The next round of city elections is still a couple of years away, but Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder appears to have thrown his hat in the ring for four more years running the city. Unfortunately, those years appear to be 1951 to 1955.
That’s at least the impression one might get after hearing the mayor’s thoughts on a proposal to guarantee city employees up to four weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. The leave policy would apply equally to new moms and new dads.
Let’s face it: no one is really expecting Springfield to be cutting edge, to blaze a trail in progressive attitudes. But paid family leave for new parents isn’t exactly an unprecedented idea. Many employers recognize the benefit of allowing a new mother time off, with pay, after a child arrives. It’s good for her physical health and recovery, and it’s beneficial for the baby and the family overall.
Paid time off for new dads is less common. The Society for Human Resources Professionals reported in 2019 that only nine-percent of workplaces offer paid paternity leave to all male employees. Many experts say that such time off is equally beneficial for the male worker and the family. But it’s offered less often and utilized less often, too.
That’s partly because men fear a “stigma” that they may be perceived as less valuable to an employer if they seem to be prioritizing family over work. That is, undoubtedly, a real concern, but it’s one that every employer should be working to eradicate. No man should be seen as less worthy because he wants to bond with his child and help his partner with her recovery.
There are also economic considerations, as the mayor noted last week. At a time when aldermen are growing increasing agitated about fire department overtime costs, such a policy would inevitably drive those costs higher. But that seems like a reasonable price to pay to encourage the positive family dynamics that paid paternity leave would facilitate.
Yet the mayor says maternity leave is of “greater significance” than paternity leave, and says men simply shouldn’t get an equal amount of time off after a birth or adoption. While Langfelder concedes that there is value in allowing fathers time to bond with their new child, he says the mother-child relationship is “different altogether,” and so women need more time off.
I have no doubt that a lot of people would agree with the Mayor: Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, Ward and June Cleaver, Ike and Mamie are all right on board with him. But here in the 21st Century, a lot of people have come to realize that fathers have an equally important role in the upbringing of their children. Different? Perhaps. But less important? Not remotely.
Paid leave for both moms and dads not only provides that time for bonding with the child, it’s an important part of the new parents helping each other in a genuine partnership. Whether it’s the first child or the latest in a long line, each new arrival in a household brings about change, new routines, and at least a little bit of chaos. Moms and dads (or moms and moms, and dads and dads, as the case may be) deserve the ability to make those adjustments and help each other together. Nothing about that should be viewed as a radical idea.
The city council will take up this proposal later this month, and that will give us a chance to see how many of our elected officials remain tied to the past, and how many might want to help bring the mayor back to the future.
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March 8, 2021 at 12:56PM