OK, I’m back. I’m not entirely sure, but it feels like I missed a week. Yeah, I could look at literally the webpage I just clicked off of to check the date of my last post to see exactly how long it’s been, but where’s the fun in that? Don’t worry though: I double-checked and no one has written anything worth reading or broadcasted anything worth listening to since we were last together.
Anyway, my apologies, but I’ve been very busy. Well, very busy doing exactly two things.
1. Stopping the 1-year-old from going behind the TV and switching off the power strip that powers the TV and all its accompaniments.
2. Pointing and laughing at the 3-year-old (as specifically instructed) when he repeatedly and dramatically falls onto the floor or couch.
Yes, these and only these two tasks have filled approximately 85% of my time the past two weeks or so. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m really not. I’ve been keeping stats and the 1-year-old is currently averaging 26.5 trips behind the TV per day. That’s more than the number of miles in a marathon and the season scoring averages of both Lebron James and Stephen Curry. Think about that for a minute. I’ve come to the conclusion that, at this point, our only options are to mount the TV or give the 1-year-old up for adoption.
As for the 3-year-old, one night I made the mistake of overreacting with uproarious laughter and pointing to one of his contrived, theatrical fall down routines. One momentary slip and I was relegated to a lifetime of playing the role of easily amused person. The other night we were in the kitchen for at least an hour while he repeatedly fell off a box of diapers. Each time, I was required to point and let out a hearty “Bwahahaha!” Because this got a bit tiresome after about the forty-fifth time, I tried to mix it up on occasion: dropping the pointing or substituting a Nelson from The Simpson’s style “Ha-ha” for the “Bwahahaha,” for example. These ad-libs were not well received. Three-year-olds are about as agreeable to mixing it up as those monster things from the Mahna Mahna video.
But enough with all that, let’s hurry up and get to the links. I will likely be called upon to laugh at something any minute now.
The move by Virgin boss Richard Branson to offer one year of paid paternity leave to a certain subset of his employees drew a lot of attention, and a lot of praise, last week. I personally think it’s overhyped. Sure, it’s cool, I guess, but let me know when the government institutes any type of paid parental leave. That would really get me excited. First off, I’m not one to praise billionaires and private corporations for being decent. Second, as long as we leave ourselves at the mercy of the whims and morals of a handful of rich guys, no real progress will ever be made on issues such as these. For every Richard Branson or Bill Gates, there are ten or a hundred Walton families.
Coincidentally, I came across this great podcast last week. It’s the personal story of the struggles one woman is facing as she attempts to return to the workforce after staying home with her children for six years. It’s excellent and it ties in perfectly with what I talked about above. I was completely out of the workforce for two full years and remain very much on the periphery, so this story is very relatable. The tie-in with the parental leave issue is this: I feel like the lack of a coherent parental leave system, and in particular, one that incorporates paternal leave, further entrenches the gender dichotomy of the work-life balance struggle. No paternal leave means the initial child care burden defaults to women. Thus, mothers spend more time with the children from the start, fathers are incentivized to prioritize job over family time, and ultimately, several months or possibly years down the road, it’s the mother left asking herself, “What now? Is it worth it to jump back into work full-time? I am so attached emotionally to my children, how do I make it all work? Should I be doing something else or is this enough?” Change the initial circumstances––either both parents take leave or mothers and fathers alternate leave periods––and everything changes. I can personally attest that when a dad is the primary caregiver early on, the attachment that is formed is real and it is strong. Had I been deep into a career when my children were born, taken a couple weeks off, then jumped back into a regular 9 to 5, I probably never would’ve given it a second thought. But now that these bonds are forged, just the thought of breaking them to work 40 or 50 hours a week ties my stomach in knots. While sometimes I think I might like to do other things, make more money for my family, challenge myself in different ways, those bonds with my children, at least to date, always win out. Sadly, for the most part, moms are the ones who have to make those tough decisions and ask themselves these tough questions, not dads. And moms are the ones that have to live with the consequences of their decisions. Like the mom in this podcast: she’s the one who has to deal with the guilt of her 3-year-old telling her that he stares at a picture of her at nap time at his day care so he won’t forget her. That’s just brutal. That type of burden needs to be shared.
(Sorry for the brain dump. I know this could be better fleshed out and organized, but I’ll leave that for another time. I think I just heard the TV turn off again.)
Seriously, guys? I thought we were friends.