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Mommy Dearest (As In, Mommy's Quite Expensive)
I'd bet people who have businesses big enough that they have to pay health insurance to the employees (a dumb and unfair idea -- unfair since a single person ends up subsidizing the guy with the wife and five kids) are reluctant to hire women who are of the age to get knocked up and take maternity leave.

Those of you ladies who aren't kid people who are regular readers here, my advice, if you're going for a job -- subtly let the potential employer know. If they figure out you're not going to sock them with maternity fees, and then take off from work for a period of time, and then, eventually, leave at 4pm every day to pick up the kid...well, I'm guessing you'll be more employable.

Oh, sorry -- was that non-P.C. of me? I'd bet it's how employers think...and you know what? Rightfully so. I only have two employees -- my part-time assistant and my part-time bookkeeper -- but if my company were bigger, but still small, it would sock me big-time if I had an employee who took off on maternity leave, and especially, if I had to pay for it.

I'm for the kind of health insurance where it's not tied to a job -- health insurance like mine, where I write the check for my insurance to Kaiser every month, and pay my own way.

You can't afford to take time off work? Buy more shirts at thrift stores, and fewer at Ann Taylor! Take vacations in a tent instead of in a hotel! Is that too big a sacrifice for you? Boo frigging hoo. How about you sacrifice to have a kid instead of your employer and, in turn, other employees?

A Dallas woman, Michelle Degani writes on WashingtonPost.com of not taking a job because an employer won't pick up the cost, in money and time, for her pregnancy. That's her right -- but I find the sense of entitlement in that rather shocking:

I received a job offer a few weeks ago. It was great except for the maternity leave policy, which HR told me was generous. The policy: First year of employment, you can buy short-term disability (STD), which might pay 60% of your salary while you're out, but the details are gray. After one year, the company gives you three weeks of time off with full pay, and then you get nine weeks of STD at 60% of your salary.

I'm 42, and have a one-year-old daughter. I married my husband in 2006. I think I got pregnant on my wedding night, a miracle and a blessing considering my age. We're hoping for another child soon. My biological clock is striking midnight, so maternity leave is crucial.

I don't know about all of you, but I didn't have the mental capacity to go back to work three weeks after having a baby. Not all of us can forgo our full salary, even for a few weeks, so 60 percent of my salary for another nine weeks wasn't an option either.

When I asked the HR person how others at the company were handling maternity leave, he said they save extra money so they can live on a reduced salary while on leave or they bank their paid time off (PTO) and use it for leave. I don't want to be pregnant and panicked about how I'm going to pay my bills while recovering. I don't want to go back to work after only three weeks because we can't pay bills. And what if I need my paid time off for an emergency?

I didn't end up taking the job. Given my "advanced maternal age" I didn't want to postpone trying to get pregnant again long enough to make sure I qualified for maternity leave at the new company. I decided to stay at my current company, which has a decent maternity leave policy -- eight weeks after two years of employment.

Posted by aalkon at May 9, 2007 3:47 PM

Comments

At the risk of pissing off the PC police, I'm going to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to speak a truth:

YOU CANNOT HAVE IT ALL.

Women have been sold a bill of goods by radical feminists. These women have been brainwashed into believing that they only have a value to society if they have a career, and that being a stay-at-home mother is equivalent to being a traitor to the sisterhood.

So they get the degree, get the career, and then, in their mid-thirties, get the husband (or not) and babies. And there is no way that a person can juggle all that responsibility and remain sane.

Consider this alternative - have your babies before you turn 30, live in a modest house, stay at home and raise your children. By the time they are old enough to be left alone you will probably not have seen 40. Which means you've still got 40 plus years to have that career if it means that much to you.

Something you'll never hear spoken from the death-bed: "I wish I'd spent more time at the office."

Posted by: brian at May 9, 2007 7:34 AM

And in the same non-PC vein, anyone wants to make a guess how many job offers she is going to get once her pregnancy shows?

Posted by: Daran at May 9, 2007 7:52 AM

Jesus, what a whinefest. Here's a clue - if you can't afford to take more than three weeks off work and still keep the bills paid, you can't afford a kid either. Biological clock - what a steaming pantload. Sounds more like a midlife crisis to me.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 9, 2007 7:53 AM

I absolutely agree with Amy and Brian. My only quibble is the timing of staying home to raise the brat. I went to work 2 weeks after the births of my girls and quit my job during the teen years. Believe me, they need more time and direction now than they did when they were two.

***brat is used affectionately

Posted by: miche at May 9, 2007 7:58 AM

I just find it odd that there is basicly NO mention of her husband in this post.

I mean, so she can't take 5 months off, can her husband get paternity leave? What about his salary, can it cover hers?

It's not as if we're in single mother territory here, and as far as biology is concerned it takes 2 to make a baby. Why not have the father help out as well?

I think part of the problem with people's perception of the "you can have it all, job career etc" it isn't the same as "you can do it all by yourself." You can't raise a child, work full time, do all the housework etc just as one person. But if you have a partner, or a support network you can. Mom isn't the only one who can take kids to soccer, she's not the only person in the house who can operate a vaccum, or a dishwasher, or a laundry machine. She's not the only person who can put a bottle in a baby's mouth or change a diaper. Dad can do these things as well, and depending on who has better health care, benefits, salary etc it may be better for him to stay home with the baby, he may even enjoy it!

I'm just amazed that besides conception her husband seems to have been left out of this decision completely.

Posted by: Shinobi at May 9, 2007 8:12 AM

I slightly disagree with your statement, Brian. Only slightly. You can have it all, but only if YOU are willing to WORK and SACRIFICE to reach your goals and do not expect unearned rewards from the private sector or the US tax payers.


Posted by: Joe at May 9, 2007 8:18 AM

My approach to life, which allows me to go to France, have an assistant, and do all sorts of things other people think are impossible, is figuring out what I want then figuring out how to make it happen.

I think families would be wise to band together to care for kids -- so a mother or father, not a nanny, is with kids every day. Maybe it's not the mother of the particular kids, but if they're being cared for (and in turn, socialized) in a group, I don't think this would be a bad thing. This might require families to give up vacation time. Say, five families band together to do this, which gives you 10 parents, let's just say. If you're a single parent, you can either have grandma take your other day, or you can take two days. So, there are 20 work days a month. Each of those parents puts in two days a month with the band of kiddies. This may require them to give up their vacation time and maybe even take a few days off without pay. But, again, how about parents pay the cost of their choice to have children...not the rest of us?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 9, 2007 8:24 AM

Shinobi,

Most government policy is geared towards mothers and fatherhood is seen as irrelevant. The private sector has to follow the dictates of the law formulated by the government. That is why the father is not included in the story. We only know about his existence, because she mentioned wedding and getting pregnant on the same night.

Posted by: Joe at May 9, 2007 8:30 AM

Your post seems to be about three things:

1) Forcing employers to pay for health insurance is dumb. And it is. Really dumb and anti-competitive.

2) Business don't like to hire women that may become pregnant. So I bet this happens, but much much more in the smaller privately held companies and not in public corporations. I have never seen it happen ever (but I am guy, worse, an engineer, so who knows) in any company, but while I can imagine it occurring in the smaller private companies, I just can't imagine that anyone that cares that much that impact on the bottom line has the ability to hire that woman. (I.e. the CFO really has no say in the hiring of woman on the assembly line or in marketing or engineering.) So the soon-to-be-pregnant should probably seek out the Fortune 500s.

3) Parental leave policies may suck. Yes, yes, they might. I agree with Pirate Jo, if you can't afford the time off from work, just wait until the bills for the new kid start coming in....

Posted by: jerry at May 9, 2007 8:30 AM

I mean, so she can't take 5 months off, can her husband get paternity leave? What about his salary, can it cover hers?

The absolutely wonderful Dow 30 company that actually has terrific benefits that I work for only offers unpaid paternity leave.

I don't think there is a lot of paid paternity leave out there.

Not to take this too far off-tangent, I think a lot of progress in employer/employee benefits and pay have been lost to "free trading." So consider these problems part of our white man's burden in creating a few billionaires in China.

Posted by: jerry at May 9, 2007 8:50 AM

I actually clicked on the link to the story and read the comments. I was very glad to see that the majority of responders advocated personal responsibility instead of corporate or government handouts. The occasional moonbat would chime in with, "But paying me to have kids is the same thing as investing in the future!" I think sterilizing people like that would be a good investment in the future.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 9, 2007 8:51 AM

Odd to me is that there is a sense of entitlement through the piece. This person is entitled to employment, and entitled to children.

Years ago, in a job interviews skills class, I lost points for even mentioning that a fictional female applicant had children; I turned the point around on them, asking, "So, you think a person without children will work harder to keep their job?"

All sorts of people have strange ideas about themselves with regard to others and employers. It's because they don't have the slightest idea about other people and how companies must work.

Posted by: Radwaste at May 9, 2007 8:52 AM

It all depends on how badly you want children and how much you're willing to give up. There has to be a trade-off somewhere; you can't have it all, at least not all at once. When my girls were little, I had no choice but to work. I was lucky in that my parents were retired and offered to look after them for me so I could work, but I still had bills to pay, and groceries to buy and a household to run. I didn't want to live on the dole, so I didn't. But with the cost of child care so astronomical, if I had had to pay for it, I wouldn't have been able to afford it! I know a few moms that are in the position of "do I keep working to pay for child care, or do I go on state and let them pay for it?" 2-parent families have it just as hard, I know one family, the father works 2 jobs and the mom works a full time job, and their kids are smaller than mine. They haven't had a vacation in 5 years. (When my boyfriend and I got together, he just starting paying the rent, told me to take care of the utilities, and we both pitch in for food and entertainment, which hasn't been all that much. Just going to the movies costs more than $50 for the 4 of us! We haven't had a vacation in 2 years, but we're saving up for a house.) Priorities and personal responsibility are paramount. If you can't afford to have kids, you need to figure it out sooner rather than later. No company should be obligated to "invest in the future" by paying for you to have kids; it's not their responsibility.

Posted by: Flynne at May 9, 2007 9:12 AM

"Consider this alternative - have your babies before you turn 30"

Brian, I would have been delighted to have my babies before I turned 30. However, I was, for obvious reasons, not able to pick up a good husband at the supermarket, and I did not want to birth babies as a single woman, so that wasn't an option. I would have been delighted to be married before 30, but it didn't happen that way. I didn't want to get married just to be married - I wanted, and want, to find someone who is good long-term match for me. Haven't had one yet. Do I know some women who got married in their 20s and waited until their 30s to reproduce? Sure. But most of the reproducing-in-30s women get married in their 30s, in my experience...and I'd really NOT want to encourage women, or men, to get married by X age just for the sake of being married.

If this woman is a professional who didn't marry/reproduce until her early 40s, why on earth wasn't she saving up before that? She lives in Dallas - she and her husband don't have to bankrupt themselves to own a house large enough for a family of four. Seems to me the problem is that her family can't do without her full salary for nine weeks, and this is more of an issue of Americans wanting to do everything but save.

"So the soon-to-be-pregnant should probably seek out the Fortune 500s."
Indeed. Big companies are typically looking for (competent) people who are willing to stay for a long period of time and take on various roles. They're also more able to find roles for people that fit in with "life needs" *by design* - i.e., you're expected to arrive at 7:30 and leave at 4:30, and if you do so you're not screwing anyone over. You may not be paid munificent sums or be CEO - but most people aren't going to be CEO.

And yes, where is this woman's husband in all this?

Posted by: marion at May 9, 2007 9:36 AM

If its such a miracle that she had kids, why cant she take time off work to take care of these new messiahs?

Posted by: PurplePen at May 9, 2007 9:49 AM

"Since a single person ends up subsidizing the guy with the
  wife and five kids"

Care to explain? I've never worked at a company where
this is true.

Posted by: Ron at May 9, 2007 9:55 AM

Marion - the point I was trying to make is that having young children is not compatible with having a career. Whether you've found the appropriate partner or not is not part of my equation.

If you find yourself a Mr. Right at 36 and want to have a family, I would suggest to you that the best course of action is for you to put your career on hold to raise your children. If necessary, your husband can get an additional job.

There's a reason why one parent has traditionally stayed at home (usually the mother), and it's got nothing to do with sexual oppression: it just happens to work.

And the reason nobody mentions the father here is because the mother seems to think he's irrelevant. Again, faulty thinking on her part brought about by decades of feminist indoctrination that considers men to be little more than sperm donors that snore and fart. This marginalization of the role of men is a cancer on civilized society. And it's what leads women like Degani to look to their employers or the state to take the role of breadwinner that rightfully should be placed on the shoulders of the father.

Posted by: brian at May 9, 2007 10:03 AM

Ron - how much do you pay for insurance? How much does your co-worker with the kids pay?

Hint: it's not a linear function of the number of people on the policy, and it's not a linear function of the dollar amount of health expenditures per annum.

simply: you are paying more per dollar expended on health care than the family is. They may actually consume more health care in a year than they pay for. You, on the other hand, probably do not.

Therefore, you are subsidizing the family. This is the driving force behind Massachussetts' law requiring all persons to purchase health-care policies. Too many healthy young single men aren't paying into the system, so they need to be coerced into doing so.

Posted by: brian at May 9, 2007 10:08 AM

Maybe this woman needs to consider being her own boss. At age 40, a woman should have some marketable skills, which may or may not have anything to do with her work history. An awful lot of women go into business for themselves because they can't find the ideal job (high pay, great benefits, low hours). It's a hassle, but in time, the income potential is much higher.

Posted by: valerie at May 9, 2007 10:23 AM

Brian in most cases it doesn't have to do with a feminist conspiracy. But in techniques of writing to elicit an emotional impact of some kind with the readers. No cabal of evil lesbians wearing comfortable shoes waiting for the final signal to castrate every single male on the planet.

If the story had more input from the husband it would have caused speculation on the real reasons behind the couple's problems. Hence, it would lessen the emotional impact that Degani was intending to do with the piece. So, Mr. Perfect becomes Mr. Footnote.

Personally, I've never cared for human interest stories in the news. Too subjective and the story matter can be used to manipulate readers and viewers through withholding valid information.

Posted by: Joe at May 9, 2007 10:38 AM

When I read the main post, I was kind of expecting an influx of people to the site making comments about how "children are the future for all of us, and we all should pitch in" or some such. That there weren't any comments supporting this poor, sad woman's reproductive plight suggests either a great deal of common sense among the readers here, or the fact that that her demands are totally out of step with how things work in the U.S. (or both). My brother and sister-in-law have two kids, mostly on his (relatively modest journalist) salary (she does run art classes out of the home) because they wanted one of them to be with the kids. They've had to sacrifice, but they did so knowingly and willingly - and they can't understand their friends who think kids don't entail such sacrifices. I don't think my wife and I are likely to want to sacrifice our lives for kids, and consequently, we don't plan to have them. It's not that complicated - your kids should not be your employer's or society's problems. If either of those will be the case, don't have 'em.

As far as the insurance thing goes, I agree that people should pay for their own. I run a small business, and pay a small amount each month for catastrophic coverage(an HSA program where insurance kicks in at 100% if my expenses are more than $4000 annually). This works for me, because I'm healthy and don't usually go to the doctor at all in a given year, but if I get hurt, or really sick, I won't destroy our finances. All fine and well. There is a big problem with the self-purchasing approach right now, which is that it is essentially unavailable to lots of people; I know one middle-aged woman (otherwise, with no significant medical history) who, following one bout of pneumonia that required hospitalization, can't buy her own insurance at any price. Health insurance needs tether her to jobs with big companies. If we're ever to sever the job-health insurance connection, it has to be possible for people with decent incomes to get insurance without it.

Posted by: justin case at May 9, 2007 11:35 AM

“If you can’t do the time don’t do the crime.”

Posted by: Roger at May 9, 2007 11:39 AM

Perfectly put, Roger.

And here's why I "heart" Pirate Jo:

The occasional moonbat would chime in with, "But paying me to have kids is the same thing as investing in the future!" I think sterilizing people like that would be a good investment in the future

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 9, 2007 11:49 AM

The writer is supposed to be convincing a future employer that she can solve HIS problems, but instead she can't stop whining about what a meanie he is for not subsidizing her lifestyle choices. Then she figures she'll turn to the general public for commiseration. Good thing she wasn't sitting at MY kitchen table whining about this non-problem.

I had 2 children at in my early 20's and stayed home with them---giving up my career and a second salary for over a decade. Apparently some people find this concept shocking. If you want to have children, here's how to have them and afford them---yes, even stay home with them for more than 3 weeks of paid leave:

1. Move to an area where you can afford the housing---yes, even if it means one of you has to commute or change jobs. Buy the smallest house you can squeeze your stuff into, with a small and easily-maintained yard.

2. Get rid of every single thing you don't need in your home (i.e., sell it for cash). No one NEEDS 4 TV's and a 21-inch computer monitor or a fancy Weber gas grill. Grow up, already.

3. Stop eating out. Completely. Even McDonald's.

4. Stop drinking and smoking. (I don't give a whit about your health, but have you checked out how much that stuff costs???)

5. Work at home part-time or take in another child or two to supplement the family income.

6. Shop at thrift stores and yard sales.

7. Make meals from scratch, instead of from expensive prepared foods.

8. Sell your nearly-new showy car and buy something older and reliable.

9. Rent movies instead of going out and paying for them. Duh. Better yet, play board games for free and increase your intelligence and problem-solving skills, instead of dumbing yourself down by staring at a screen for hours.

10. Fix things, paint things, clean things yourself. If you don't know how, LEARN.

THEN come crying to me about how you can't afford to stay at home with your child for an extra few weeks without pay, and you might get my sympathy.

I have a third child now and I'm in my mid-40's. Yes, it's absolutely easier to do it now, with money and household help. But if I had to make those sacrifices today to afford staying home for these early years, I would absolutely make them, willingly and cheerfully.

What happened to the make-it-happen spirit this country was founded on?

Posted by: Tess at May 9, 2007 11:49 AM

"What happened to the make-it-happen spirit this country was founded on?"


It was sacrificed during a hostile take over by lawyers with unjustified senses of entitlement and turned into "I want it all and I want it now, and I don't care how I get it or who gets hurt in the process."

Posted by: Flynne at May 9, 2007 12:00 PM

Did anyone think of this? Having children into your 40's isn't as safe as it looks. There are increased risks of syndromes, not the least of which is Downs. What happens then? You will need special child care if you work and probably will be taking more time off to care for your "special" child.

I'm an RN in the field and have been counseling my unmarried 30 year old daughter about the risks of waiting to have kids. I basically told her if she doesn't do it soon, think more than twice about doing it in the future. And if you LOVE your career (which she does), remember, you CAN'T have it all without sacrifices somewhere. I stressed from day one with my kids that if YOU haven't purchased it, you are not ENTITLED to it.

Posted by: GirlAtheist at May 9, 2007 12:06 PM

Re: subsidizing the person with kids when you're single

For mine, the guy with five kids may pay less than six times what I do, but I also pay less than I would have buying it on my own. I know this, because I have looked, thinking I could save myself some cash. Silly me.

So, it's not always the case. Companies can make deals buying in bulk, I guess. And hey, I like Costco, so I'm okay with that.

I agree with Marion that bigger companies are willing to offer these benefits packages for a reason. It should be their choice what to offer, depending on the employees they want to entice to their companies. That's what negotiation is all about. I don't think you should look down on people for what they want from an employer, but I also don't think they should write columns complaining about the unfairness of not getting what they want.

Posted by: Brenda at May 9, 2007 12:24 PM

"Having children into your 40's isn't as safe as it looks. There are increased risks of syndromes, not the least of which is Downs. What happens then? You will need special child care if you work and probably will be taking more time off to care for your "special" child."


Wow, I came in just under the wire, then. I had my first the day before I turned 35, the second 2 weeks after I turned 38. Thank the gods, they're both healthy, with no major problems.

Posted by: Flynne at May 9, 2007 12:31 PM

Brian wrote:
>Ron - how much do you pay for insurance? How much does
>your co-worker with the kids pay? Hint: it's not a linear
>function of the number of people on the policy, and it's not
>a linear function of the dollar amount of health
>expenditures per annum.

No, it's certainly not linear. He're some actual values
from a typical policy:
  Employee only: $28.08
  Employee + 1: $73.29
  Family: $103.27

What's going on is the average company heavily subsidizes
or pays for the employee's insurance. They usually, at best,
lightly subsidize the dependent coverage. It costs way
beyond linear to insure your spouse. Kid's coverage doesn't
take as big a bite. That's not altruism on the company's
part; actuarially, kids are much less likely to have a
really expensive medical problem.

Posted by: Ron at May 9, 2007 12:32 PM

I guess "It Takes a Village" has no more takers?

Seriously, Tess is right. My wife stayed home. I had a good job, but we lived a little below our means, ate "hot dog and green bean in tomato soup caserole" at home, scrimped, skipped lots of vacations, and bought a starter house. When the kids got older, she worked too - first part-time, then full-time. We have it way better now, but hardly have it all. We did pretty much pay the full tab for the kids to go to college. That's fair, they are our kids.

When the single folks are retired, I doubt they will have any qualms about collecting Social Security paid by the next generation. You could always consider the extra money you'll collect (women live longer than men) to be a repayment on the subsidy to my health insurance.

The search for Cosmic Justice continues.

Posted by: MarkD at May 9, 2007 12:33 PM

> Having children into your
> 40's isn't as safe as it
> looks.

To wit: http://tinyurl.com/22x54f

"For example, the incidence of Down syndrome rises from 1 baby in 1,490 when a mother is 24 to 1 in 160 when she is 40. At 50, the risk is 1 in 1."

Posted by: Crid at May 9, 2007 12:43 PM

STOP! WAIT! I BUNGLED THE CUT & PASTE!

"At 50, the risk is 1 in 11."

There. Sorry.

Posted by: Crid at May 9, 2007 12:53 PM

"When the single folks are retired, I doubt they will have any qualms about collecting Social Security paid by the next generation."

Oh yes, the old "the childfree are riding on the backs of my children for their Social Security!" Parents seem to be so proud of the Social Security taxes their children will be paying. But you notice they never mention that their children will also be DRAINS on SSI, to generations even further in the future. No, I am not creating any more humans to pay into an immoral Ponzi scheme, but I'm not creating any future drains on it either!

FYI, if it was up to me, there would be no Social Security - I can't help it that my grandparents' generation voted for a bunch of crooks in order to get entitlements for themselves.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 9, 2007 1:28 PM

Well this single person does not intend to retire in the traditional sense. I will retire when I am six feet under. Also in my field, retirement isn't encouraged, because of the continued decline of test scores of American students in math and science.

Changing the subject:

In a few years women will be able to have careers and hold off having children until their 40s with little health risk to the children:

http://tinyurl.com/3yy64d

Posted by: Joe at May 9, 2007 1:35 PM

One thing these arguments fail to address is attraction and retention. But then I work in a chroniclly understaffed industry, buyer's market I guess.

When I bought my house my boss knew he had me for the long run, when i got married and now, having a kid, he knows he's got me by the balls, no way I can take this job and shove it.
"So, you think a person without children will work harder to keep their job?" - Exactly


If downs is really your concern, get an amnio and abort if it looks possitive. They also have some tests for hormone ratios in the mother's blood. You get an estimate of your individual risk level half way through the 9 months. Of course, people are not likely to be so practical once they've spent several thousand to concieve in the first place. Then again, by the time you reach your 40's with no kids, you have put in a lot of effort on family planning (ie planning how not to have a family) why stop now?

>Employee only: $28.08
What's that, per day?

My paternaty leave is that I am allowed to use 6 days of accrued sick leave per year on my kid. I won't be able to be much help with nursing the newborn anyway.

Posted by: smurfy at May 9, 2007 2:10 PM

Not to mention the number of women who get pregnant, take a full maternity leave, and then decide that they don't feel like going back to work. Happens all the time. Who do they think pays for that?

Another big, unjustified inequity in the workplace? Making people with no kids go on lousy business trips to unappealing places, while co-workers in the same job aren't expected to.

Posted by: NBS at May 9, 2007 2:25 PM

Hey, Mark---you may not have it all, but you have the respect of people like me.

Posted by: Tess at May 9, 2007 2:33 PM

>I know one middle-aged woman (otherwise, with no significant medical history) who, following one bout of pneumonia that required hospitalization, can't buy her own insurance at any price.

That shit needs to be illegal. Switzerland has it like that although they compel everyone to buy insurance so I guess that balances it out.

Posted by: mishu at May 9, 2007 2:44 PM

FYI, if it was up to me, there would be no Social Security - I can't help it that my grandparents' generation voted for a bunch of crooks in order to get entitlements for themselves.

One more reason to love Pirate Jo.

Tess' bitchslapping of the whinies ("Stop eating out. Completely. Even McDonald's.") also warmed the cockles of my tiny little lump-of-coal heart.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 9, 2007 2:47 PM

Yes, Pirate Jo is a treasure. On both counts for sterlization and social security.

For those who are undecided about having children. Please view this 40 second commercial. Enjoy:

http://tinyurl.com/plbvh

Posted by: Joe at May 9, 2007 3:03 PM

Unpaid maternity leave falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Basically, if your husband has a massive coronary, your mom develops a strep infection that costs her an arm, your wife falls and breaks a hip, you can take up to six weeks to care for them and be assured some kind of job upon your return. (Not necessarily your former job, btw. Just A job.)

First, this is not entirely for the employee’s benefit. As an employer, you do not want my cousin Matt to show up for work the day his mom has her arm amputated. (See strep infection above.) You want him to stay with his mom, sit with her, set up home care for her, etc. That way, in a week or two, he can come back to work knowing he’s taken care of her, and very likely, extra loyal to you, his employer, for giving him the time to meet these unexpected, and unavoidable responsibilities.

In a perfect world, companies would see the economic logic of hiring a temp to fill in for Matt, instead of sacking him and then trying to replace him. (It is extremely expensive to find and hire a suitable new employee.) Until we get a perfect world, I think this is an acceptable fix.

Second, if we’re going to say that you can’t be fired because today’s the day your husband’s left ventricle gave out, I don’t see how we can deny that same protection to the pregnant. Plus, again, in a best case scenario, you get back an employee who is completely trained, and more loyal than ever.

Paid family leave is EXTREMELY rare, for all the reasons mentioned above. When it is offered, it is governed by the same rules as FMLA, and available for any pressing, close family crisis.

All this being said, if you are fortunate enough to have an employer that offers it, and you abuse their policy by leaving afterwards, you're an idiot, because the odds of finding another company so generous are slim and none.

Posted by: Harriet at May 9, 2007 4:11 PM

Joe, that could be a commercial for the ASPCA!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 9, 2007 4:36 PM

"I don't think you should look down on people for what they want from an employer, but I also don't think they should write columns complaining about the unfairness of not getting what they want."

EXACTLY. I am currently in grad school (the type of grad school that will be significantly increasing my income). In a few months, I'll be on the hunt for a permanent job. Will I tend to prefer those that offer nice maternity packages, just in case? Sure, just like I'll prefer the ones that cover dental care and/or that host company nights out at pro baseball games. Will I seek to write a piece on Washingtonpost.com if I don't find these? NO. This is called letting the market forces work for you - if an employer offers a package I don't like, I can look around for another, or accept the first and make sacrifices. If enough potential highly competent employees value extended paid maternity leave, AND it's something that the company has determined has an okay cost-benefits ratio (benefit: you keep around a worker who you have spent a lot of time and money training and developing), then companies offering extended maternity leave will attract more highly competent employees. Ah, my old friend Adam Smith, how nice to see you again.


"But you notice they never mention that their children will also be DRAINS on SSI, to generations even further in the future."

Pirate Jo: Dunno about you, but I don't expect Social Security to be around for me, much less for kids being born now, at least not in its current form. The baby boomers are going to bankrupt that long before I hit my 60s. Either it will just go away, or it will be revamped to remove the Ponzi scheme aspect in some way - but either way, I don't think the children being born today will ever end up being "drains" in the same way the elderly are now. YMMV.

Posted by: marion at May 9, 2007 5:10 PM

Ah, I knew the whiff of Adam Smith would eventually make its presence. Smith ideas work if people are purely rational beings. In most cases, especially within the typical offices, they are not rational beings. Anyone up for some praxeology? I didn’t think so.

I wouldn’t place too much faith in rationalizing market forces. What was the rationale when GM decided to cut all the free health benefits to their retired employees? Of course, GM’s current employees breathed a sigh of relief, but their drastic cut backs would come eventually later. How many other Fortune 500 companies are cutting back on health benefits and pension plans? What would the excuse the shareholders’ use? Market forces.

Also, I wouldn’t put too much value in the necessity of experienced workers. Ever happen upon a business model where numerous experienced employees were let go and the extra job duties were placed on the remaining staff? Why would a rational executive do that? Market forces.

You are not entitled to happiness at your company's expense. That belongs to the individual person alone.

Posted by: Joe at May 9, 2007 10:19 PM

Second, if we’re going to say that you can’t be fired because today’s the day your husband’s left ventricle gave out, I don’t see how we can deny that same protection to the pregnant.


It's interesting that you cite FMLA as a precedent for the privilege of maternity leave, when it's actually the other way around. Some sort of maternity leave has been available (be it 3 weeks or 3 months) in many F500 companies for quite some time, while the concept that a person might actually have family responsibilities other than a couple of spoiled brats (whoops, I mean cute widdle kiddies) and have an equal right to be cut a bit of slack is fairly recent. The idea that children are the only worthy excuse for some sort of "family leave" program is another example of our society's prejudice against the childless. I'm solely responsible for my parents, my dad has Alzheimer's, and the fact that I'll have FMLA there when I need it (plus my employer's wonderful attitude towards my situation) is a godsend.

Posted by: Shotrock at May 9, 2007 10:22 PM

"You are not entitled to happiness at your company's expense."

While I theoretically agree with that, study after study has shown that happiness and fulfillment with a job are the strongest factors determining whether someone will stay with that job - yes, stronger than money. If you feel valued and appreciated, you are FAR more likely to stay with a company. Smart companies do things that make their workers feel valued, as long as those things fit in with their overall strategy.

And Joe, while I certainly agree that market behavior is far from perfect or absolute, I do think it applies fairly well to the process of looking for jobs. The issue that I think most of us have with the woman who wrote in Washingtonpost.com is that she felt that she was entitled to fully paid, long-term maternity leave *as a matter of course*. Rather than just saying, "Sorry, your system isn't for me," and applying elsewhere, she decided to act all entitled. That's the real issue here. If maternity leave really is something that is *highly* valued by competent workers, the presence of it, or lack thereof, will affect whether those workers take certain jobs. There are many things you can't know about a workplace before you go work there - culture, personalities of coworkers, secret methods, etc. What you CAN know are the company's policies on various things, and thus, those things tend to weigh heavily in your decision-making.

As for why companies would offer lavish maternity leave...the cost/benefit analysis does sometimes work out. Companies that offer extensive maternity leave and some infertility coverage, for example, are providing an incentive for younger (20s and 30s) workers to join...and younger workers, while they may cost more in terms of reproduction, are less expensive overall than those in their 50s and 60s because, on average, they're healthier and require fewer expensive medications, operations, mammograms, you name it. A company that covers IVF (as one of my former employers did) is offering a carrot to 30something workers concerned about fertility...a carrot that relatively few of them will ever nibble at, if the company is of a certain size. For some women, maternity leave/daycare etc. can tip the balance toward going back to work over staying home, meaning that the company doesn't have to locate, evaluate, and train someone new.

Please note: I am not saying that every company must, or could, offer fully paid maternity leave. I'm saying that it makes financial sense for *some* companies. They're not doing it to waste shareholders' dollars with touchy-feeliness - they're doing it because it makes dollars and cents.

"What was the rationale when GM decided to cut all the free health benefits to their retired employees?"
1) It was hideously expensive; and 2) virtually no one else in the market was providing such a benefit on such a scale, except maybe for Ford, and yet other companies managed to get new workers day after day. GM's policy was an anachronism; sometimes they stick around until they're ground into dust.

Posted by: marion at May 9, 2007 10:39 PM

"You are not entitled to happiness at your company's expense."

Marion's comment: While I theoretically agree with that, study after study has shown that happiness and fulfillment with a job are the strongest factors determining whether someone will stay with that job - yes, stronger than money.

Marion, believing it's good business practice (and I happen to agree that it can be) is not the same thing as feeling ENTITLED to happiness at your employer's expense. Otherwise I think your arguments are sound.

Posted by: Tess at May 10, 2007 6:05 AM

"Pirate Jo: Dunno about you, but I don't expect Social Security to be around for me, much less for kids being born now, at least not in its current form. The baby boomers are going to bankrupt that long before I hit my 60s. Either it will just go away, or it will be revamped to remove the Ponzi scheme aspect in some way - but either way, I don't think the children being born today will ever end up being "drains" in the same way the elderly are now. YMMV."

Oh, I know. I completely agree with you. I could just have easily started out my post disagreeing with the very idea that I will get any Social Security benefits in the first place. I was being theoretical - if the poster's kids DID end up paying into a system that I benefitted from, they would then be a drain on the same system at a future date.

I don't hate old people or anything, but they really did not pay squat into the system compared to what they have taken out of it. My grandparents got back all their payments within the first year, and then they sat around getting a monthly check plus Medicaid assistance for the next twenty years.

Now we have all these people who feel entitled to retirement at a certain age and then to be able to sit around and not work during the last twenty or thirty years of their lives. When the well goes dry on the Boomers, it will be obvious that some of them (the ones who got retirement jobs and are still working) have adjusted to the unpleasant reality of the situation. Others will scream their heads off.

I'm with Joe - I don't really plan on retiring at all. I'm changing careers right now after fifteen years in one field, and I may change careers a few more times before I kick the bucket, but I will always be doing something to earn money.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 10, 2007 8:15 AM

Glad to see the UK leading the way with appropriately grateful female workers!

"An employee gave her boss a kidney after tests showed the pair were a perfect match..."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=453874&in_page_id=1770

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 10, 2007 9:02 AM

I understand your points, Marion. There are people who would want to force every company under mandatory paid maternity leave and other benefits. But it isn't the company's responsibility to make a person’s life easier. If they can find fulfillment in their job, that is wonderful. Great, I hope it lasts. But no one is guaranteed 100% job security, benefits or even a position within the company.

Personally, my job security/perks is a little better than the average American worker. The reason is that 95% of Americans cannot do my job. Even the numbers within the 5% are smaller compared to researchers working in a public foundation versus the private sector. It allows me to establish a certain mandatory criteria a company must fulfill in attracting my talents.

This is basically what I do for a living. Where the future is being made today:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ayQelkb1uk


Posted by: Joe at May 10, 2007 11:36 AM

"The reason is that 95% of Americans cannot do my job."

But 100% can't do Amy's!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 10, 2007 12:16 PM

Amen Jody.

Posted by: Joe at May 10, 2007 1:39 PM

Dr. Bunson Honeydew!!!

Posted by: PurplePen at May 10, 2007 4:47 PM

"Marion, believing it's good business practice (and I happen to agree that it can be) is not the same thing as feeling ENTITLED to happiness at your employer's expense."

Oh, I agree! I don't feel entitled to happiness at my employer's expense...or at anyone's expense. However, if I'm not happy in my job, I'm going to look for one in which I am happy. The more competent/appealing I am as a job candidate, the more likely it is I'll find another job that makes me happier. The company that puts less time and effort into making its workers happy will theoretically be less successful at attracting and retaining successful workers than the one that puts more time and effort into it.

That having been said, there are many different ways to make workers happy. I used to work for a big company with a really opulent benefits/perks structure - the type of structure you can have when most of your workforce is YOUNG and you're not paying for the health issues of 60somethings in a major way or providing benefits for retirees. That was a significant factor in making me happy. Every time I have to go through some HMO rigmorale (ah, sweet, sweet PPOs), are told that a medication isn't covered, have to (GASP!) pay for my own dental care, or have to pony up $ for premiums, I get a little wistful about my former employer. However, other former employees value all of that stuff far less, and thus, it didn't go as far toward making them happy as it did me.

I am not "entitled" to happiness, and I am certainly not "entitled" to happiness that would hurt my employer. That having been said, just because an employer has had to pay for something that makes me happy doesn't mean that, in the grand scheme of things, the employer is losing more than it's gaining. For an employer like Amy, maternity leave would be an enormous drawback. For an employer like Joe's or Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's, the cost of maternity leave may be far outweighed in terms of awfulness by the prospect of losing a hard-to-find employee. The key is to find a workplace that offers the highest number of features that make you happy. It may not be the most prestigious, or have the shortest hours. There will be some tradeoffs. Accept that life isn't perfect, and don't whine on frickin' WashingtonPost.com about it.

Posted by: marion at May 10, 2007 11:50 PM

Listing my comments in absolutely no particular order:
As someone about to undergo the process of bringing a little chest-burster into the world, the idea of anyone needing 5 months off confuses and frightens me. I can only imagine that theere would have to be something seriously wrong with mother or baby for that to be necessary. That company policy sounded incredibly, amazingly generous. I want that job. Where I work offers what I considered a pretty great deal: I get to take the time to heal and take care of the baby, and I won't lose my job while I'm gone. No short-term disability or any of the rest. I've all ready been told that they won't promote me until the end of this year because of my current planetoid-esque state.
It's life. The occasions that life hands you everything you want should and are rare enough that they stay precious. There are all ready too many people in this world who are convinced that they should get whatever they desire without effort. I tend to think of them as the uncontrolled, adult versions of the kids who scream that they want candy noooooooooooow when you go to the store.
Sadly, the posted mom-to-be sounds like one of them. Yet another "it's all about meeeee" person going out to produce the next generation of the same.
Keep your fingers crossed. Maybe mommy's whining about how she never gets what she wants, and everybody's so mean to her, will embarrass her podlings enough that they'll rebel and act like real adults.

Posted by: Steph at May 11, 2007 11:11 AM

OK, here's a question for all of you naysayers ... what if one or both of your parents become sick and you need to take off work for 3 plus months to take care of them? Do you want your company to be there for you ... to help you with short-term disability or some other program? Or do all of you have enough money saved up to take that time off without any worries?

Posted by: Linda at May 22, 2007 6:48 AM

Uh, Linda, there's something called the Family And Medical Leave Act that mandates that.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 22, 2007 6:55 AM

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