1 (usually growing) reason why every single man in America should care about maternity leave

You all have prostates.

Seriously.  But let me explain further to those people who simply can not fathom as to how a woman could dare ask for maternity leave and expect her other team members to “pick up her slack, because she chose to get pregnant”.  (yep, check the comments section on my last post here, pretty entertaining, in fact!)

Life happens to everyone.

If my profession as a trauma surgeon has taught me nothing else, it has taught me this.

“Life happens to everyone,” and unfortunately, a lot of “life” isn’t pleasant.  Car accidents, strokes, heart attacks, broken legs, and ill family members are just a few examples of life situations that happen to everyone, whether or not you have a uterus.  And guess what they all have in common?  A need for time off of work.

Now, the distinct disadvantage here is that women usually need a set block of time off for maternity leave that seems relatively long (to some, at least) and at an age where they are usually young and healthy, but let me tell you gentlemen, people are going to be covering for YOU when your prostates need to come out and your coronary artery needs a stent.  No, you may not need 12 weeks all at once, but, between doctor’s appointments, procedures, recovery, and complications, or at some other point in time in your life, you are going to need significant time off of work, with your partners/coworkers/etc. chipping in and helping out.  And, oftentimes without the 6 month’s notice that your pregnant colleague is able to give.  And guess what else?  That is OKAY.  That is what life is about – building relationships and working in teams to get the job done, even if someone is having a bad day, a stroke, or a baby.

Oh, and just as an FYI, let’s just say you break your leg while skiing and you need at least 6 weeks off of work… I don’t think people will judge you and say that went skiing and break your leg – accidents happen.  So being judgmental and saying that every woman chooses to get pregnant is pretty inane.  You chose to go skiing, she chose to have sex. Get over it.

Maternity leave = family leave. (Or, hopefully will equal family leave at some point soon in the future.)

I have to admit, I was blown away by the responses I received on our blog, through FaceBook, Twitter, and even my own personal email from my last post.  Women from all walks of life shared their stories, and overall, as Americans, and as humans, we should both be encouraged and appalled.  Some female physicians wrote how supportive their partners were, but as a group, would have to sneak around HR to get her time off.  Some women went back to work in less than one week to preserve their family’s income and sometimes their job.  Office administrators refusing to allow 15 minutes breaks for new moms to pump breastmilk.  A new mom, forced to use a surrogate, being allowed zero time off because she wasn’t actually birthing the baby herself.  The stories unfortunately go on and on.

Yet, the stories of finding support from male coworkers was encouraging.  And, I do think most men and women without children also, absolutely see the value in family leave – whether it is paternity, maternity, sick leave for themselves or to care for an ailing family member.  Bottom line, every single one of us is going to need time off of work, expected or unexpected, and we are all are going to have to rely on each other, and a system to help us out.  Unfortunately, for most of us, that system does not yet exist… and at the end of the day, we can do this better – for ourselves, and each other.

3 thoughts on “1 (usually growing) reason why every single man in America should care about maternity leave

  1. I am currently 28 weeks pregnant. I’m not a surgeon, but a teacher. Being pregnant has been the first time in my life where I have actually felt disadvantaged and prejudiced against at work, which horrified me and saddened me. My pregnancy was not entirely planned. But I still think that having and raising a baby is one of the most important jobs in the world. Society thinks otherwise, it seems. Getting time off for antenatal appointments has been a nightmare. As has trying to organise my maternity leave and who will be taking my classes, etc. It scares me what else the future brings in this journey to trying to navigate the world of being pregnant, or being a mum, and working.

  2. Consider all sides. When you just take one item to make the other side look bad instead of taking responsibility for your choices, your actions and how they affect everyone else, do you think that is something that is going to add to women in medicine getting a positive look? When you can’t even answer legitimate questions on previous postings, do you think that reflects correctly and accurately on how you handle situations?

    I want women to have the best and fair shake in medicine. We are not going to get that if we don’t have responsibility taken and facing up to the reality of situations and dealing in a respectful way with it.

    Blog about what your bosses say when they read this.

    Read Erik Zsemlye, LBENT, Docbart, especially Jills’ response.

    “A residency director recalls the day when a resident came breathlessly into her office with the news that yet another resident was pregnant. “What are you going to do?” the resident asked, meaning how could all of the surgical cases and the night calls be covered. “No,” said the program director. “The question is, what are all of you going to do?” The hospital isn’t going to hire more doctors to cover for resident maternity leaves. The burden of coverage will fall on the remaining residents in the program.

    In the majority of teaching hospitals, residents are critical for providing patient care—in the clinics, on the wards, and in the operating rooms. When the responsibility falls on fewer and fewer remaining residents, they may easily become resentful. The solidarity and morale of the group is bound to suffer. Eventually a critical point may be reached where there aren’t enough residents to cover the service.

    We could face further downgrading of the physician’s role in American health care.”

    Read Marjorie Shanks, Karen, Ann, K’s responses.

    “Don’t be naive enough to think that everyone believes the party line at the attending level, regardless of how closely they keep their cards to the vest.

    If women want real opportunities to lead and influence medicine, we need to step up to the plate, not demand special privileges.

    Often, residents don’t seem to appreciate that fact, and then they are shocked if their actions meet with disapproval or resentment, particularly from their peers. No one has ever said to them directly that “Because I want to” may not be enough of a reason. It may be better to hear it from someone like me first, so that it’s not a surprise.

    As long as the financing of residency programs is so dependent on Medicare funding, it will be hard to change the fundamental nature of this problem no matter how much the culture of medicine might change. In the meantime, it’s well for us to understand the nature of the problem rather than just to decry its existence. Medicare funding is not available for significant expansion of residency positions. Residents in teaching hospitals still have patient care responsibilities that won’t go away. Is it fair for residents especially in smaller programs to do as they please in terms of having children without regard for the well-being of the other residents? Or to expect faculty members to assume more of the clinical load when they’ve already put in their own time as residents and fellows?

    I’ve heard the same comment from many others. The entitlement that many women seem to feel is remarkable–they do as they wish, and others have to cope as best they can with little thanks. I hope all is well these days.”

    That extends to attending status.

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