sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

February 9, 2012

Parents Magazine Redesigns

This month the premier American magazine for moms debuted a new look.  I notice fewer portraits and more scenes in the photographic illustrations, arrows with comments pointing to pictures of purported real people and, of course, the darling little strings next to section titles.

Bloopers, the back page humor section, also changed.  Instead of the funnies that allegedly came out of the mouths of prodigious toddlers, Bloopers now features irresistible older kids and discussions of bodily functions.  I can’t say I’m a fan of potty humor, but if this signals a shift away from bragging and helicoptering and to a more free-ranging approach, It’s a welcome development.

Unfortunately, the bulk of Parents content was not redesigned.  No soul-searching articles titled “How Parents Who Follow Our Advise End up with Kids Who Camp out in Some City Square Upon College Graduation — And We Are Sorry” were printed this February.  Instead I read a long feature “Fight for Better Maternity Leave” by Catherine Holecko.

parents magazine

Maoism: Ooow!

Subtitled: “Do you know what Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Afghanistan have in common?  They offer a more generous leave policy than the U.S.  But experts say there is hope for our families.  This is what we can do.”  This can be rephrased to read: “Want to be more like Bangladesh, Rwanda and Afghanistan?  Demand more generous maternity compensation.  Experts say there is hope for the U.S. families: We can still ruin the economy.”

The article was filled with horror stories of mothers who saved their vacation days and pronouncements like this:

Among the world’s worst

Women in the United States are penalized every day simply for having babies.  The country lags far behind other nations in providing parents with both paid and unpaid leave […]

“[P]enalized every day simply for having babies” — cry me a river!  I don’t subscribe to a linear progressive view of history or the idea that maternity perks are a meaningful measure of family well-being.

I took maternity leave; it would be foolish not too, especially considering that part of the time I was paid for through a state fund with the money withheld from my paychecks.  Thank you state of California, I myself would never figure out how to save.  After the leave ran out (a whopping four months), I quit.  One lesson to learn from maternity leave is that too much is never enough, unless, I suppose, it covers the first 25 years after which the baby will be forced to buy her own health insurance.  Seriously, maybe at the tender age of three she will be ready for part time pre-school, but at that point most women will go for the second child.  Should an employer be required to still keep the mother on the payroll?

I’m amazed at the ease with which many visibly pregnant women are able to find jobs.  Two years ago, a neighbor of mine quit the job she hated shortly before becoming pregnant.   She found another one in her second trimester.  In this recession.  Although she didn’t qualify for maternity leave, was able to negotiate two weeks of leave.  She quit before her baby turned one, when her free-lancing husband started getting more jobs.  Perhaps her former employer needed this level of commitment or her level of expertise offset the limitations imposed by baby care.

If pregnancy is not an issue for the employer, the laws outlawing discrimination against pregnant women are unnecessary.  If her employer would have preferred a worker who can consistently put in 40+ hours a week for several years, but hired my neighbor for the fear of litigation, than she took someone else’s job — and possibly didn’t perform very well.  Job applicants, employers and their customers are potentially penalized for simply coming across a pregnant woman.  In my neighbor’s defense, it’s not exactly her responsibility to make sure that she got her job fairly.  She was just doing what she had to do; applying for jobs.  Legislators, on the other hand, need to stay out of private business.

I see maternity leave as a scam.  I want men and women to be equally employable, easy to hire and easy to fire.  A flexible workforce is good for the economy, and in a good economy jobs are plentiful. With plentiful jobs, mothers who wish to work part time or want some sort of short stints will be able to find them.  Anecdotally, I find that in most families the best case scenario is for mothers to take up to a decade off [full time] work.  How petty a few months of partially paid maternity leave, or even a few years, if you want to be greedy, seem compared to ten years!

Because I love freedom, I don’t want employers to be bullied into hiring pregnant women or to keep employees they no longer need.  I don’t want hardworking husbands to be passed over to hire or promote workers who, for reasons beyond their control, can not be expected to be reliable.  Markets should determine wages and leaves for women of childbearing age.  This is good for society, good for families.

Catherine Holecko who penned the maternity leave article for Parents knows something, but is not divulging, probably because it doesn’t occur to her.  She’s appears to be a free-lance writer.  Her occupation gives her flexible hours and the ability to work from home.  When choosing their future profession, young women will be wise to consider the needs of motherhood.  When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, where maternity leaves were far more generous than in this country (and families were far worse off), it was something that my grandmother often talked about.  Unfortunately, few people in America think that unique needs of woman’s life cycle should in any way determine her choice of career.

Before jumping on the bandwagon to demand  government-mandated handouts, American women need to consider the whole picture.  Do we want a robust economy?  Financial stability for the whole family?  Be able to stay home with kids when they are little?  Then maternity leave fight is not for you, and don’t be fooled by the power-hungry politicians who promise little things here and there and take away your choices in the meantime.

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2 Comments »

  1. As a die hard capitalist, I believe that employer paid benefits should be determined by the employers and not mandated by the federal government. The constitution does not allow the government to do such things that doesn’t stop them from doing it any way. In a free marlet system, employers are more likely to provide more benefits whrn times are good and unemployment is loe; i.e., there is more competition for labour. The reverse is true when times are bad and ubenplyment is high; i.e., there less competition for labour. When government mandates, the economy in general always suffers.

    Comment by Conservatives on Fire — February 9, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

    • I’m also against state-mandated maternity leaves. According to that article, they are now paid for by the taxpayers (both of them) when four years ago it was taken out of my wages.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — February 10, 2012 @ 12:11 pm


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