All right Mom, picture this: you're pregnant, and your husband comes to you and says, "You know, you need to schedule a C-section so this baby doesn't make me miss work." You'd be insulted, right? Livid? Well that's exactly what a bunch of sportscasters are suggesting should have happened in the case of New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy and his wife.
Murphy took paternity leave this week to be with his wife, Tori, and their newborn son, Noah, missing several games this week, including the all-important Opening Day. And the response from sportscasters -- big names from Boomer Esiason to Mike Francesa -- has been like something out of the dark ages.
Take this from Esiason:
I would have said C-section before the season starts; I need to be at opening day ... this is what makes our money, this is how we're going to live our life, this is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life.
And this gem from his radio show partner, Craig Carton:
You get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.
Then there's Francesa, who had this to say about Murphy's paternity leave on his own show on WFAN:
One day I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help.
Steam coming out of your ears yet?
The fact of the matter is, Murphy actually only gets three days of paternity leave under the collective bargaining agreement made by the players union with Major League Baseball. It's not enough ... and yet it's better than what most of us get.
Dads are eligible for 12 weeks of time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, but in most states, that is completely unpaid. That means many fathers are already facing the hard decision of being there for his wife and child in a physical sense -- when both need him -- or going to work to be "there" for them in a breadwinner sense.
Unfortunately when a man like Murphy, who actually has a rather advantageous set-up -- at least compared to most other men in America -- takes advantage of paternity leave, only to be criticized, a dangerous message is being sent to American politicians and companies. Basically corporations are getting a pat on the back and being told, "Hey, it's OK not to do anything for fathers! These men don't need it! Their wives just need to plan C-sections, putting baby in danger to make sure Daddy gets to work on time!"
I wish I were overstating things.
But this is the state of things in America. REAL paternity leave (and by that I mean leave that is both paid for and supported by employers) is rare ... and when available treated as a luxury by those who fail to recognize the true benefits of time off for a father after a baby's birth.
More from The Stir: The 8 Stages New Moms Go Through When Paternity Leave Ends (PHOTOS)
It isn't just about seeing his child born; it's about helping, really helping, about giving a mother the support she needs to successfully initiate breastfeeding and to stave off -- or at least notice -- postpartum depression. If NOTHING else, when there are two parents splitting the duties, the sleep deprivation of those early days -- while still an issue -- becomes less, leading to a healthier mother who, in turn, is more emotionally and physically able to care for her child.
What's troubling to me isn't just what Esiason, Francesa, and others have said about Murphy but that they are not alone. This is not simply an old boys' club mentality.
When my husband took time off for our daughter's birth, the only reason he was paid was because he used up his year's entire allotment of vacation time from his employer. He could have taken more -- legally -- but again, it would have been unpaid, and since I wasn't pulling a salary for my six weeks of maternity leave, and we had to pay for diapers and onesies and all that jazz, that simply wasn't an option.
So he lost time with me and with his daughter because of our country's outdated rules ... and yet, I also recall people at my husband's job getting angry that he dared take the time off to be with me, to the point where he actually went into work mid-paternity leave to work a day for the woman who had been throwing the biggest s--t fit of all over the fact that I dared inconvenience her by going eight days past my due date (surprise, surprise, she was planning a wedding).
It's been nearly nine years since that happened, and I would have thought that things would get better, that people would understand that men taking paternity leave aren't just inconveniencing the world but actually doing the right thing by their wives and babies. But apparently some things never change.
How will your birth affect your husband's job? Do you really care?
Editors note: If you’re fired up about this controversy like we are, join Huggies in its support of Daniel and Tori Murphy. For each use of the hashtag #HuggiesSupportsDaniel on Twitter, Huggies will donate diapers to @diapernetwork.
Image via Robert Freiberger/Flickr