Feb 10, 2013

Not the Same but Equal

Tonight I heard about a friend's (male) coworker who was suspiciously let go very shortly after taking 6 weeks of FMLA. If this were a female coworker all hell and lawsuits would break loose. Because its a guy, not much of a grumble is being created.

This inspired a mental soapbox but soapboxes aren't any fun if they stay in your head. So here it comes guys and gals.

Discouraging men from taking FMLA is one step in a vicious cycle that sets both sexes up for failure.

Here's how I figure: Women having babies take maternity leave. In a culture where men don't also take paternity leave, this means women become comparatively more expensive and riskier employees. Therefore employers are less incentivized to hire, promote or otherwise reward women employees. Conversely, men are forced to choose their careers over their children literally from birth.

Like I said, this is one piece of an overall problem. It starts with the double standard of mothers can take leave but fathers cannot. It's not a huge leap to see how this manifests down the road when it is socially acceptable for mothers to take time off of work for doctors' appointments, parent-teacher conferences and so on. Meanwhile fathers, who have been forced to choose work over kids, continue to do such and risk becoming less engaged parents. If Dad is less engaged, Mom has to pick up the slack or the child suffers (though you could argue that the child is suffering purely from Dad's lack of engagement, regardless of if Mom picks up the slack).

And so the cycle: women sacrificing time, energy and thus reward in the workplace and men sacrificing involvement in their children's lives. Women being treated with kid gloves at work, men climbing the ladder at a disproportionate rate. Women not bringing home as much bacon; men having to bring home more bacon to compensate and therefore virtually becoming indentured servants to their jobs.

All this isn't to say a family that chooses to have Mom stay home or work part-time is in any way wrong. Nor is a family who opts out of paternity leave. But the bottom line is families should have the choice and the workforce (and overall culture) needs to support working parents. Of both sexes.

Or we all lose.

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