A good friend is about eight hours away from becoming a dad for the first time. But instead of nesting with his wife, he’s at work.
I met him many years ago at a job where he was the IT guru, before we were all IT gurus. After nine months making ridiculous amounts of money in the tech/web bubble, we were both laid off. Strangely, ever since, our on-again off-again employment statuses (or stati?) have mirrored each other. If I landed a job, he was sure to land one within the month. If he was laid off, I would be laid off within the week.
Only, this has been the first time that we are out of sync. I’m still fiddling with temporary projects, but he’s found a full-time gig, with benefits as a school teacher.
This last fall, he decided he had enough with the instability of his industry and the hours and the demands. That, and he had suddenly become an expectant father. So, Mr. Papa Don’t Preach decided to venture into the world of education to teach inner city kids all about computers and web design and CSS. At first it was a rough ride finding common ground with the youth he was taught to appeal to through marketing and design elements, but with the guidance of his wife, a tenured, professional educator, he was able to navigate the rough waters.
There was, however, one thing that was exactly the same from his days in the corporate world: the fear. And now with a new baby on board, it was multiplied by however many Pampers a newborn goes through a month. The fear of being dismissed. The fear of not being a good provider. It’s intoxicating…in a Chernobyl kind of way.
But it’s the school system. How bad can it be?
In his state, you are not automatically renewed every year. At the end of the school year, depending on the performance of your students, your professional review and – get this – how many sick days you took, you may not be invited back for the fall. His school system gives every teacher a bank of up to 14 days to use at their discretion, but as soon as your reach your 7th day of absence, you get a letter placed in your personnel file.
Between the fall and tomorrow, he will have only taken two days. The first he used to be at his mother’s side for a pretty serious operation and the second, tomorrow, to be by his wife’s side when she makes him Daddy Yankee.
And then, back to work on Monday.
Of course, they do offer paternity leave. Being a teacher does have some benefits, like getting paid for 10 months of work. But it is strongly frowned upon to actually use the benefit that allows you to take care of your own personal life.
I don’t have kids, nor do I want them. But that shouldn’t make me more marketable than the people who do want to start a family. Employers act like those kids also go on payroll and will eventually destroy their bottom line. Or that a sickly parent or a troubled teenager or a personal struggle needs to be dealt on the employees time, after 6:00 PM.
If only all of the attention placed on what happens in my bedroom after 6:00 PM would shift to what is happening to our workforce before 6:00 PM, then maybe we can see that preserving real family values is in conserving worker’s rights.