12 December 2008

The Double Standard

The scoop: I had a job interview on Wednesday! Hurray! I'm not getting my hopes up about getting this job because it's very likely that I won't. But, having an interview certainly made me think about many issues, most of them regarding Benny and my dissertation.

If I start working, we'll have to put Benny in daycare. I have VERY mixed emotions about this. But, just like everything related to Benny, we'll get through this by trial and error. I'm also a little concerned about my dissertation. I do have a decent amount written, but I don't like the thought of working full time while trying to finish a dissertation. That's how I wrote my thesis and it wasn't fun.

The issue that has bothered me the most, however, doesn't deal with the present. It's about the future. Of course, if we have another child, this child will probably be in daycare from an early age. With a house and two kids, I don't think I could take a year off to hang out with both of our babies. Because I'll probably work for a nonprofit, my maternity leave will probably be short and I'll probably have to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act. This act allows employees to take up to three months off without the threat of losing their job. Three months. That's not very long. The upside of the law is that it allows anyone to take the time off, including men. That means that Nate could take advantage of the law as well. Our second kid could, theoretically, stay at home for up to six months.

The problem: When I brought this scenerio up to Nate, he was insistent that he couldn't do it. What bothers me isn't that he probably won't be able to take it, but that he isn't even willing to try. I'm expected to (and I'm happy to) take the time off. In fact, I think it's a sad state of affairs that women AND men aren't allowed more time off to stay at home with their new babies. I realize that Nate is in an industry that doesn't really have to leave with maternity/paternity leave because it's considered a feminine issue. Engineering is male dominated. But the fact that Nate won't even entertain the possibility bothers me.

If more men made taking FMLA a priority, families wouldn't have to deal with this issue over and over and over again. It's not just Nate, it's our society in general. Men need to cherish the time they have with their new babies. I'm not saying that Nate didn't or won't, but it was certainly different for him.

I'm sure I'll struggle with this issue over the next year or so as we consider having another child. If you have any thoughts, please send them my way...

3 comments:

eallis said...

Tough. The united states generally sucks for time off from work. Most people in the rest of the world take at least a month of vacation and four months of maternity and paternity leave (they have paternity leave in France).

Have you run the costs to have two children in daycare? If you are working to only pay daycare it seems like staying home would be better. Single mothers in France normally stay at home and collect welfare rather than try to work while their kid is in daycare (too expensive).

Debbie said...

You said "of course" the second child would go straight to daycare. Well why? You have a happy family now and you see how much you cherish this time with Benny. If you could go 6 months with one of you not working then why not try going a few years? You or Nate can work again when the kids are in school. I just think that is it worth it to spend those early years with your children if you can at all manage it. And in regards to you getting a job now, before you finish your dissertation, is that stress worth it?

Sara Struckman said...

You make very good points, Debbie. The thing is, I want to work. I want to have a career. It's not that I don't enjoy being a mother. I do. It's just that Nate doesn't feel the same pressure to stay at home and that bothers me. And it's not just Nate. I hate that it has to be an issue in general. But you're right, there is an option to stay at home and I appreciate that I have that option. I would take this job, if offered, because it's a good opportunity and I don't know when another opportunity like this will present itself. Plus, perhaps it will be a good motivator to get the damn dissertation done.

How are you doing? How was the pizza eating contest?!?