Tuesday, June 5, 2012

on parenting and jury duty

When Kieran was almost 2 months old, I was summoned to jury duty. With a doctor's note, I managed to get a postponement, since I was exclusively breastfeeding. I asked to be reprieved until January or February, since I plan on breastfeeding Kieran for at least a year, like I did with Lyndon. We don't do many bottles around here, and Kieran has had a really hard time taking them. So, the government postponed my summons... until June. Bizarre, I know, but I figured I could ask for another postponement when the time came.

Well, I could ask, but I couldn't receive.

That's right; even with a note from the pediatrician, stating that Kieran is breastfed and has had trouble taking a bottle, I am expected to report to the courthouse bright and early on June 11th. I'm considering taking him with me. At the very least, I will be taking my breastpump and written proof that they have to give me a private place to use it. Of course, I'm annoyed at the inconvenience, but, beyond that, I'm pretty disappointed in the way our government is treating me, and moms in general, for that matter.

I'm sure you've heard about that Time Magazine article, entitled "The Mommy Wars". Quite a few people have seen this article as an attempt by mass media to encourage moms to fight amongst themselves, instead of fighting together for bigger causes. Like decent maternity leave. Or respect for motherhood in the workplace. Or . . . you know, our children's education.

It's easier to judge and bicker and backstab each other for our different parenting choices than to try to make some real difference in the world.

I read an article recently outlining the United States' provisions, or rather, lack of provisions, for paid maternity leave. It's pretty embarrassing. From the article:

"Did you know that the United States in one of the only industrialized nations that does not provide a mandatory maternity leave benefit?... 'According to USA Today, 'out of 168 nations in a Harvard University study last year, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave, leaving the United States in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland'."

Yes, the Family Medical Leave Act provides some benefits, but only to those who "qualify" (which is kind of a short list), and nowhere near the kind of provisions necessary to raise a family. The article spells out the specifics, but let's just say it's pretty sad. Mothers are expected to be back at their desks before their babies are breastfeeding successfully or sleeping through the night. Parents are harassed for taking time off to care for sick children. And paternity leave? What's that?

Now, I'm not saying this is all, or even mostly, the government's fault. But when a state government ignores the pleas of a family and a pediatrician and refuses to postpone something like jury duty for more than 3 months so that an infant can be near his only source of food, it is helping to create a culture that devalues children. Raising a family is hard, and parents need as much support as they can get. Instead, we get jury duty and the "mommy wars".

Really, America?

1 comment:

Courtney Pilling said...

I completely agree. It's pitiful. It seems that our country values stress, overwork, and "productivity" as they define it, over living life to the fullest (however we may define that), taking time to breathe, and supporting and nurturing families/family time. There are some major priorities out of line... as exemplified by the utmost priority it is that you must perform your civic duty, over performing your maternal duty. What a shame and disappointment.