Very pleased...my response to the companies expanding their parental leave policies so that new mothers and fathers are able to spend time with their newborns or newly-adopted children. These are critical steps in the right direction when it comes to creating family-friendly workplaces.
Few things are as important for new parents as having quality time to bond with their children without the demands and pressures of work. It speaks volumes about the companies responding to these needs, recognizing not only the business benefits, but also acknowledging the importance of families -- in all their various forms -- in our society. These changes to parental leave policies are smart business and when truly supported throughout the organization, they make a difference from recruitment to retention and everything in between. Progress has definitely been made.
Yet while companies are seeing the needs of working parents through a new lens, there remain needs that are not being met. Or even acknowledged. Think of a 3rd Grader with a chronic medical condition, a 7th Grader newly-diagnosed with autism or ADHD, or an 11th Grader with depression. Think of a child experiencing cyberbullying, struggling with reading or making friends, or refusing to attend school. While not meant to be a comparison, the parenting spectrum and demands intensify as children grow older, plus the issues facing children today require parents to be even more engaged, vigilant, accessible and yes, present.
Each age and stage has its challenges, and few things are as important for working parents, mothers and fathers alike, as the need for flexibility and time to meet their parenting responsibilities. The truth is...the needs of working parents don't end after diapers nor once preschool begins. If anything, they become more complex, with the demands on their time often based upon situations that can neither be planned, anticipated, or handled outside of the typical 9-to-5 workday.
These companies offering and expanding their parental leave policies deserve our attention for recognizing the work/life challenges facing working parents, and for doing something about it. Yet the truth remains...unless and until companies acknowledge that infancy ends yet parenting needs do not, we're missing the mark by viewing the needs through a narrow lens. For new parents, time is important. For those with older children, it's essential.