Paternity leave just got a big mention in US media this past week, thanks to baseball.
New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy took three days leave for the birth of his son in Florida. Radio talk show personality Mike Francesca took some pot shots at the concept of paternity leave, for 20 minutes straight, saying that he was “surprised” that men would even need three days off. In any profession.
“What are you gonna do? Are you gonna sit there and look at your wife in the hospital for two days?”
As another sports journalist commented, this is “back in the day” thinking; basically, “In my day, we never did this, so that’s the way everything should always be from now on, ad infinitum.”
Other talk show hosts chipped in. Craig Carton suggested snidely, “…there’s nothing you can do; you’re not breastfeeding him.” Former NFL quarter back Boomer Esiason claimed that he would have forced his wife to have a C-section before the due date to avoid conflicting with scheduled games.
The reasoning apparently goes something like this:
1) Men earn money to support their families.
2) The money is more important than anything else.
3) Therefore, men don’t need to do anything but earn money.
As I wrote in a previous post, there remains a strong tendency in US society to value men solely for their ability to earn money. A man who does not earn money is not valued. A man who expresses a desire to emotionally or physically support his family outside of earning money is not valued. Rather the opposite — his “manliness” is called into question. What man would want to hold his baby? What man would want to help around the house? What man would want to feel or express “feminine” emotions? What man would possibly feel a sense of remorse and loss at physical separation from his loved ones for days, weeks, and even months on end?
It’s commonplace for sports players to take a leave of absence for childbirth. This has been commonplace for almost three decades. But only from 2011 has the term “paternity leave” been used. “Back in the day” is back in the day. This is now. It’s well past time for America to treat men like people, and for husbands and fathers to behave like husbands and fathers.