The Truth About Parental Leave

Last night after work, I made my bride a lovely adult beverage — her current warm-weather favorite, a little something of my own invention we call a Texas 76. That’s an ounce of grapefruit juice, an ounce of Tito’s vodka, chilled and poured into a champagne flute, then topped off with two ounces of dry champagne. The fact that last night was 30 degrees and snowing up here on Monument Hill made a warm-weather beverage taste that much better.


But I digress.

I waited until Melissa was at least halfway through her first Texas 76 — because that’s just the kind of husband I am — before telling her about author Meghann Foye’s proposal that non-moms should get maternity leave, too. Or as the headline read, “I want all the perks of maternity leave — without having any kids.”

Here’s how Foye put it:

The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe in the value of a “meternity” leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs.

For women who follow a “traditional” path, this pause often naturally comes in your late 20s or early 30s, when a wedding, pregnancy and babies means that your personal life takes center stage. But for those who end up on the “other” path, that socially mandated time and space for self-reflection may never come.

I paused when I got to the part about “time and space for self-reflection,” because I just knew that this was the part where Melissa, a mom of two small boys, would do that thing where she takes a deep breath slowly, checks to make sure the boys aren’t in earshot, and then lets loose a rant like Quentin Tarantino channeling the ghost of Erma Bombeck.


Here’s how Melissa put it, slightly edited for a family-friendly blog:

I got to self-reflect that I couldn’t walk upright for days.

I got to self-reflect what it felt like to have somebody take a KitchenAid to the inside of your stomach.

I got to self-reflect on how irritating it is to listen to a baby cry just about 24-7, even when he’s adorable and even when he’s your own.

I got to self-reflect what it was like to need to pee so badly that you were sure you were turning colors but you refuse to move because the baby was sleeping on you.

There was more, but some stuff simply can’t be edited to a family-friendly format, even with a weapons-grade thesaurus.

Here’s what we did, which was like what most parents do, or hope to do.

We were lucky enough to be in a position where Melissa could take two years off of work for each of our newborns, even though that meant slower pay raises and advancements in her career, and years-long delays on vacations we wanted to take and on home improvements we wanted to make. We also had to give up being simply fabulous all the time, doing what we wanted when we wanted, and learn to lead responsible grownup lives.

But those were our choices, and we were happy to make them — and even happier to be able to make them.

What’s obvious to the literally billions of couples who have ever been responsible parents, is that there is no me in maternity. That of course is the whole point of it. Parenting a newborn requires putting Me (and oftentimes Us) aside, to take the “time and space” to care for and cherish a tiny new life.


We never shared Foye’s “unspoken expectation” that “if you poured your heart and soul into your career, you would eventually get to a director level and have the flexibility, paycheck and assistants beneath you to begin to create a work-life balance.” Instead, we started a family and created our own work-life balance, just like… well, just like couples have done throughout all of human history.

There’s nothing wrong with Foye’s desire for a sabbatical — who doesn’t dream of a long vacation? However, I’m not sure how many people would insist that slacking around the house for a few weeks is some kind of ennobling “effort,” equivalent to motherhood, which somebody else should be made to pay for.

And I’m damn sure that “self-reflection” isn’t what’s lacking in the life of the creator of meternity.

UPDATE: Foye failed to show up for her scheduled appearance today on Good Morning America.

“Meghann was supposed to join us right here live,” said “GMA” host Amy Robach, the New York Post reported. “She has just pulled out of the interview. There has been so much backlash about her comments, viewers across the country weighing in on this all night long.”

Ms. Foye has faced intense criticism for saying all working women deserve paid “me” time to focus on their personal lives, regardless of whether they have children.

Ms. Robach and co-host Lara Spencer were dumbfounded by the notion, The Post reported.

“The perks of maternity leave? It’s the opposite of ‘meternity leave.’ You’re giving yourself to another person. Like, that is what you’re doing,” Ms. Robach said.

“You’re recuperating from giving birth,” added Ms. Spencer.


I imagine there were a lot of rants last night, just like Melissa’s — and that the backlash may only be beginning.


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