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Top 10 Reasons to Stop the 'Meternity' Absurdity

Posted by Jacalyn Lee on 29 Apr 2016

We shouldn't pit workplace flexiblity for all against maternity leave

Somebody should tell “Meternity” author Meghann Foye she spelled sabbatical wrong.

Oh wait, she knows. In all likelihood this was done intentionally … to sell books by exploiting one of the most significant issues facing today’s workforce. It’s like clickbait, but IRL.

That’s why Foye’s book and the subsequent attention struck such a nerve for those of us who understand that work-life issues, of which parental leave is a prominent example, are very real and complex.

There are many, many reasons this “Meternity” absurdity needs to end. Here are our Top 10.

  1. Maternity Leave is NOT Vacation -- New Moms Need It 
    Even if we ignore the whole medical aspect of giving birth, maternity leave is anything but a vacation. I don’t think waking up every hour, literally every single hour, for two weeks while a tiny human uses your breasts to sustain life is anybody’s idea of vacation.  New moms need this time for our bodies to recover, to bond with our babies, and to learn what it means to be a parent. And it’s better for us in the long-term. Research has shown new moms with maternity leave are more likely to return to their pre-birth employers, and are less likely to experience depression and health complications. 

  2. So Do Their Babies 
    Studies have shown the benefits of maternity leave extends to babies, who have higher birth weight, are more likely to go to the doctor’s and have lower infant mortality rates. This is a critical period in a child’s development, so it’s not surprising that children whose parents take parental leave are better prepared for child care, are more highly educated, earn higher wages and are less likely to have behavioral problems later in life.

  3. And Their Spouses, Too 
    It’s also becoming increasingly clear how important paid leave is for non-birth parents, for whom the days and weeks after the birth of a new child is critical time for bonding and adjusting to parenthood. Fathers who take paternity leave have been shown to be more involved in their children’s lives later in life. Paternity leave is no vacation for new dads, either. Research from the Boston College Center for Work and Family has shown that most new dads spend their paternity leave caring for their newborn, attending medical appointments, doing chores, running errands and, you know, parenting.

  4. Everyone Benefits from Paid Family Leave 
    Families, employers and the economy. Companies like Google, Ryan and EY have reported a significant decrease in attrition following expansion of parental leave to employees. A Swedish study from 2010 found a mother’s future earnings increase by 7 percent for every month of parental leave her partner takes. When women control such a large portion of household spending, there is a significant economic advantage to women remaining in the workforce.

  5. The Concept of "Meternity" Leave is Selfish
    We get it. You’re not the only employee who has ever struggled to set boundaries between work and life. But finding an appropriate, sustainable work-life balance is a personal responsibility for all of us. 

  6. And Gleefully Perpetuating Damaging Stereotypes 
    Suggesting that “parenthood was the only path that provides a modicum of flexibility” is not just shirking your responsibility to yourself, but it’s contributing to the divide between parents and non-parents. This is damaging. The reality of today’s workforce is that most employees are caring for someone else – whether that’s a child, an aging loved one or even a pet. The us vs. them mentality that you’re perpetuating breeds resentment and reinforces stereotypes that make it harder for employees who “out” themselves as caregivers to get ahead. My friend Katie Bugbee – Care.com’s global parenting expert – even wrote about how she decides when to say the “k-word” during the interview process.

  7. Also, Overwork is Legit 
    Stress, overwork and associated health problems are a serious issue that cost companies billions annually. In Japan, overwork is reaching such epidemic proportions that they have a term – karoshi – that refers to the phenomenon of people literally dropping dead on the subway from being over-worked.

  8. But You're Trivializing It 
    By making it into a big joke with your tongue-in-cheek book title. To be clear: There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing workplace flexibility for everyone and not just parents – but pitting it against maternity leave is just wrong.

  9. That Said, Margs with Your BFF Are a Fine Reason to Leave Work On Time 
    It’s important for employers and managers to realize that our lives outside of work affect our performance in the office. The kind of flexibility you’re talking about is the kind of flexibility earned through consistently doing good work, meeting deadlines and being responsible to your teams. In the best organizations, flexibility is earned and agnostic from the reasons behind it.

  10. It's Just That You Totes Buried The Lead 
    “Work-life balance is tough for everyone," you wrote, "and it happens most when parents and non-parents support and don’t judge each other.” Exactly. Except only that when you called your book “meternity” you set us all up to judge it – and you – by its cover.

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