On Family Leave

You may have seen this video circulating all over social media the last few days. It’s from John Oliver’s show, “Last Week Tonight” (it airs on HBO, so fair warning there are a few off-color jokes).

Oliver (mostly) hits the nail on the head. We can’t say that we love mothers and that they deserve all kinds of gratitude and respect when we, as a culture, make it so difficult to carry out the vocation of motherhood.

But, I would take it a step further and say that paid Family Leave is just as important as paid Maternity Leave. I’m writing this post while snuggling a newborn and watching my two-year-old pretend to cook me some eggs using a skillet, a wooden spoon, and some goldfish. Where did he get the idea to cook? From my husband who’s currently making dinner in the kitchen. How does he have time to make dinner? Family Leave.

Now, Ryan doesn’t get paid leave, per se. He’s cleaning out his sick days so he can be home with us. Good thing, too, because I go back to my online teaching job later this week after three weeks off. I don’t accrue sick days with my current job, so my leave is mostly unpaid (I did get some pay for doing my lesson plans ahead of time, and for that I am very grateful). If Ryan didn’t have the time off, I’d been sending Katherine to the babysitter with Mark two times per week at the ripe age of three weeks. So, Ryan’s doing a lot of diaper changes, cooking, and playing with Mark; he’ll be taking over even more stuff once I start teaching again. It’s a lot of work, and it’s also one of the reasons it gets my goat when people say he’s “on vacation now!”. Um, no. Work for your family at home is *the* real work — ask any stay-at-home-parent. 🙂

Yes, it is my choice to work (and, it should be noted, to go back to work; my employer was obviously very willing to give me all 12 weeks unpaid if I wanted it), but I work because we like our budget to balance — not because I buy expensive clothes or we go on vacations. It would be nice, though, if I didn’t *have* to work during this time with our newborn. It would be nice if American society valued parents and showed it through legislation.

So, until a law gets passed, I’m going to enjoy smelling this little baby head, eating scrambled goldfish from the hands of my two-year old, and being thankful for Ryan’s leave time.

And I’ll leave you with this face:

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