“There’s no crying in baseball!” Tom Hanks, “A League of Their Own”
In a "League of Their Own", Tom Hanks said, "There's no crying in baseball." He might be right about that, but baseball is not without controversy.
In 2011, Major League Baseball began offering players three days off for paternity leave. While three days is by no means super generous, it is noteworthy. Baseball is an industry that is driven by statistics and performance. And the MLB decided that it was worth the investment in family to provide its players with paternity leave. In so doing, it is ahead of many other organizations and this country. Despite having this policy, apparently, players who take advantage of this leave do so at the risk of their reputations.
Taking paternity leave can be controversial
This week Daniel Murphy, second baseman for the New York Mets, took off two games to be present for the birth of his first child. He was publicly ridiculed by Boomer Esiason, a retired football player and commentator, for doing so. Indeed, Mr. Esiason suggested that Murphy’s wife should have scheduled a C-Section before the season started in order to accommodate the baseball season.
Mr. Esiason argued that Murphy’s wife should have undergone the C-Section to accommodate “Opening Day”, one of the biggest days of the baseball season. He reasoned that baseball provides the family’s livelihood and baseball will allow the family to pay their mortgage and the child to attend college. According to Esiason, this economic reality means that baseball should get top billing in the Murphy house, above sentiment, and apparently above the well being and health of Mrs. Murphy.
Baseball season should not dictate childbirth choices
A Cesarean Section is major surgery where the baby is surgically removed and most of the woman’s internal organs are placed on a table and then put back. It’s true that countless C-Sections are safely performed when medically indicated. However, elective C-Sections like Mr. Esiason recommends remain controversial. Even when C-Sections are "scheduled", they ought not be scheduled entirely for the convenience of one's employer. They should only be scheduled for the best interest of the mother and the baby. Doing otherwise could jeopardize the health of the mother and the baby. If you follow Esiason’s logic, Daniel Murphy made a huge mistake by prioritizing the health of his child and his wife above the game.
To be fair, Mr. Esiason has since apologized for his comments (probably after conferring with his wife and reading all of the comments by women on Twitter who wanted him castrated for his thoughtless comments.) His apology notwithstanding, I am glad that he made his original comments. By suggesting that Mrs. Murphy have an elective C-Section to accommodate her husband’s work schedule, Mr. Esiason articulates the sentiment of far too many employers. These employers view childbirth as an inconvenience that should be managed as opposed to a part of life that should be embraced. They resent the inconvenience that childbirth creates for their business. They also resent the men and women who avail themselves of parental leave. Unlike Mr. Esiason, they quietly express their resentment, practice gender bias in the workplace and place mothers on the "mommy track". In contrast, Mr. Esiason, says what they are thinking, "get your ass back to work"!
Many employers believe that childbirth should be "managed"
Working moms should not allow this conversation to be reduced to a conversation about sports and categorized as the asinine, misogynistic comments by a former quarterback who is past his prime. It is a relevant discussion that transcends sports and Mr. Esiason. It highlights a larger point that working mothers have long known. Too many employers view childbirth as a condition to be managed. They also they judge women who take advantage of their maternity leave policies harshly. They believe that these women are not real "team players". Comments about men taking advantage of paternity leave policies have been infrequent because many employers lack such policies.
We working moms should continue this conversation--in our churches, at cocktail parties and at work. It is important that we understand how our community and our employers really feel about those who take leave in order to care for our families. Only when we know the truth can we begin to change things. Having leave policies is one thing. However, having those who take advantage of those policies viewed positively and as full team members is another. Having mandatory paid maternity leave would be a great help to change things. Perhaps Daniel Murphy can be our spokesperson for this cause???
So, I'd like to thank Mr. Esiason for his comments. They may be the beginning of change. Here's hoping!