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The importance of supporting parents’ rights

By Victoria Fryer 

We just celebrated Mother’s Day here in the U.S., and I’ll admit that it’s not my favorite holiday. But one thing that I do appreciate is that it’s a time that inspires many to speak up about our failure as a country to support mothers the way many other developed nations do.

John Oliver, the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, devoted an entire monologue to it; presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released a campaign video addressing the issue; and a crop of articles sprung up independently and in response.

Despite the fact that I’m not a mother, I think it’s absolutely critical that I—along with my fellow childless and childfree women and men—make it clear that I stand behind better policies in the U.S. to support women in the workplace who choose to have children.

Mothers here are guaranteed nothing more than twelve weeks of unpaid leave (unpaid!) to adjust to their new caretaking roles, bond with their new babies, and perform the often grueling schedule of feeding and diapering and all those other things I don’t even know about because I’ve never had to do it. And so many mothers can’t even afford to take that much time.

We have so many conflicting narratives in this country. We say women should “have it all”—work and have babies—but then we don’t give them the support they need to do so. We tell them if they don’t have babies, our economy is going to tank, but if they do have children, their own financial situation becomes at risk because of the competing needs of the workplace and the family. Gone are the days (not suggesting this never happens, just saying it’s not the standard anymore) when men are considered “head of household,” supporting their families on his income alone, and so we tell men they should do their half of the parenting. Yet they’re provided no parental leave, paid or unpaid.

The Wikipedia page on parental leave has a list of the various countries around the world and their leave policies, so I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say, the U.S. is way behind—and I believe we need to catch up. Furthermore, I would argue that the fact that I’m childfree just bolsters my need to support improved policies.

I’ve chosen the path that’s right for me, and other women’s paths are different. I don’t want women to have to choose to have children for the wrong reasons, and I don’t want women to have to choose not to have children for the wrong reasons. When there are smart, intelligent, caring women out there who want to have a career—or, let’s face it, even just a job—and a child, let’s make sure that we support them.

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

Male infertility

Comments

  1. Dann Alexander says

    This is all great. Complete acceptance and understanding is so critical. It works both ways. Equally – parents should be supportive of those who have chosen the path not to have kids. Well done.

  2. Mutual understanding is absolutely key as you have already pointed out. Problem arises when one group looks down on the other, believing that the path they have chosen is somewhat superior.

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