time stay at home mom. I considered taking a one year leave (unpaid) so that I could return to work after an extended time home with my baby, but the HR department denied my request. Really, my options were limited: I could resign completely from my teaching job, or take six weeks of “paid” time off. Since I have a dad who’s a labor lawyer and a husband who’s a union representative, I found out I could actually take twelve weeks total with FMLA, but my time off would not be monetarily compensated. With summer vacation included, I got to stay home with Harrison for five whole months. Everyone, including my husband and myself, considered this a very very good deal. With the birth of our second child, we were financially prepared for me to stay home with both children, and that is where I am now.
So many women in my profession came back to work just six weeks after their tiny babies came into this world. They’d stand at their classroom doors before the students came in in the morning, choking back tears because it felt like their hearts were ripped out and torn to pieces that morning leaving little ones at daycare. I saw it happen time and time again, and then I was one of those moms, too.
When I read comments on these news articles from Netflix’s and Microsoft’s new announcements I see the following patterns:
“What about those of us who decide not to have kids? How are we compensated?”
You are compensated by a full night’s sleep every night. You are compensated by going to the grocery store by yourself. You are compensated by not using your vacation time for sick kids. You are compensated by knowing that the next generation may not grow up without supervision from their parents who need to work because they have no choice.
“I’ll have to pick up their slack when they’re home snuggling their babies in their pajamas til noon.”
Your company will likely hire a temporary replacement for the absent employee. Oh look! More jobs in the country! If you feel like you’re picking up slack, you can come over and pick up poop and vomit instead!
“Can non-parents take a year of vacation too?”
According to dictionary.com, a vacation is:
1.a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday:
Schoolchildren are on vacation now.
2.a part of the year, regularly set aside, when normal activities of law courts, legislatures, etc., are suspended.
3.freedom or release from duty, business, or activity.
4.an act or instance of vacating.
verb (used without object)
5.to take or have a vacation:
to vacation in the Caribbean.
I don’t even know if I need to elaborate, but of course I will. “Suspension of work” is not the definition of parenting and nurturing an infant. The words “rest”, “recreation”, and “holiday” also are not the words I would use to describe my children’s first years of life. And shall we discuss number three, a “freedom or release from duty, business, or activity”??? My favorite part about that definition is thinking about vacationing to the Caribbean with a baby. Ha! So, no, you may not take a vacation while we are busy parenting.
Although I worked as a school teacher, which gives me an amazing schedule when it comes to having children, I knew I wouldn’t be good at balancing all of the late nights of grading papers, lesson planning, and learning new curriculum that was going to change the next year anyway when I could be home with my children. I know lots and lots of moms who LOVE being working parents. They’re good at it. They’re good at the balance. But it should be a choice. And by choice, I mean that companies and places of work should make it possible for their employees to work and take time for their families. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have children, or your children are all grown up. This is something our society needs. It’s something our children need. It’s something our future co-workers need.