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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Parental Leave

At the beginning of the baseball season this year the New York Mets' second baseman, Daniel Murphy, missed the first two games of the season for the birth of his son, invoking the league's "parental leave" policy.  He and his wife faced some absurd criticism from closed-minded people who suggested that his wife should have had a c-section before the season began.  Murphy in many ways had the last laugh, helping the Mets reach the World Series through some torrid hitting during the playoffs; as reporter Wendy Thurm tweeted during the playoffs, "Daniel Murphy proudly took paternity leave & now look how well he's performing at work."

I can't hit a baseball very far, but I, too, am taking advantage of my employer's parental leave policy.  (So I'm kind of like a major league baseball player, right!?  Childhood dream fulfilled!)  My wife and I welcomed the birth of our son, Harrison, last April, and this semester I am not teaching any classes so that I can enjoy flexible scheduling while caring for him.  I'm still required to provide "100% work" through research and service (hence my midnight post to Prawfs), but this scheduling allows for a wonderful amount of bonding and family time during these precious first few months of his life -- especially because my wife, as an elementary school teacher, had to go back to work in August.  (Insert your own comment here criticizing the paltry amount of leave most women in this country receive after giving birth.  It is absurd.  And unlike many other people, we were fortunate in that my wife was off during the summer right after he was born.)

At first I was not sure I was even going to invoke my school's new parental leave policy.  I thought, "I love being in the classroom, and plus, I had the summer to spend with him."  But a wise colleague convinced me otherwise.  She pointed out that, if I were at a law firm, I would have hardly any opportunity to take much leave.  In some ways, the flexible scheduling of my job as a professor is a form of compensation.  And I'll never have these first months back with him.  Plus, it is important to set a precedent for this new policy to create a culture that accepts and understands the importance of this time and encourages others to take advantage of it.

So my son and I have had a blast spending time together.  In September we caught a ballgame in Cincinnati.  Most Tuesdays find us at the library for story time.  We go on long walks.  I've read him a good smattering of both law review articles and Go Dog Go!  (For some reason law review articles seem to put him to sleep!  He much prefers books written by Mo Willems, our favorite children's book author.)

What's the point of this post?  To demonstrate that it is -- or at least should be -- admirable for someone like Daniel Murphy (or me!) to take parental leave.  To advocate for more law schools to offer broader parental leave policies if they do not already do so.  And to suggest that more professors (including fathers) should take advantage of those policies.

To be sure, I am excited to g0 back to the classroom in January, and I'm confident that my time away has made me even more refreshed to teach.  These breaks help to make us better teachers and scholars -- and allow us to live a fulfilling life where family comes first.  It is also important to model to our students that it is possible to have a meaningful work-life balance, and that sometimes major events -- the birth and care of a child -- take precedence over everything else.

It's been a really great experience....mostly.  What's that sound?  Oh, it's time to go change a diaper! 

Posted by Josh Douglas on November 10, 2015 at 12:09 AM in Life of Law Schools, Sports, Teaching Law | Permalink

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