All over social media today are pictures of Professor Engleberg holding a baby while lecturing in front of a class full of graduate students. Stories focused on the calming nature of the professor and his lovely spirit… but what all I could think while reading was “What the heck is a baby doing in a grad class?”
Upon further reading, I found out the professor, because of his compassion towards his students, their ages, and their family obligations, has invited his students to bring their babies to class- some even openly breastfeed. (Insert the image of my mouth gaping open here.)
Professor Engleberg teaches in Israel. Maybe the US needs to take note. I recently had a baby and am nearing the end of my unpaid maternity leave. Another woman at work was due the same week as me and has been back to work for months. Yes, months. She only took 10 days off because that was all she could afford to miss. I won’t even get into the cost we both bore in order to have kids under the health care system here in America.
So, again, color me surprised to see a professor holding a baby. Here in the states we value the honor of delivering a baby by punishing mothers with no nationally mandated paid maternity leave. We value the fusion of family by offering zilch on the paternity leave- dads don’t need to love on new babies… that there is women’s work. Well, till they have to go back to work anyway.
I understand the American stance on parental leave: We afford you the right to take time off and preserve your job, but it’ll cost you. I know very few people who can afford the right to stay home for a full leave without pay. Moreover, I know even fewer babies who are ready to part from their mother at just a few weeks or even 3 months old. I guess it speaks to the value we place on family and raising the next generation with all the benefits we can in order to ensure their success. (And don’t get me started on the state of education in America- Oi.)
So bravo Professor Engleberg for supporting parents as they strive to improve themselves and pave a better road for their children. I hope the powers that be take note of how Israel supports parents, how teachers can support their students, and what changes can be made in the United States to support parents as they work, live, and raise the next generation- clearly we lag behind other industrialized nations in many ways.
To read a news article on this story, click here (Yahoo News) or here (Popsugar). And to read NPR’s coverage on paid leave, click here. Weigh in on your views on Maternity Leave in the US and across the world in the comments section below.