Haha, April Fools!
The wife and I had some serious conversations in advance of the White House's forum on Workplace Flexibility. For one thing, she has worked at the White House and organized a deeply substantive yet highly photogenic presidential event. For another, the only forum participant we could find mentioned beforehand was Dooce.
Now it's nothing against Heather--we came up at the same time in the parentblogging world, her husband John and I were in our first dadblog news story together, she invited me to write an essay for her first book, etc. etc.--to point out the presence and tone of the country's most impassioned momblogger did not signal a White House agenda geared toward major policy announcements.
The forum, clearly, was designed to bring attention to the issues of work and family balance--and in that respect, inviting Dooce was a brilliant idea, mainlining the forum straight into the veins of her millions of mommy followers. But the White House saw that spotlight-training as the extent of their job--or at least, as the only thing they can do right now.
And what about that substance? At Birth To Thrive, Paul Nyhan emphasized the impact of flexible and affordable childcare solutions on parental productivity. Brian at Rebel Dad was looking for leave options, particularly paid sick leave and maternity/paternity leave.
So how'd it turn out? From Brian's assessment, I'm sad to say it succeeded wildly at achieving its substance-free objectives. It got a lot of attention, but there were no policies or legislative anythings. Not even for federal employees or federal contractors. Did you know federal employees have no paid maternity leave at all? Zero. When they have a baby, they cobble together sick days and vacation, and their colleagues pool together and donate a few more sick days to them. Don't even start with paternity leave.
And that's Brian's other, more damning point: the White House Forum got its Workplace Flexibility message out alright, but it's the wrong damn message. From the opening statement through all of the media coverage so far, work-life balance is considered a woman's issue. For moms. And female employees. Dads are entirely tangential, the secondhand smoke sufferers of parenting policy.
"Workplace flexibility isn't just a women's issue. It's an issue that affects the well-being of our families and the success of our businesses," said President Obama. Which means it is a women's issue. What's the corollary to women? Families and business, not men.
As Brian has argued persuasively for way too many years, until dads are seen as central to the parent-work issue--until work-family balance stops being a "just a women's issue"--nothing's really going to change. Normally, I'm happy to agree with Rebel Dad, but it really bums me out this time: this White House thing was an opportunity lost.
Thoughts on Workplace Flexibility [rebeldad]
White House Tackles Workplace Flexibility. Child Care Key Piece of the Puzzle [birth to thrive]