Brooke will be 6 weeks old tomorrow, and it’s been a challenging six weeks to say the least. Yet, I still recognize that we have it pretty good. Kate is able to stay home (unpaid) and care for Brooke for several more weeks before going back to work. We are fully covered as far as insurance via my job, and we are not struggling to put food on the table. Brooke is healthy and thriving. She has some moderate reflux, but otherwise is just dandy. My heart goes out to every parent that is facing steeper challenges than we are, and I know and have known several. My point is simply that babies are challenging, even in the best of circumstances.
Why then, oh why, do we, today, in these United States of America, not have paid parental leave as a standard benefit for both parents? Apart from the sheer callousness of a capitalist crazy society, why are we not supporting parenthood more? It simply does not make sense to me. There’s plenty of money out there in all of these companies, and it may even prove to be beneficial in the long run.
I could argue a lot of things. I could argue that I’m complete garbage at work anyway when I’ve been up every two hours with a crying infant. Even if I haven’t, personally, been the one caring for said infant… I still wake up. I could argue that the stress of worrying over my wife and kid while I’m away is absolutely shaving productive years off my life, likely leading to anxiety related diseases that will make my later years medically expensive. I could argue that a short break from work to get my home affairs in order would see me return more focused and dedicated than the hectic hodge-podge, stumble through new life that happens naturally. Not to mention the benefits to society of children with present, dedicated parents. These are all good arguments that I could make supporting paid parental leave that aren’t simply: “Because maybe we, as a society, should simply be a little more compassionate.”
Generally, if I whine about my lack of leave in public, someone inevitably points out that: “Leave is protected in America.” I never understand if these folks have read the fine print. By protected, you mean to say that I cannot be fired for having a kid and caring for said kid, so long as I file the necessary paperwork in triplicate and agree to receive no pay for the duration of my medical leave. Gee, how generous of you, America.
This approach leads to what happens most often now: one parent shoulders the parental load while the other attempts to keep the ship afloat. To say nothing of the uphill battle single parents face! And we wonder why depression runs rampant through our society. Everyone has heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a kid” but apparently it’s rare in corporate America to actually want to live in that village.
Some companies have woken up and realized the benefits of paid parental leave. Kudos to them. We need more of that. I also think that any company that does not have a standard paid paternity leave should not be allowed to advertise for Father’s Day.
Look, I get it, having a kid is an expensive choice I made so I have no room to complain. But what you don’t get is that I’m not really complaining for me. I’m in good shape and I’ve worked hard and been fortunate enough to be in a position where I don’t have to struggle as much as others. I’m complaining for the people that can’t even afford to get on a computer and type something on a secret public journal that not very many people are even going to see, because shouting into the void of the Internet is how conversations are started these days. So the take home is this: More people need to talk about how America is not so great for parents.
Really, though, its a pretty simple. I really miss my baby while I’m grinding away in my cube. I really wish I could be there for my wife while she’s struggling with our crying infant. I really think we ought to do more to support parenthood in America.