I happened to read this article, titled "Maternity leave 'damages' careers", and just couldn't pass without making a few comments on it here. Most of my readers already know what I think about trying to combine a full-time career with wifehood, homemaking and motherhood - one or another inevitably tends to suffer, and unfortunately it's the most important things we tend to stray away from - but this article was such a perfect example of how we can try to avoid reason and logic, even when they are banging at our door.
"The extension of maternity leave to up to a year may be sabotaging women's careers", we are warned. But wait... is anyone actually surprised? Isn't it common sense that out life consists of time - years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes - and when we spend time doing something, we are spending the same amount of time not doing something else? If I spend the day visiting family, I won't clean that day. If I spend time at work, it's time I didn't spend at home. And someone is away from work for a year, can they truly wonder things have changed while they were gone?
The grim consequence of extended maternity leave is that "some employers are thinking twice about offering women jobs or promotion."
Well, you know what? If I had been an employer, I would probably think about it twice, too.
I realize that in order to succeed in the corporate world, one can't be all about charity and providing equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of whether they measure up or not. It's not about being "family friendly", either. It's about money, money, money, and aggressive competition. If I had two applicants for the same job, with identical skills, knowledge and experience, and one of them was a 30-year-old man while another was a recently married childless woman of the same age, I'm not sure I could avoid thinking, "what if she has a baby in a year or so?" - after all, why should I, as an employer, spend valuable resources training an employee who is likely to disappear for an extended period of time, and later pay for maternity leave?
The matter is often discussed in light of "equal rights", but in my opinion, this is far, far away from it. There's a limit to the level of sympathy a boss can be expected to extend towards an employee's personal circumstances. When someone simply cannot pull the same load everyone else do, yet even talking about it is labeled as "discrimination", it isn't equality. It's mollycoddling.
There's work to do, and someone needs to do it. Work doesn't take a vacation while the woman is on maternity leave. Who picks up the slack? The remaining employees - and the smaller the company is, the more difficult it is to accomplish. "As a kind of reality check, if you had a small employer employing four people and one of those is on maternity leave then that's a quarter of the workforce out of action." Sometimes it will mean searching for, hiring and training temporary employees - an additional expense and a reduction in efficiency.
While the world bangs its head against a wall trying to figure it all out, I marvel at how simple and beautiful God's design is. He knew what He was doing when He placed women at home, to take care of their husband and children. To me, the very expression "maternity leave" sounds ridiculous and sad at the same time. It's like the woman is allowed to fully experience the joy of motherhood for a short period alone, before being expected to give up the best part of each day with her child to someone else.
If an employee is valued and needed, and able to pull her weight, he or she will be hired. If she needs to force herself in by legislations and court decisions - which is precisely what is happening - it makes an alarm go off in my head. Are we trying to artificially turn employment into a charity institution? It might satisfy the self-focused needs of some individuals, but for the rest of us, it's an economical drag when employers are forced to hire workers who simply won't be there. It created a world of smaller salaries and a two-income trap for us all.
Whatever angle you look from, we haven't been able to think of anything better than a God-ordained family design. With women at home, men in the workforce (including our own hard-working husbands!) won't need to pull the slack for someone's maternity leave. Women, in their turn, won't need to prove that they are valued and needed; they won't need the state's protection to enforce their right to take adequate care of themselves during pregnancy, after giving birth, and while raising small children; the home's nourishing environment will provide enough flexibility for both efficiency and rest. Salaries will grow, thus enabling families to live on one income more easily.
It won't be easy to reverse the trend and stop this snowball, but it can be done.