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Paid Paternity Leave at Work

First off, I want to say that I am a full supporter of maternity leave for women. It makes complete logical sense that women should be given time off from work so they can spend time with their newborn baby. It is a civil rights issue at its very core.

Paid Maternity Leave is where it starts to get complicated, because then who is paying for it? Businesses? The government (taxpayers)? The nitty gritty of who pays for it isn't so much important to me as the issue of the VALUE of paid parental leave. I will come back to that later.

Smart corporations have long ago realized that having paid maternity leave is a great way to attract excellent and hardworking employees. People who might have offers from multiple corporations, and when comparing their options it looks a bit like this:

Corporation A:
Income: $200,000 annual salary.
Perks: Health, Dental, Pension, Stock Options

Corporation B:
Income: $200,000 annual salary.
Perks: Health, Dental, Pension, Stock Options, Paid Maternity Leave

Now for men, which one they choose would probably narrow down to money. But if the money is the same, it will be a bit of a coin toss as to which corporation the man chooses to work for.

A woman looking at the same options however, who is between 20 to 40 years old, will be looking at those options and thinking "Hey, that's awesome. This is a really progressive, smart company which values its female workers. I like that. I should go with them." She might never even get pregnant and use the paid maternity leave, but she has already made a decision to go with that corporation.

But what if there was a third corporation?

Corporation C:
Income: $200,000 annual salary.
Perks: Health, Dental, Pension, Stock Options, Paid Parental Leave

"Oooo!" says the man. "So if my wife gets pregnant then I get some time off to spend it with junior? That is awesome. I am definitely going with that company."

So in the Battle of the Corporation Perks, companies which offer the most perks get the most valuable employees. That is value added if the corporation can recruit employees who are better workers than the other workers doing the grunt work for the competition. It gives a competitive edge.

Last year (June 2015) Richard Branson announced that his international corporation Virgin was giving paid parental leave for a year, to any employee who has worked as Virgin Management for 4 or more years.

52 weeks, full salary, to anyone who has been a manager with the corporation for 4 years or more. Including fathers, not just mothers.

Now do you think for an instant that that kind of generosity is going to attract higher quality people to the corporation? You betcha.

And this isn't just a corporation issue. Whole countries are doing it too, which is why this is also a political issue.

Shared Parental Leave in the UK gives paid leave for 6 months, with salary ranging from 90% to £139.58 a week, whichever is lower.

Thus if a person is given an option of working in the USA or the UK or elsewhere, and they are comparing the perks of the different corporations that are based there, they are probably going to go with the country-corporation combo which offers the most perks.

Another thing countries can do is phase in paid maternity/paternity leave with government employees. By phasing the concept in and doing it for government workers first, the idea catches on with the private sector who is constantly competing with the public sector.

Think about it. If you could leave your current job and go to a better job overseas which has more perks, and you can take your family with you, you would probably take it right?

This is the 21st century dilemma. People are not so obsessed with money any more. Their primary focus is on attaining some kind of work-family balance which allows them to spend more time with family, and they are willing to take a pay cut so they have more time to relax with family.

Which means they are also more likely to move overseas if a corporation-country is offering better pay and a better life.

Obviously working in one of the blue countries is better than working in the red ones.
 In our increasingly globalized economy, the countries and corporations which offer the best perks are going to attract the best workers, offer those workers the most enjoyable experience / balance between family and work, and the chance to travel and live in new places doesn't seem so scary any more as more people are becoming willing to leave their home country and explore the vast global economy and its many opportunities.

But some countries are getting left behind. The two worst offenders are the USA and Papua New Guinea - that is right, the USA is tied with a country that most Americans don't even know where it is. Every other country in the world has some kind of paid maternity leave, and more and more are now also offering paid paternity leave too.

Well, what about other employees who are not managers?

Over time countries and corporations have been expanding these perks to more and more people, recognizing that the value it adds is more than the cost of paying for the paid leave. The politicians and pundits debate about who should get paid leave, how much time should they get, how much they should get paid per week, and where is this money coming from.

As time progresses more and more people are being the option of paid leave, including parents who adopt, same sex parents, and more. And it doesn't matter whether you are a manager or a janitor, you still get paid leave. (Obviously corporations usually give more perks to managers than they do to janitors.

The people who are really getting left behind are the contract workers, the people who are self-employed, the seasonal workers, etc. They cannot take time off the same way because they don't qualify for parental leave and instead some end up as burdens on the welfare system or they are "just working to pay the babysitter". They end up suffering more because they don't have the benefit of working for an actual corporation.

As someone who is self-employed, if my wife has a kid I know right now I will be spending a good chunk of my time taking care of the kid, cleaning the home, making food, and trying to do work in the spare moments when I am not bogged down by the tasks of parenting / cleaning / food preparation. If I run into money difficulties somehow, I might have to rely on government assistance.

Thus the whole issue of paid paternity leave / maternity leave is one that is not yet complete and doesn't help everyone yet. Lazy conservatives may complain about "welfare mothers", but the sad situation is that government assistance is needed in order to maintain some semblance of societal progress. Without it, you end up with homeless mothers, a higher abortion rate, a higher rate of child abandonment, higher rates of people giving their kids up for adoption, higher parental suicide rates, etc.

And while you are it, why do conservatives spend so much time defending "deadbeat dads" who get the women pregnant in the first place, but are nowhere to be seen when it is time to pay the bills.

Years ago a friend of mine explored anti-feminist websites and determined that most of the complaints on such websites were issues about child support and spousal support. Ergo, it was men complaining about the fact that they didn't want to help pay the bills for the children they fathered. Deadbeat dads. So their primary complaint wasn't really about feminists, it was about the government forcing them to pay child/spousal support.

As someone who is looking forward to fatherhood I look at the deadbeat dads with disgust.

Paid Maternity Leave is basically one way that the government and corporations are helping women to cope with a society that often leaves them holding the baby.

Paid Paternity Leave allows the women to go back to work, while dads finally gets to do his equal share and help care for the kids too by being a hands-on father who is actually there when the child needs him.

If I was eligible for paid parental leave, I would totally take it. While browsing this topic I also found this website: http://www.canadastop100.com/family/ which has a list of the top family friendly employers in Canada. Makes me wish I worked for one of those corporations.

I should also mention that my sister and her husband are now expecting, so I could end up at various points taking care of my niece/nephew plus my own kid on a regular basis. The two cousins can go on playdates together to the park / petting zoos / the beach / etc. That should save the wife/myself and my sister/her husband money on daycare...

Canada's Daycare Crisis

Government Supported Daycare is an important issue for many Canadians. Some Canadians however disagree on the issue of daycare, mostly because they dislike the idea of taxpayers paying for it.

Like healthcare, education and the economy, universal daycare is one of those issues that is being recognized as an economic issue which benefits working families. It allows families to leave their young children, usually between the ages of 1 and 5, with a daycare provider and the government helps pay for the costs of the daycare.

Recently I learned what a local daycare in my neighbourhood charges for their monthly services... Here is what they charge per month:

AGE
MONTHLY
DAILY

INFANTS


$1,820.00

$84.00

TODDLERS


$1,650.00

$77.00

PRE-SCHOOL


$1,280.00

$60.00

And I was like, whoa! $1,820 per month for an infant???!!! (I also said: Wow. I am in the wrong business...)

I was also amused by the $15 per meal that the daycare charges for lunches. I have the impression that my local daycare is more upscale/expensive than the average daycare*.

Thankfully the government does pay for a chunk of that $21,840 per year, but it made me realize why some people choose to get nannies instead. Depending on how many kids a person has, the nanny might actually be cheaper.

Doing the math it makes you realize that staying home to take care of your infant for the first year / 18 months doesn't seem so bad. It is when they become a toddler or pre-schooler that daycare starts to look more reasonable.

* As mentioned further above, I think my local daycare is more expensive than the average daycare in Toronto. I checked and determined that the average monthly cost of daycare for toddlers is $1,324 per month. Other areas around the GTA average barely above $1,000 per month.

Across Canada, Toronto has the most expensive daycares, whereas Quebec is the province with the least expensive. Why is Quebec cheaper? Because Quebec has capped the cost of daycare at $174 per month across all age groups and the rest is covered by government subsidies.

The other problem with Canada's Daycares is Waiting Lists.

Some waiting lists are so long it could take years before a spot opens up.

Each daycare can only take in so many kids, and once filled parents have to sign up for a waiting list. That means if there are only two local daycares and they are both full to capacity, that a parent might have to drive pretty far just to drop their kid off at daycare.

For example years ago I dated a single mother who lived in Scarborough, but she would take her 4-year-old with her to work every day in downtown Toronto to drop him off at a daycare and then speedwalk to work at the TD Bank...

Why? Because all the local daycares in Scarborough were either too expensive or had a waiting list, the TD Bank didn't have a daycare for employees, and the daycare she found downtown was close enough that she could walk there after work to pick her kid up.

So therein lies the problem...

Canada has too few daycares, those that do exist are expensive and have waiting lists, and not all the provinces have such a wonderful system as Quebec does.

Makes me want to move to Quebec, although the waiting list problem is still an issue there.

It is therefore no surprise that the birthrate in Canada and the USA is so low.

Canada - 10.28 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
USA - 12.49 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Now you might think that seems okay, until you see what the death rate is and how dependent Canada and the USA have become on immigrants. Couple that with higher birthrates for immigrant families, and you realize people born in North America just are not having that many kids when it comes time to do so.

And there are many reasons for that.
  • Too much student debt causes people to delay having kids.
  • Too much debt period, whether it be car loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc.
  • Lack of government support for families, in the form of daycare, paid parental leave, tax benefits for working parents, etc.
  • Poor economic conditions makes people more hesitant about having children or multiple children.
Many other western countries (eg. France, England, etc) are also having the same problem. The birthrate is so low that it is ultimately hurting the economy over the longer term and making countries dependent on immigrants to maintain population growth / economic growth.

What that tells you is that Canada/USA needs to be doing more to promote people to start having more kids. Most of Canada is actually underpopulated and is only using a fraction of Canada's economic potential.

CONCLUSIONS - THE VALUE OF SUPPORTING FAMILIES

Decades ago some countries would realize they were in dire straights when it came to their population and would actually pay people to have more children. (Which is the opposite of what China does with their One Child Policy, which taxes people for having multiple kids.)

So whether they are supporting families via payments per kids, paid parental leave, universal government subsidized daycare, or other policies to promote kids being born, the ultimate effect is that over the longer term these actions boost the economy.

So the next time you hear someone complain about "paid paternity leave", "child support", or "free daycare" gently remind them that those government policies are actually the boosting the economy. They are planting seeds so that future generations will be wealthier.

Phobias and Waiting until the Wedding Night

I heard a funny story recently of a man and a woman who agreed not to have sex until after they were married. It wasn't for religious reasons, they both had their own reasons, but they never got around to explaining to each other why they were against having sex until their marriage night.

The husband as it turns out had an unusual phobia. Medomalacuphobia, which is the fear of losing an erection. Apparently he had been so embarrassed about it at some point that he had long since decided to avoid having sex until after he was married.

Unfortunately the wife had her own reason for wanting to wait until after they were married. She was petrified of the idea. She also had a phobia, Medorthophobia, which is the fear of seeing an erect penis.


So he was afraid of losing his erection and being embarrassed, and she was afraid of seeing erections.

The first coupling was reportedly awkward and there was a lot of explaining that happened.

Fortunately it worked out for both of them. They simply turned the lights off so the wife never saw it, and he was blessed without the embarrassment of her ever seeing it if he did lose his "momentum" in the darkness - and should she ever see it in the un-erect form, well, she was okay with that. Just so long as she didn't see it erect.

They both lived happily ever after.


Man's Best Friend's Brain at Work

In the 30,000+ years humans and dogs have lived together, man's best friend has only become a more popular and beloved pet. By 2016, dogs are a fixture in almost 50% of American households.

From the way dogs thump their tails, invade our laps and steal our pillows, it certainly seems like they love us back. But since dogs can't tell us what's really going on inside their furry heads, can we ever be truly certain how they feel about us?

Actually, yes. Thanks to recent developments in brain imaging technology, we're starting to get a better picture of the happenings inside the canine cranium.

Scientists are studying the dog brains and how they react to different stimuli. And what the studies show is welcome news for all dog owners: Not only do dogs seem to love us back, they actually see us as family. It turns out that dogs rely on humans more than they do other dogs for affection, protection and food - and this translates into a very strong emotional bond. They see humans as the alpha leaders of a pack, and thus consider humans to be family.


The most direct dog brain-based evidence showing that they are hopelessly devoted to humans comes from a recent neuro-imaging study about odour processing in the dog brain. Animal cognition scientists at Emory University trained dogs to lie still in an MRI machine and used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure their neural responses to the smell of people and dogs, both familiar and unknown. Because dogs navigate the world through their noses, the way they process smell offers a lot of potential insight into social behaviour.

The scientists found that dog owners' aroma actually sparked activation in the "reward center" of their brains, called the caudate nucleus. Of all the wafting smells to take in, dogs actually prioritized the hint of humans over anything or anyone else.

These results jibe with other canine neuro-imaging research. In Budapest, researchers at Eotvos Lorand University studied canine brain activity in response to different human and dog sounds, including voices, barks and the meaningful grunts and sighs both species emit. Before this study, we had no idea what happens inside canine brains when humans make noise.

Among other surprising findings, the study revealed marked similarities in the way dog and human brains process emotionally laden vocal sounds. Researchers found that happy sounds in particular light up the auditory cortex in both species. This commonality speaks to the uniquely strong communication system underlying the dog-human bond.

Thus we have learned the following: Dogs don't just seem to pick up on our subtle mood changes - they are actually physically wired to pick up on them. They have evolved to be able to sense human mood changes.


"It's very interesting to understand the tool kit that helps such successful vocal communication between two species," Attila Andics, a neuroscientist and lead author of the study, told Mic. "We didn't need neuro-imaging to see that communication works [between dogs and people], but without it, we didn't understand why it works. Now we're really starting to."

Behaviour research supports the recent neuroscience too. According to Andics, dogs interact with their human caregivers in the same way babies do their parents. When dogs are scared or worried, they run to their owners, just as distressed toddlers make a beeline for their parents. This is in stark contrast to other domesticated animals: Petrified cats, as well as horses, will run away from a threat.

Dogs are also one of the few non-primate animals to look people in the eyes. This is something Andics, along with other researchers, discovered about a decade ago when he studied the domestication of wolves, which he thought would share that trait. They endeavoured to raise wolves like dogs. This is a unique behaviour between dogs and humans — dogs seek out eye contact from people, but not their biological dog parents.

"Bonding with owners is much more important for dogs than other pets," said Andics.

Scientists have also looked at the dog-human relationship from the other direction. As it turns out, people reciprocate dogs' strong feelings. In a study published in PLOS One in October, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers measured human brain activity in response to photos of dogs and children. Study participants were women who'd had dogs and babies for at least two years. Both types of photos sparked activity in brain regions associated with emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social interaction. Basically, both furry and (typically) less-furry family members make us equally happy.

Dog-lovers have committed a few notable gaffes in interpreting dogs' facial expressions, e.g., assuming the often-documented hangdog look signifies guilt, an emotion that, most behaviour experts agree, requires a multifaceted notion of self-awareness that dogs probably don't have.

But, as with family, our instinctive hunches about dog behaviour are often correct.

"Sometimes our intuition about what's going on inside dogs' heads is dead-on," said Laurie Santos, the lead researcher at Yale's Canine Cognition Center. "Like, that dogs are seeking out help from us — and that's true based on studies — which is different from even their closest relatives, wolves."

The precise wish or worry lurking in a dog's doleful look may not always be clear. But we can relish the fact that we know our dogs love us as much as we hoped, maybe even more.

Now if we can just figure out how to herd cats, the world would be a better place.

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