The Truth About Parental Leave
I can't say enough about all the recent attention regarding parental leave and the companies expanding opportunities for new mothers and fathers to spend critical time with their newborns.
Recognizing the importance of new parents being able to bond with their children speaks volumes...about the fact that families matter in our society and that companies are focusing on establishing family-friendly cultures. All good stuff (and smart business) and steps that are long overdue, a comment I can comfortably make having been in the work/life arena since the late 90s and can see where progress has been made.
And while more companies are now providing paid parental leave, a critically important workplace benefit, the truth is that there are millions of working parents whose parental leave needs are not being met. Or even addressed. Those with elementary-aged, teens, or college-aged children. And while this isn't meant to be a comparison, anyone who thinks managing a child during infancy is the same as raising a child or teen struggling in school or life isn't looking at parenting and the needs of working parents realistically. Each age and stage has its challenges and for many parents, sleepless nights and gray hair come with it. But opening the lens -- and discussion -- to the truth means recognizing that the needs of working parents don't stop at several months. Or at age 5.
There is nothing more important than establishing a solid foundation for a parent and child during the early years. I could barely stand to leave my child as a newborn or toddler myself, and I was self-employed at the time so didn't have the restrictions and limitations that many parents face. No question...these were glorious years, yet we cannot be short-sighted nor can we forget that babies and toddlers grows into children and young adults whose needs become as complex as they are.
As every parent will tell you, parenting is lifelong and the challenges intensify as our children get older. The issues facing kids today are nothing like they were when we were growing up, and this requires parents to be more...involved, engaged, vigilant, accessible...present. All we need to do is look at the numbers of 8, 15 and 22-year-olds struggling with autism, depression, ADHD, cyberbullying, anxiety and more, and the facts are clear.
I applaud every company moving toward or already providing paid parental leave. And those offering on-site childcare, maternity massages, lactation rooms, and "flying nannies" (yes...and here's the article about it) are surely adding to supports being provided. Yet companies need to recognize that parenting and the needs of working parents are for decades vs. months...or a few short years. Unless and until this lens opens all the way, we're only seeing a small part of a much larger picture and are sorely missing the mark. The truth is that parental leave for new parents is important. For veteran parents, it's essential.