Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Let’s talk misogyny among sports casters, shall we? Sports commentators Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason recently blasted Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy for missing opening day to take three days’ worth of paternity leave, following the emergency c-section of his wife.

The horror.

Carton and Esiason took to the air justifying why this was all kinds of wrong. Esiason went as far as to say, “Quite frankly, I would have said, ‘C-section before the season starts, I need to be at opening day.'”

Really? It must be lovely having you as a spouse and co-parent.

Yesterday I helped MomsRising put together a petition airing the true — and sad — facts about the state of paid family leave in our country, and demanded that Carton and Esiason apologize to Murphy. Here’s the link — I would love your signature!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you? Have a great weekend!


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Mitt Romney won Washington state’s caucuses this past Saturday. Expect an open thread tomorrow for Super Tuesday, which will be scheduled for 1 p.m. PT/ 4 p.m. ET. Gloria’s thread will run at 9 a.m. PT/ 12 p.m. ET. There are 10 states voting in the Republican primary tomorrow so that is not to be missed!

This piece of news came out a little over a month ago, but it’s still relevant: researchers at Ohio State University found that 10 percent of students on college campuses are hosting a party on any given weekend and they are more likely to drink the heaviest and engage in risky behavior over students attending the bash. I remember some high-profile alcohol-related deaths on college campuses in the Boston area when I was a student. I know it is something I will definitely talk to my kids about…

Loved this observation made by Daily Kos’s teacherken on how harried his students’ parents are juggling work and children in a country that offers no universal healthcare, preschool, paid family leave or social safety net. It was a rebuttal to a news article about how fabulous Parisian parents are. Amen.

In somewhat related news, Parents magazine published an article on how to find a job to do from home. Equally useful, IMHO, were the comments, in which work-at-home moms said they still needed childcare and/or found working from home to be difficult. I agree. Working at home allows flexibility as to when to work, but it can be easy to let work take over your life as work and the household chores are right there and work-out-of-home spouses expect you to pick up the slack when a child gets sick or there is a school event — since you are home. I, for one, hope this changes as more companies adopt telecommuting.  

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Study: Male Professors Likely To Abuse Paternity Leave

It is always disappointing when supposed idealistic and progressive men behave like neanderthals when it comes to gender roles. While the tenured male college professors I know are very hands-on fathers, apparently they are in the minority in their profession.

Bloomberg Businessweek published the findings of a study that found that not only are tenured male professors least likely to take any paid paternity leave — even when it is available to them — they are likely to abuse it, using the time to research and write instead.

As the authors of the paper state: “Most of the academics in our study said they believe that husbands and wives should share equally, but almost none did so.“ To be precise, only three men out of 109 reported that they performed half the child-care work. One possible explanation, according to the father-and-son duo, is that women derive a higher enjoyment of many of the activities involved in the care of small children. The Rhoads asked the men and women to report their level of enjoyment in performing 25 different tasks—everything from playing with the baby to washing his clothes. On almost every count, women said they experienced a higher level of satisfaction. Steven Rhoads admits the discovery that mothers enjoy changing diapers was, to his own mind, the most surprising aspect of his findings. “It shows you gender roles go pretty deep,“ he says.

The researchers learned something else from their work. “One thing that’s different about academia is that you can get ahead by not going to the office,“ says Steven Rhoads. “This isn’t a possibility if you’re a doctor or a lawyer.“ The Rhoads says that during the course of their work they heard stories of male academics who took paid post-birth leave in order “to advance their publishing agendas.“ (Publishing research is a key requirement for tenure-track academics.) The authors note that “one top university“ had to change its paternity policy to combat such abuse. (Stephen Rhoads would not reveal which institution it was when pressed by this reporter). On the basis of their findings, the Rhoads recommend that universities restrict parental leave to women.

That’s such a shame. I also wonder how the spouses feel about drowning in diapers and household chores while their husbands write while on “paternity leave”? Not cool.


Study: Paid Family Leave Good for the Bottom Line

Well, we already knew this. Once again, researchers have found that paid family leave — in this case, California’s — has had no adverse effects on employers’ bottom lines and in many cases improved the bottom line because workers not only returned to their jobs but were more productive.

Here were some key research findings published in Washington Policy Watch:

Researchers at Columbia University who analyzed the effects of the PFL program on the labor market and new mothers’ use of leave found PFL doubles the average length of leave for new mothers – from 3 weeks to at least 6 weeks.

These effects were most evident among mothers from economically disadvantaged groups – including non-college educated, unmarried, Hispanic, and Black moms – whose average length of leave increased from 1-2 weeks to 4-7 weeks. The research also suggests that PFL increases work hours and wage income for those mothers who returned to work.

On the employer’s end of the experience, another study found business owners’ fears of increased costs and abuse of the policy were unfounded. Six years after California implemented PFL, more than nine in ten employers reported they were not aware of any instances of abuse of the program. Small businesses were less likely than larger companies to report negative effects….

Researchers also found that PFL increased retention among workers in low-quality jobs (paying less than $20 per hour and providing employer-paid health insurance): 83% who used PFL returned to the same employer, compared with 74% of those who did not use PFL. There are also positive effects on workers’ ability to care for a new child and arrange child care, and increased duration of breastfeeding for all new mothers who used PFL.

Nice. Let’s stop the uninformed propaganda and grant every man and woman in this country the right to paid family leave.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Thanks to Sister Q for sharing this link on AARP. Apparently there are laws on the books in certain states requiring children to care for their elderly parents. The laws that are not active may be “dusted off” if Medicare is cut in budget negotiations — perhaps something to point out to young taxpayers loathe to pay for Medicare.

In related news, the very smart and capable Adriana Maestas wrote a compelling story on how cutting Medicare and Medicaid would be devastating for our economy. So many families rely on these programs whether it’s us, our parents, our grandparents, our siblings or our children that if even one person is cut off then someone else has to pick up the slack further endangering that person’s job and livelihood. Doesn’t seem like a smart way to grow our economy.

New York Times ran a sad story about an older, suburban and struggling demographic in the United States. They aren’t considered “poor” yet are barely scraping by.

MomsRising’s Nanette Fondas wrote about the disparity in access to paid family leave in this country for Ms. Magazine.

In lighter news, Liz Cerezo over at Thoughts of a Mommy had a cute Q&A with the cast of the new Muppets movie, which comes out tomorrow. DH, the kids and I can’t wait!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

If you can humble me with another bragging moment, I won the “Best Activist Blogger” trophy for the Latinos in Social Media Awards. It was a thrill to receive the results live via Twitter. Thank you for voting for me and for your ongoing support over the years. When I left my reporting job eight years ago, I would have never imagined being a part of this dynamic community and doing what I do for work. I feel so incredibly fortunate and blessed. ¡Gracias!  

For the first time in U.S. history, a majority of moms — 50.8 percent — are receiving paid maternity leave, according to Bloomberg News. However, the United States has no national paid leave policy so some of this may be due to women cobbling together disability, sick days and vacation days. Also, very few women without a high school diploma receive any paid time off (19%).

I want to scream every time I hear the “immigrant-children-will-never-learn-English” meme in this country. As it turns out, immigrant families are having a hard time keeping their children bilingual, according to the Boston Globe.

OMG. Michelle Duggar is pregnant with her 20th child, according to the TODAY Show.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


CA: Paid Family Leave Not a “Job Killer”

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Whenever the federal government or state legislature proposes paid family leave for workers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce immediately decries it as a “job killer.”

As Ruth Milkman, a sociologist professor who helped pass paid family leave in California joked, “If you were to pass a law saying that employees should be allowed to breathe, the Chamber would denounce that as a ‘job killer’.”

“They are allergic to regulation,” she said. “What our research has shown is that those concerns were groundless.”

Indeed. According to research by the University of California in Los Angeles, City University of New York and the Center for Economic and Policy Research, California’s Paid Family Leave law, which took effect for most workers in 2004 and was the first of its kind in the country, has had either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on workplace productivity, profitability and performance, turnover and morale.

In fact, small businesses were more likely than the largest corporations to describe the law in neutral or favorable terms.

“That may be more idealogical than real,” Milkman said of the discrepancy last week at the California Working Families Policy Summit.

California’s paid family leave allows workers of either gender to take up to six weeks off at 55 percent of their salary to care for a new child or a seriously ill relative. Contrary to the Chamber of Commerce’s concerns, the program has not been “abused” and companies have had no trouble making contingency plans for absent workers, Milkman said.

“People leave their jobs for all kinds of reasons,” she said. “People die, people move, or go on vacation. If your husband has a heart attack and is in the hospital, you are probably not going to work as usual.”

However, not everyone is taking advantage of the law, Milkman concedes. The lowest wage workers, Latinos and immigrants were least likely than other groups to take advantage of the law because they either felt that the benefit level was too low or that their “employer would be unhappy.” Unfortunately, the law does not include job protection.

“The people who need this program the most are the ones least likely to be aware of it,” Milkman said. Or, least likely to use it.


Coffee Party Convention Day 2

LOUISVILLE, KY — Before I delve into day two, I have some leftover pics and stories from the previous night. There was a bipartisan panel in support of the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 6116), which would allow matching funds to candidates who raise a certain amount of small dollar donations.

“On this issue I am to the left of (Harvard Professor) Larry Lessig,” said Republican consultant Mark McKinnon. “I don’t think corporations should have first amendment rights.”

He received mad applause for the latter statement. All the panelists urged the audience to call their members of congress in support of the bill.

(Photo from left to right: Zephyr Teachout, Bart Turner, Mark McKinnon, David Donnelly, Frances Moore Lappe, Marco Ceglie, and Stewart Snider.)

A shot of the audience:

I got a late start on day two. Considering I had had a previous long day and was jet-lagged — I came to Kentucky from California — I did not show up to the convention until my panel at 10:40 a.m., technically, 7:40 a.m. for me. Ouch!

I joined documentarian John de Graaf, the brains behind the film Motherhood Manifesto, for a discussion on the “politics of happiness and work-life balance.” Unlike my previous discussion on divisive politics with Rich Benjamin and Lt. Dan Choi — which was packed — this panel was sparsely attended, yet the most engaging discussion I participated in the conference.

I opened the talk by going to this Wikipedia page listing the amount of paid maternity and paternity leave offered by all the countries in the world. I asked the audience which two countries offered no paid maternity leave. Everyone got the United States right, but left out Swaziland in Africa.

Someone had guessed “Saudi Arabia” along with the United States, but I looked it up and answered, “Nope. Saudi Arabia offers 10 weeks at 50 percent or 100 percent pay, which I am assuming is based on what you do for work.

“And they offer one day of paid paternity leave, which is one day more than the United States.”

One of my favorite exercises in these panels, is to read the amount of paid maternity and paternity leave offered by Third World countries, because let’s face it, if any country can’t afford to give their workers time off it’s them. Yet, Haiti offers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, including 6 weeks at 100 pay. Mexico offers 12 weeks at 100 percent pay. Guatemala offers 84 days at 100 percent pay, and two full days of paid paternity leave for fathers.

“India has a billion people, China has a billion people, and they have paid maternity leave,” I said. (India at 12 weeks at 100 percent pay and China at 90 days at 100 percent pay.)

“We don’t offer women paid maternity leave because we don’t want to.”

I gave my background as a mom who writes for the blog MotherTalkers and also, a non-profit organization that advocates for family economic security. I gave anecdotes of women who are sandwiched between two generations, caring for parents and young children at home on top of their jobs; moms who have worked full-time, commuted, taken care of children to have a nervous breakdown; and, women who must return to work a mere days after giving birth. “Nowhere else in the world are women expected to meet these unreasonable expectations,” I said.

“Except Swaziland!” someone shouted out to laughter.

“Yes, except for Swaziland.”

John de Graaf rocked it. He showed a clip of his upcoming film, which humorously deals with our culture’s obsession with work and “stuff,” and the downsides to them: no social services, lots of prozac and unhappiness.

He was prepared. He shared studies showing that despite our low taxes and abundance of “stuff,” Americans were nowhere near as happy as the countries that paid the most in taxes, had the most social services, and the least stuff. Think Finland, Norway and Sweden.

He let our audience know of bills in congress like the Healthy Families Act, which would give families paid sick days, and the Paid Vacation Act. (Can you believe that the American Dream does not include even one week of paid vacation for our workers??) I urged everyone to sign up for’s news alerts to keep track of all these bills.

There seemed to be agreement in the room that if there was a panel to attend, it was this one. These issues affect everyone whether you are a bleeding-heart liberal or the most conservative of Tea Party members. I was proud to be a part of it, and I am looking forward to John’s next film, which I believe is called something to the tune of the “The Pursuit of Happiness” or the “Happiness Movement.”

This is already a long post, so I will continue with Day 2 tomorrow. In the meantime, how are you all doing?


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill — along party lines — to give federal employees four weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, according to Salon Broadsheet. Republican Pete Sessions of Texas sarcastically said, “Maybe we just ought to let federal employees take 16 years off.” Whatever. If the bill clears the Senate, President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.  

In somewhat related news, employers in England are laying off women in pregnancy or on maternity leave at an alarming rate that it has set off a barrage of discrimination lawsuits, according to the Guardian.

Here is some welcomed news: A large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that women who take the anti-nausea drug Metoclopramide for morning sickness do not risk harm to their babies, according to the Associated Press.

Texas has become a minority-majority state due to the explosion of Hispanics in the border towns, according to the Laredo Morning Times.

In other news from Texas: Homeschooling parents and child protection advocates are at odds over a child abuse bill in the state legislature, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Republicans: Paid Family Leave Equals Perpetual Baby-Making

I got a chuckle at some House Republicans’ paranoia that if we have paid family leave as most countries do we will only enable people to make or adopt babies each and every year.

Check out this Washington Post column making fun of them:

Workers “could have one adoption or one foster child per year, resulting in every year you get a new foster child, every year the husband and wife if they are both federal workers would take four weeks off with pay, because they have simply taken in a new foster child,” he (California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa) said before the vote.

Can’t you see Frankie and Flo stocking up on kiddies like the old woman who lived in a shoe, who had so many children she didn’t know what to do? Frankie and Flo would get that paid month each year for each new one, doing damage to Uncle Sam’s wallet in the process.

Issa’s vision of federal workers adopting one child after another provided an opening for Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) to plug National Foster Care Month, which is now.

“I happen to represent a district that has the largest number of children in foster care in the United States of America,” he said. More than a third of kids in his Chicago don’t live with their parents, he added.

“I would be delighted if federal workers or any other workers . . . adopted one of these children every year,” Davis continued. “As a matter of fact, I’d give them a Medal of Honor if every year they found that they could adopt another child, because there is a tremendous need for children to be adopted.”

Seriously. The sad thing is the legislation that, thankfully passed without Issa, applies to only federal employees and offers only four weeks of paid family leave. So, basically, people will continue making babies or adopting just to collect a month’s paycheck. Brilliant.