When White Sox player Adam LaRoche walked away from $13 million a few weeks ago, rather than cut the amount of time his son was spending at the ballpark, there was a lot of eye rolling from the general public. After all, how many American workers get to take their kids to work? Who exactly does this guy think he is?
The answers are few, and a guy who really, really values his time with his kid.
Now for the question we should be asking: Why are Americans so quick to blame the employee, rather than the faulty system? Are we so caught up in jealousy that we can’t see that we all deserve better?
Because let’s face it, the backlash stinks of sour grapes. LaRoche had a pretty sweet deal up until the point when the White Sox told him they weren’t so happy with his son’s status as the team’s unofficial 26th man. He seemed to have found the magic formula to getting your cake and eating it too. But that doesn’t make him the bad guy in this story. It makes him a smart employee who had worked hard to find the nearly unattainable work/life balance that we all so desperately want.
It makes him a guy we should be listening to, rather than ripping to shreds in the comments section of countless sports websites.
The United States is well-known for ranking far behind every other developed — and plenty of not-so-developed ones — in terms of its maternity and paternity policies both. The non-profit Save the Children ranks the U.S. last in terms of breastfeeding support for moms, and claims of family responsibility discrimination, a form of workplace discrimination against workers related to family caregiving responsibilities for children, elderly parents, or ill relative, climbed 400 percent between 1998 and 2008 in America.
American businesses face annual loses of an estimated $3 billion due to absenteeism related to family caregiving issues. So it would stand to reason that businesses would want to recoup those losses by improving situations for parents, right? Wrong. An estimated 26 percent of American companies let parents bring a child to work if there’s an emergency, but just 3 percent offer access to backup childcare services.
Compare that to Norway, rated one of the best places to be a working parent in the world, where parents can get up to 20 days off per year to care for a sick child (at full pay), health care is provided by the state and day care centers are heavily subsidized. The country does have higher taxes, it must be noted, and its model is not translatable to the US because of the vast difference in population size.
But we live in a country where politicians are constantly harping on about family values, and yet we never actually get to spend time with our families. It’s hard to put them first when we are working longer days and taking less time off than anyone else in the industrialized world. And when some guy decides to put his child first, instead of standing up and cheering the guy who actually did what it is we all wish we could do, we call him any number of names I can’t use in a family newspaper.
Who exactly do we think we are?
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