Friday, January 08, 2016

 
I was going to write about paid family leave today, but I got distracted by stuff at home.  Ha, funny, right?  I'm making a joke.  Because obviously no serious human being should ever be getting distracted from something they need to do.  I suppose I sympathize with people who believe that paid family leave should be a no-brainer for a company that values its employees -- I mean, I'd like to get money for not working, too.  We all want to get as much money as we can while doing as little as we can get away with.  I understand the impulse.  What I don't understand is how a business is supposed to justify the expense, and the kinds of incentives it creates.  I mean, in a world where everyone works for him or herself, there is no paid family leave.  If you're self-employed and you want to be home with your baby for six months, that's fine -- but no one's going to pay you, and if your clients need someone to do work for them while you're not available, then you're taking the risk that they're going to find someone better, and not be there for you whenever you decide to come back to the real world.  If you have an emergency where the nurse taking care of your demented parents jumps off a bridge, or a piano falls on your husband's head and you have to stay home to change the bandage six times a day, I feel for you -- but I'm also managing a business, and our clients don't really want to hear about your personal problems.  They just want someone to dig through 23,000 e-mails by Monday, looking for the one that gives them cover for firing the old guy so they don't lose the age discrimination suit, that's all.  And who can blame them?  If we can't do the work, they're going to find a law firm that can.  And they should.

So when someone comes into my office and asks about paid family leave, I just wonder if they really understand the nature of the work we do, or the nature of the work anyone does, and why they think they should get special treatment just because they happen to have chosen family members who aren't self-sufficient, or decided to prioritize their child or their spouse or their parents over their job.  You can always have more children, I tell people -- but there isn't always going to be an associate position open for you.  You can take time off -- we can't legally restrain you.  But we might find someone better to fill your spot, and that person might not be saddled with dependents.  That's just the risk you take.

All of that said, though -- I am proud to say that I did stand up at a partner's meeting and fight for equality for moms and dads.  I thought it was totally unfair that we didn't offer paternity leave, especially when we give women four months of paid leave after they give birth.  I said that in this day and age, it's shameful to treat men and women so differently -- and not to give fathers any time off at all.  And so we changed our policy.  Men get two weeks now.  And so do women.  I mean, not two actual weeks off -- it's three days off and then you can work from home for a week and a half, just until you can sleep-train the kid and wean her onto formula, and go to a couple of doctor's appointments, and get the kid a Social Security number, or whatever it is you have to do in the first couple of weeks of life so the government doesn't take the baby away.  I don't really know how it works.  New Wife let me go back to work right from the hospital anyway.  Her mom was in town, and she knows I can't be in the same room with her, so she just told me to get back to the office.  That's why we're a good match.

And entitlement is starting earlier and earlier these days.  A kid in the class I'm teaching e-mailed me the other day and said he needed an extension on the doc review project I assigned, because his aunt died.  Is an aunt even a real relative?  And you can't bring a laptop to a funeral?  If students are already thinking about time off for family situations, then no wonder it's an even bigger issue once they're adults in the workplace and have actual problems.  My mom's nursing home burned down last year.  I made a couple of phone calls, got an Uber car to pick her up and move her to another facility without me even having to leave the deposition I was in, and that was it.  Her burns were totally superficial, and she was just as happy to talk to the taxi driver about the fire as she would have been to tell me, so what did I need to be there for?  And now she's wherever it is I sent her, I think I have the address in my e-mail somewhere, and she's probably doing fine.  I didn't need paid family leave, unpaid family leave, or any leave at all.  When you're forced to solve your problems, you find a way.  You find a way.

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