What’s the most important thing you can do during your time on planet earth?
Becoming a parent should at least be on the shortlist. I don’t mean just physically reproducing — pretty much everyone can do that without too much skill — I mean sticking around for the couple of decades that it takes to level up your kid to the point where they have enough XP to go out in the world and start doing some quests on their own, without your help.
It’s a big, big deal. That should really be pretty damn obvious. So it was a little baffling to hear what radio host Mike Francesca had to say about the the Mets’ Daniel Murphy missing a couple of days to be with his wife as she gave birth:
What are you going to do? I mean you are going to sit there and look at your wife in a hospital bed for two days? Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days; you know that you’re not doing much the first couple days with the baby that was just born.
For a baseball player. You take a day, all right. Back in the lineup the next day! What are you doing? I guarantee you are not sitting there holding your wife’s hand…. I had three kids… I was at the birth and was back to work the next day. I didn’t see any reason not to be working…. What was I gonna do, sit with my wife in the hospital?
This is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from maybe a particularly sheltered 20 year old, right? Francesca is a sixty year old man with three children. (Maybe they’ll get together sometime over coffee, I guess.)
Fortunately, it seems like a number of callers, y’know, called in to tell him that he was an idiot. Which should restore your faith in your fellow man, yadda yadda, except that a lot of their arguments really just revealed a much deeper, fundamental societal issue. The issue that people like Francesca are walking, drooling symptoms of.
A lot of the arguments took this form: Hey, he works hard, he’s earned this time with his family! What’s wrong with that? Nothing, except it’s a completely asinine, backwards way of looking at the world that we’ve almost all bought into.
Here’s what I think: time with your family isn’t some fun bonus extra that you get to do if you work hard enough at the things that actually matter, like playing baseball in front of millions of people. I think that it should be your starting point: your priority.
This is the weird sickness that has crept into our society — this idea that the most important thing we do is what brings home the bacon. It isn’t just a sports thing — it’s in every profession. We just notice when it happens in sports because sports is an exaggerated cartoon version of life.
Of course, in the United States, land of equality, it isn’t just fathers who’re expected to shove the kid off to someone else to take care of. Compared with almost every other country in the world, the maternity leave that you get in the US is pitiful:
So if you’ve just given birth you better get back to work right away. OK, fine, we’ll let you take a little bit of time to regain the ability to walk, but we ain’t paying you for it. You know what the mentality is about people that want to take time off to be a parent? Lazy.
Well I’ve only been a dad for a few months, but I already know that if you think staying at home to look after a kid is a chance to goof off, you’re either tragically naive or an awful parent. I reckon my wife would agree with me.
You can already see the tide of history turning against this mentality, but it lives on in dinosaurs like Francesca. Guys like that can’t understand why young men today would want to notice their children’s existence before they’re old enough to need a whoopin’. They can’t understand why you’d want to be really part of your baby’s life, rather than throwing a stiff arm and deflecting responsibility back to their wives or nannies. So they’re looking for an angle, and the best they can come up with is laziness.
We’re still living and working in Backwards Land. There’s no great morality in busting your butt for a company, to get rich, or even for your “passion”. You know what’s going to serve your child a whole lot more than making a million bucks to pay for their college?
Being more than a whiff of cologne and a bristly cheek 2 hours after bedtime, that’s what. Maybe we could try that for a while.
Published on April 4th, 2014