Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why Have Kids?

I was forwarded a link to a fascinating blog post titled “Does Having Kids Ruin Your Life?”

It was written by a 31 year-old childless woman writing under the name kryptogal who was admittedly “indifferent” about children.

One of her major issues around having a child is best summed up in the following quote:

Here’s the way I see it: having a child is like having an arranged marriage with a person you won’t meet until your wedding day. And then you can never get divorced. Your spouse could be tall or short, kind or mean, mentally or physically disabled, funny or humorless, ugly or pretty, lazy or energetic, smart or dull – you won’t know until it’s too late. And you will be 100% responsible for your spouse’s emotional, physical, intellectual, and financial well-being for the rest of your life. If your spouse has problems – say, he/she is an alcoholic or autistic – you will be blamed. You will worry about your spouse and feel guilty about your spouse without cease.

Who in their right mind would sign up for a marriage like that? NO ONE!! Yet that’s exactly what you sign up for when you have a child. You don’t know who your child will be until it’s too late. And you can never, ever, ever un-do it.

So why do 9 out of 10 people seem so gung-ho about this?? Can anyone give me some answers?

Many people did respond to her request for answers. Most were parents and their comments make interesting reading, providing a glimpse into how a parent might respond if asked, “Why have kids?”

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Debate on Paid Family Leave

A recent article on in which a conservative columnist slammed a proposed paid family leave law sparked some interesting comments, leading me to revisit my own feelings about government-mandated paid family leave.

In recent years, I have come to the conclusion that paid family leave is acceptable only if it is offered to all—not just parents, or caregivers of family members. Paid leave is a benefit, like a health care plan, and should be available to all. It should be treated like paid vacation time. Nobody should be told how to spend their vacation time; likewise nobody should have to “qualify” for paid leave.

In this economy government-mandated paid leave is a hard sell; it’s a luxury during a time when some companies are not able to afford decent health care plans or matching funds for 401k plans. It is unwise for a government to mandate this benefit with no regard as to a companies’ ability to fund it.

Elizabeth Hovde, The Oregonian columnist who wrote “Paid family leave? Let's give it a deserved rest,” agrees:

Paid family leave -- which is typically used for time off with newborns and sometimes used for employees needing to care for ailing family members -- suggests that our personal choices and circumstances are others' burdens to bear.

They aren't. Choosing to start a family or deciding to care for loved ones is something individuals should plan for -- emotionally and financially. While employers and co-workers have every right to be generous with their money and could choose to donate time or pay an employee to take time off for family, the government has no business being so generous with people's hourly wages.
At the center of this debate is the issue of fairness. I believe the only way to be fair is to offer paid family leave as one in a menu of benefits and invite each employee to choose the ones they want, up to a set monetary value; single employees might choose a gym membership, employees with children might choose “paid family leave.” Given that the “household with children” demographic is shrinking, perhaps it is time we drop the “family” from paid family leave. Companies should be free to offer “paid leave” as a quality of life benefit (acknowledging that employees can benefit from time off to care for family members, pets, or themselves) but they shouldn’t be forced to do so.

The incentive to offer this benefit is already evident; companies that do so are more likely to attract employees who, if they value their work and the benefits, will stay longer and companies will save money in training, employee turnover, and unplanned absenteeism.

Everyone can benefit from a paid leave, and everyone should.