Have you taken a maternity leave? Have you taken advantage of your company’s adoption allowance program? Have you taken time off because your child was home sick from school?
If you are child free, then the answer to all of the above is NO.
Many argue that these types of benefits are absolutely essential to our continual struggle for women’s equality. But with the number of child free couples on the rise, do these programs benefit all women? Or just some?
The answer is obvious, when you consider what kind of reasons are acceptable to leave work. If my cat is sick and has to go to the vet, it isn't taken as seriously as the mother who needs to pick her kid up from school because she has a fever. Both scenarios require driving time, making an appointment, waiting to see the doctor. I am as stressed about my cat’s sickness as the mother is. But many see one situation as more acceptable than the other.
Women should not be penalized for choosing to have children. But neither should those who have decided to remain child free. Clearly women need maternity leave to adjust to the overwhelming burden of motherhood, without fearing for their jobs when they return. And fathers should be able to have some “bonding time” too. Eliminating family leave programs would set us back light years as a society.
But what comparable benefits can be offered to child free couples?
Ann Price, a member of Childfree Network who founded Motek Information Systems Inc., a Los Angeles software company, had this to say in a Wall Street Journal article a few years ago: “If you're going to set aside money for benefits, at least give employees a list they can choose from. Say, ‘Here's $10,000, and you can use it to take maternity leave, you can get fertility treatments, you can adopt, get a boob job, buy a breast pump, get your teeth whitened, take a course in the university, go traveling somewhere and find yourself,’ or whatever list of things your company feels it can support. I'm just trying to say that there are people who are not in this equation. My issue is only that all employees – whether they are women or men, or are pregnant, or in a wheelchair – all employees should get the same benefits.”
I believe the answer is an increase in personal days, and perhaps a more liberal vacation policy. Personal days would allow parents to take kids to dentist appointments, stay home when they’re sick, whatever. It would allow me to take my cat to the vet, take myself or my husband to the doctor, and take what I call a “Mental Health Day” to go shopping, have my nails done, etc. Privacy in the workplace is important – a generic personal day makes the reason for taking it irrelevant. And everyone should have the same number, based on the length of time you have been at your job. When they’re gone, they’re gone. You dip into your vacation time. Or you make up the hours. Or you take them without pay.
Having a child is an individual decision. So is not having a child. Discrimination in the workplace based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation – and parenthood – is wrong.
This content was written by a Previous BellaOnline Editor who has asked to remain anonymous at this point. She has given us permission to use her content on the site but requests her privacy and cannot be contacted.