Rarely does a hot national topic completely coincide with my real-life experience.
But here we are, America, talking about two knucklehead sports goons who have publicly criticized a Major League Baseball player for taking a few games off for paternity leave.
I won’t go into idiocy displayed by Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiason, both of whom come off as incredible morons in this case (Esiason suggested the wife have a C-section before the season, because sports! sports! sports!). Nor do I feel the need to defend the New York Mets’ Daniel Murphy, who’s missing but a few early-season baseball games in a marathon 162-game season to be with his wife after the birth of their son. These days off are part of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, and good for baseball. Good for Murphy.
Again, this topic hits close to home for me — a guy who’s currently sitting on his couch at 1:30 a.m. with my week-old son who is finally sleeping in his bassinet in front of me after a few hours of cry-farts and uncomfortable gas (for him … not me). My wife is in the bedroom, sleeping. Finally. It will be a short-lived sleep, of course, because as many of you know, a week-old child doesn’t know day from night or the concept of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instead, they’re hungry every two to four hours. Sometimes every hour.
Couple the lack of extended sleep with the fact that she’s still recovering from PASSING AN 8-POUND KID THROUGH HER BODY just seven days ago and with the fact that we have two other kids (ages 4 and 2) who still demand much attention … and you get the point that in no way should you feel sorry for me for being awake at 1:30 a.m. on a Thursday night rocking my son and watching re-runs of “The Middle.” Don’t feel sorry for either of us, actually — the sleepless nights are all part of the experience of parenthood, something we’re lucky to have experienced three times now.
But don’t criticize a guy — Major League ballplayer, mechanic, writer or doorbell maker — for paternity leave. It’s an important time for a father — he gets to introduce himself to a new human who’s only known the belly of his/her mother for the past nine months. He gets to help the mother of his child as she’s recovering from a pretty painful experience (a recovery made even more difficult by a C-section, Boomer, you douche). Paternity leave is no vacation. Honestly? There’s less stress and physical toll in most jobs out there.
My company does not offer paid paternity leave. I imagine very few companies do. In fact, according to ThinkProgress, the United States is one of three countries (out of the 178 studied) that does not guarantee paid leave for MOTHERS, let alone fathers. Canada, meanwhile, offers new moms 50 weeks of maternity leave … nearly a full year. As for dads … Murphy is lucky. Only 14 percent of men in the U.S. report having paid leave for a new child (compared to about 60 percent of women).
I do not have paid paternity leave. I do have a company that allows me to use sick/personal days, and I’m combining that with a week’s vacation coming soon. I took four days off when my son was born and will take another week once the family and in-laws who are in town to help out head back to their homes. All told, my wife will have had a month’s worth of help by then, and thus, she will be fully healed and ready to take on the world. Without the help from our family, I can’t imagine how difficult this past week would have been.
And without me, the father, home to help?
Again, Francesa and Esiason are morons, but at least paternity leave is being discussed now. More companies should consider offering it — I’m not saying we need the two months or more that most women get, but that first week, in the very least, is vital.
When I bring my gasbag son back into that bedroom in a few minutes, my wife will wake up for the third time tonight. Then hopefully I’ll get a few hours in before the next feeding, and maybe a few more before the other two kids wake up at 6 for breakfast-baths-“I wanna watch Star Wars!”-brushing teeth-changing clothes-morning meltdowns-“read this to me!”.
Bravo, Murphy. Your wife needed you more than the Mets this week.
— Billy Liggett is a former newspaper guy and is the father of three kids. One of them kicked him in the groin yesterday during a diaper change. It was the 2-year-old. It hurt.