Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In a man's working world parental leave should be about fathers, too

The following article is an interesting and thought provoking one from Australia. If you are a man or woman it is worth a read. It makes a lot of sense to me but then I was a stay-at-home dad for 10 years. Ten of the most rewarding years of my life I might add.

I was socialized in the 50's to believe a man's worth was as a provider to his family and a woman should raise the children. I learned this area of behaviour, as with others, particularly the brainwashing by religious teachers, was not always factual, and in fact may not even be true in some cases. They were handed down as part of the culture or dogma we grew up with. For me culture always started from within the family, then the street, the neighbourhood, the parish and grew from these small beginnings to the city and beyond. Today I can sit at my computer and read about tomorrow in Australia in real time. Mind boggling I think compared to the paper route in the 50's. Also note the date for publication in Australia has not yet happened in our time zone.

In a man's working world parental leave should be about fathers, too

Jo-Anne Schofield
October 1, 2008

Under the Productivity Commission's parental leave proposal, men are entitled to two weeks' paternity leave (use it or lose it), and mothers would be allowed to transfer their 18-week entitlement to their partners. It leaves the important decision about who provides primary care up to individual families and, by including women and men, the proposal raises the bar. At last men are becoming visible in parenting policy debates, and the move puts the onus on fathers and industries dominated by men.

Working life for men today has morphed into a 1950s model of male employment. Job security and reasonable hours have been curtailed by an economy organised on short-term contracts, in industries exposed to international competition. This has greatly intensified demands on full-time male workers.

Limiting the role men play as parents limits men's choice to be involved in family life and reinforces the exclusivity of women's role as primary carers. In turn, this limits women's participation in work, forcing many to opt for flexible and part-time employment to meet the competing demands of work and family. That leads to a deeply divided labour market, one where women have less job security and are paid less, which forces men to work more to maintain family income, and that reduces their capacity time, mainly to be active fathers and at home when their children are awake.

There are sound biological reasons why the needs of women are central to the debates about work and family. Giving mothers paid time off after childbirth is good for the health and wellbeing of both mother and child.

Even so, the focus on women lets men - and male-dominated industries - off too lightly. A parental leave scheme for men and women sends an important message to men, and their employers, that they have a right and a responsibility to care for their children.

It lets families decide who will look after their children and, hopefully, this will increase the choices open to families and equality between parents in child-rearing. One of the biggest barriers to parental leave facing male workers in male industries is a workplace culture that fails to acknowledge the role of men in their families. The male culture of work is so powerful many men are simply unable, or unwilling, to ask for a better work-life balance. Those who do ask send a signal to their firms that they are less serious and less committed than others, a situation that perversely penalises women who are left to make this call.

Male industries have been very clever at avoiding any of the costs of providing parental leave across our economy. It is now largely borne by employers in industries that rely on women workers, such as health, education, retail and hospitality.

There is nothing inherently different about work in these sectors. It is simply that employers in female-dominated industries had to reorganise work around the family needs of their employees. Male industries flatly refused to do so.

This inflexibility presents men with a stark choice: toe the line and neglect your family, or get out. Witness the growing number of high-profile men vacating corporate and public life altogether because the unreasonable demands of work leave little time for their families and personal life (most recently the former NSW deputy premier John Watkins).

Getting an equal parental leave entitlement for men is the first step. The second is getting them to take it. Many men may react with horror at the thought of taking an equal or greater role in parenting. Given the choice, I know lots of women who would prefer to arrive home from work after the "arsenic hour" of dinner and bath time.

Still, this is all part of the loving relationship of family life. Demanding that men commit to a kind of priesthood of working life means they forgo this relationship, leaving much of the child-rearing burden on women, and making men's lives less complete.

It is about time men embraced some father guilt and agitated for policy that fits better with their family life. After all, time with family and community makes us all better people.

Jo-anne Schofield is the executive director of Catalyst Australia, a think tank, and a working mother.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/09/30/1222651077460.html


Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree. The man is the breadwinner and has no right to abandon his obligation to his family (most importantly, his wife). The concept of mothers in the workplace has been shoehorned in by new age liberals and the demand for equality is not a global one - the childbearer most certainly exclusively deserves leave. We're talking about the mothers here, the women who go through the intense pain and suffering of childbearing and labour, we're talking about the potential for a handful of psychological disorders that stem from the birth and hospitalization they just suffered through!

And you have the NERVE to say that a man deserves the same right to leave? Give me a break. Push a kid out your ass along with all your bullshit and we'll talk about parental leave for men.

Michael J. Murphy said...

My goodness. Did we touch a nerve or what.

Your views are extraordinarily out of synch with the 21st century and the need for equality between genders.

I believe my gluteus maximus to be strong and resilient but my plumbing, sadly, cannot provide the kind of ecosystem required for birth.

You sound like having a child is victimizing you with all its concomitant pain and suffering. Some people ought not to be parents at all. Does the shoe fit?

The work of Fathers 4 Justice and the Pain of Fathers ~ Activism in the UK

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie