“R” IS FOR “RESPONSIBILITY”
Originally published August 7, 2015
This one is not going to be pretty, folks. It’s a step away from my usual liberal commie tirade and into *gasp* conservative territory. What I’m about to say is not going to make a lot of people happy, and the reason for that is, unfortunately, the whole point behind what I’m about to say: Most people want to be able to have everything without having to wait for it, or – in a lot of cases – work for it.
Before I go any further here
1.) I’m pro-choice
2.) I have children. I chose to have children.
3.) I support social programs like SNAP and TANF for those who need them
4.) Abstinence-only sex education is bullshit and doesn’t work
So John Oliver, who I usually really, really love and agree with, did a bit on the lack of paid parental leave in the United States. Essentially, his bit boiled down to the idea that the US government should force businesses to provide paid parental leave. I 100% disagree with this, and I’m sorry John. I am. This is absolutely an issue the government needs to stay out of, unless dealing with government jobs. Privately owned businesses should not have a legal obligation to support my life choices. I don’t need a law telling my employer they are required to give me paid time off so I can stay home with the baby I chose to create and/or keep.
And let’s be clear, *except for extreme circumstances that account for a ridiculously small percentage of births, having a baby is your choice. Even if you are pro-life, that doesn’t mean you didn’t make a choice to have your baby. You had a choice, and you chose to carry to term. You had a choice to give that baby up for adoption, and you chose not to. I’m not saying these were easy choices, but they were choices nonetheless. So, end of the day, having a baby is your choice – no one else’s. Your choice = your responsibility.
Now, that DOESN’T mean that I don’t think employers should offer paid parental leave. I absolutely do. But that should be up to the business. As we are one of only two countries that don’t offer paid parental leave, clearly the idea has some merit and it would behoove American businesses to think about it. Netflix thought about it, and decided it was a good idea. I imagine we’ll see other businesses jumping on the bandwagon soon, especially with the issue being spoken about so loudly in public forums right now. It’s good PR if nothing else, but I think for a lot of companies it probably makes good financial sense to offer paid parental leave in their benefit packages. I know I would certainly be more loyal to a company that provided me with that kind of financial security – as long as I wasn’t going to have to take a lower salary to cover it. And as long as those who don’t have children or aren’t planning families were able to enjoy equal compensation.
So, I know you’re waiting for the offensive part of this blog, and it’s coming. Hang tight.
The reason this needs to be a decision employers make for themselves and not a government mandate is this (and yes, I’m repeating myself): Having children is a choice you make. Nobody* forced you to do it, you aren’t required to do it, it certainly wasn’t your employer’s decision – so it’s not their responsibility. It’s yours. If your employer doesn’t offer paid parental leave, then it’s YOUR responsibility to plan ahead so you can take that time off with your child and not suffer financially.
People don’t want to wait until they can afford to have children, and that’s the whole problem here.
“If I’d waited until I could afford to have kids, I’d never have had them.”
I’m not sure what my response to that is supposed to be, but it may not surprise you that my response is “then maybe you shouldn’t have kids.” Harsh? Yes. No one wants to hear that, but that doesn’t make it any less true. You love your kids. You’re a great parent. That doesn’t make it any more responsible to have them when you can’t afford to take care of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve said those words. It’s why I currently have two children that we’re struggling to support. We were irresponsible to have gotten pregnant as early as we did and we REALLY shouldn’t have gotten pregnant the second time around. We had no savings, our jobs were not good jobs, and these irresponsible decisions have affected our entire lives up to this point. I love my children more than anything else in the world, but we should have waited. Even if it meant we would still be waiting right now. But, because we have lived through the consequences of these irresponsible decisions, we’re waiting until we can afford another child before we try for a third. Even though I desperately want to start trying for that third baby RIGHT NOW and the age difference between my second and third is already far greater than I ever wanted it to be. Even if it means we never have that third child.
If you don’t have a job that affords you the opportunity to take paid leave when you have children, you have to plan and save to make sure you can pay your bills while you aren’t working. You have to plan for the possibility that your child might be premature and require months in the NICU, that they might have medical problems that require you to take even more time off of work. It’s your responsibility to plan for that. If that means you need to work two jobs and save enough money so that you could theoretically NOT work for a year and still get by, then that’s what you do. If that means it will take you 5 years, 10 years, 15 years to be in a position where you can support yourself when you have a baby, then that’s what you do. It may be your right to have children, inasmuch as you may have the biological capability to procreate, but it doesn’t mean you should have them when you can’t take care of them.
Accidents happen? Sure. Birth control fails, condoms break. But take responsibility for that, too. You know how babies are made – at least, you should if you’re having sex. So you know that every time you have sex, there is a chance – even a minute chance – that it could result in a baby. If you’re taking that risk, you need to be prepared for the result. Thankfully, there are options available to you if you aren’t ready for a baby. What you do from there is your choice. Your responsibility. You want a 100% guarantee that those accidents won’t happen? Don’t have sex.
“But blah blah people are going to have sex blah blah.” Nope. You don’t have to have intercourse to get each other off, if that’s your concern. There are plenty of ways to fulfill those physical needs without ever having to worry about sperm fertilizing egg. Get creative. Take responsibility.
It’s not about who “deserves” to have kids. It’s about who should be having them based on their ability to support them. And that’s not just “rich” people. I know people who make far less than I do who have way more in savings than I do and are managing to support their families just fine.
And yes, I know that situations arise that change your circumstances, even if you’ve planned really well. Then you do what you have to do. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least plan to begin with. It is in THESE situations that TANF and SNAP should come into play – when you need help to get you by for a few months until you can get back on your feet. THAT was the purpose of these programs when they were created. Unfortunately, these programs are broken, shadows of what they once were – and tend to keep people stuck in the cycle of poverty now rather than help them escape it, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Bottom line here: If employers choose to offer paid parental leave to their employees, AWESOME! Good for them! Way to be progressive and support your employees and so on! But the government needs to stay out of it. Just because something doesn’t feel fair to you doesn’t mean we need a law to solve it.