Daddy’s BackJune 18, 2009 6 Comments
Next week I return to work after three blissful weeks of parental leave. Well, perhaps I should say three very full weeks (I’m not sure that nights with little sleep and days filled with constantly changing diapers constitute bliss). I am forever grateful to the Interaction Institute for Social Change for having such a humane parental leave policy, for a father no less. This is certainly not the standard in this country.
The flip side of my gratitude is the sadness that comes from needing to leave my two infant girls, and to leave my wife with her hands full. It is certainly much more than a full time job to raise three children, and considerably more to do it well. And I am sad to think of all the parents in this country who do not have anything approaching the kind of benefit we have at IISC, and hopeful that efforts to enact some kind of federal legislation will be successful.
In recent interviews with candidates to be a “mother’s helper” to support my wife Emily once I am back at work, we talked with a Brazilian woman who looked at Em mid-way through our conversation and said, “You American women are my heroes. You try to do everything. It’s too much.” That said a lot. We certainly seem to value productivity in this country, at times at the expense of our own health and that of our children. Often during conversations I’ve had with people of retirement age (meaning my parents’ generation) they will comment that they cannot imagine trying to raise kids in this day and age – it’s too expensive, the expectations are too high, we know/think too much about what could possibly go wrong. Above all, there is a common sentiment that there just seems to be less regard for the job of parenting. About this I feel the greatest sadness of all, and a resolve to do what I can to shift things.
As I get ready to get back in the saddle, I know I will be a different man when I return, a parent for the second (and third) time, and someone who now more than ever knows that the priority for me is family. And so I will carry the spirits of my little girls with me, to guide me in the work that needs to be done and that supports my family in the fullest way. And I am eager to hear suggestions and reactions from others about how to strike the balance. What is the connection between our efforts to make social change and a parent/child/family (however that might be defined)-supportive culture?