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EDITORIAL: Need for parental leave policy is pressing

Rutgers union asks for leave policy, University must comply

The American Association of University Professors Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey (AAUP-BHSNJ) released an advertisement urging Rutgers to create a parental leave policy for the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) faculty, according to The Daily Targum

Parental leave is a major issue in the United States, which has no federal policy. The lack of legislation on the matter differentiates from 178 other countries, which do guarantee paid leave. 

States are left to decide parental leave policy, and only three have implemented legislation on the matter: California, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Only 12% of women have access to paid maternity leave in the private sector, and 25% of women are forced to return to work within two weeks of giving birth. 

This is not a matter of politics, but of common sense. Everyone benefits when constructive family leave policy is enforced, and conversely, everyone feels the brunt of the impact when parental leave policy is shaky or nonexistent.

The problems stemming from America’s failure to provide a decent policy on this matter are widespread, and often manifest themselves in ways that may not be expected immediately. 

Touching on the more obvious impacts first: The failure to provide adequate leave programs harms children and parents. A child needs both parents to be active in their homes to develop optimally. When one or both parents have to continue working during these developmental years, the child’s development is in limbo.

It also harms parents. Postpartum depression, otherwise denoted as the “baby blues,” is a well-documented medical condition, characterized by new mothers enduring depression immediately following childbirth. Separating them from their child, by making them work, only exasperates this. 

Both parents are hurt, and thus, making federal parental leave, not just maternity leave, the optimal solution to this issue. 

It stems from the patriarchal society we live in. Contrary to popular belief, the patriarchy harms both sexes, and it extends deeply into parental leave as well.

A lifetime of literature has been written on the issues regarding “toxic masculinity,” and this can be seen in raising children. Mothers are pressured to stay home with children, as that has been their designated role in the patriarchy. The years that women generally have children, between the ages of 25 and 35, are when people tend to begin making serious progress in their careers. 

Via societal sexism, women are often missing out on these critical years of work once being pressured into staying home with their children.

“When men and women finish school and start working, they’re paid pretty much equally. But a gender pay gap soon appears, and it grows significantly over the next two decades. So what changes? The answer can be found by looking at when the pay gap widens most sharply. It’s the late '20s to mid-'30s, according to two new studies — in other words, when many women have children. Unmarried women without children continue to earn closer to what men do,” said Claire Cain Miller, a correspondent at The New York Times.

There are more contributing factors to the wage gap besides motherhood, of course, but instituting a paid parental leave policy would go a long way in shoring up that gap.

Men are also harmed by the lack of a federal policy. They often face the reverse of what women experience: pressure to work. The patriarchy and rampant masculinity have designated men as the breadwinners of the household, and those who wish to stay home with their children are often chastised as “unmanly” or “feminine,” both of which are bogus insults that the patriarchy dispels. 

A good example of the benefits of paid leave is in Norway, and Scandinavia as a whole. Norway is the happiest country in the world, according to TIME Magazine. 

Norway's happiness is caused, in part, due to "neighborly support between citizens and state support programs for those in need. People want to feel secure and they also benefit from having a community that they can count on — an environment the Scandinavian countries do better than most in creating,” according to TIME Magazine.

Rutgers must listen to the AAUP-BHSNJ and include a paid parental leave policy in their contract. Aside from the evidence previously cited, the union represents experts in the health sciences industry, who are well-versed on this issue.

By providing RBHS faculty with substantial parental leave, Rutgers can prove that it sides with fact and research, as well as common decency. 

As students, we should support the union on this matter as well, as one day, in a country with no federal parental leave, we may find ourselves in the same position they are.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority   of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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