I recently drove four seventh graders to a school activity. On the way there they discussed their health teacher’s upcoming open adoption of a baby, the teacher’s maternity leave, and her husband’s paternity leave. The dad was going to take the first parental leave so the teacher could finish out the quarter, and then the teacher would take a quarter off to be home with the baby too. This group of kids had lots of comments and questions about their teacher’s situation. However, I know we’re making feminist progress with family leave issues and work because of what these 12 and 13 year olds didn’t say:
1) While they were confused by what to call it when a dad stays home with a baby (“Is it BATERNITY or PATERNITY leave?”) no one suggested that a dad couldn’t take care of a baby by himself.
2) No one suggested that the teacher was a bad mom for not immediately being home with the baby.
3) No one suggested that it was selfish of the teacher to take a quarter off or that she shouldn’t be paid for this leave.
4) They all knew what open adoption meant. No one suggested at open adoption was “weird” or that adoption was a lesser way of making a family.