As a proponent of paternity leave, I’d like to take a moment to thank Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa for all they have done in support of the cause.
No, I’m not being sarcastic.
If you haven’t heard of the baseball paternity leave kerfuffle, here’s my quick and dirty summary: Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has the audacity (!) to take three days of paternity leave after his wife’s water breaks and she gives birth to the couple’s first child via cesarean section. The timing of his leave means he misses the Mets’ first two games of the season, much to the dismay of talk radio hosts like Esiason and Francesa. Both men blast Murphy for his decision, with Francesa denouncing paternity leave as a “scam and a half” and Esiason arguing that Murphy’s wife should have had a scheduled C-section before the season began so he wouldn’t miss any games.
I’m not going to bother delving into how obviously ludicrous Esiason and Francesa’s respective statements are, other than to say that you can read about the important benefits of paternity leave here. (UPDATE, 4/4/14: Boomer Esiason has now apologized for his “insensitive comments,” CBS News reports.)
What I do want to talk about is how all the misguided bluster has resulted in something really encouraging: more talk about paternity leave. By slamming paternity leave, Esiason and Francesa raised awareness of it to the major leagues — pun intended.
Suddenly, discussion about paternity leave isn’t being limited to mom and dad blogs and “parenting” sections of news websites. It’s on talk radio. It’s on sports websites. It’s on the evening news. It might even be finding its way to school locker rooms frequented by teen baseball players — the Daniel Murphys of the future.
What else is great is that people are actively saying that Esiason and Francesa are wrong. Time Magazine reports that, during Francesa’s show, his “male listeners called in with objections, saying the old-timer had outdated ideas of a dad’s responsibility.”
Major League Baseball, meanwhile, released a statement calling its paternity leave policy “entirely appropriate” and an opportunity for “players (to) be with their families for an extraordinary time in their lives.”
And Daniel Murphy may find himself with a whole new following among gender equality advocates.
“I applaud Daniel Murphy for making use of a benefit that supports not only his wife and child, but also speaks to the role that all fathers can play in their child’s first days,” Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother Media, told me.
I too, give kudos to Murphy and to Major League Baseball. The latter, unfortunately, is still in the minority when it comes to U.S. companies that offer paternity leave. Just over 11 percent of U.S. workplaces offer paid paternity leave, CNN reported last year.
Will all the talk translate into action? Will baseball-loving execs who never gave paternity leave a second thought begin questioning whether their companies should follow MLB’s lead?
I don’t know, but I am optimistic … and if I’m wrong, there’s still hope with the next generation. I know this because when I mentioned Murphy’s paternity leave to my neighbor, the baseball-loving boy next door, his only reaction was to shrug and say, “Big deal.”
Maybe when you’re running the world, kid, it really won’t be.
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