I can't say enough about all the recent attention regarding parental leave and the companies expanding opportunities for new mothers and fathers to spend critical time with their newborns.
Recognizing the importance of new parents being able to bond with their children speaks volumes…about the fact that families matter in our society and that companies are focusing on establishing family-friendly cultures. All good stuff (and smart business) and steps that are long overdue, a comment I can comfortably make having been in the work/life arena since the late 90s and can see where progress has been made.
The reality, however, is that there are millions of working parents whose parental leave needs are not being met. Or even addressed. Those with elementary-aged, teens, or college-aged children. Anyone who thinks managing a child during the terrible-twos compares with a child struggling in school or life need not try to even compare. Plus, the point isn't to say one is more difficult than the other as both create sleepless nights and gray hair, but to open the lens — and discussion — to recognize that the needs of working parents don't stop at several months. Or at age 5.
There is nothing more important than establishing a solid foundation for a parent and child during the early years. I could barely stand to leave my child as a newborn or toddler myself, and I was self-employed at the time so didn't have the restrictions and limitations that face many parents. These were glorious years, yet these babies and toddlers grows into children and young adults and the issues are as complex as they are.
As every parent will tell you, parenting is lifelong and the challenges intensify as our children get older. The issues facing kids today are nothing like they were when we were growing up, and this requires parents to be more…involved, engaged, vigilant, accessible…present. All we need to do is look at the numbers of children, teens, and young adults struggling in any number of ways — with autism, depression, ADHD, cyberbullying, anxiety — and the facts are clear.
I applaud every company that provides on-site childcare, maternity massages, lactation rooms, and “flying nannies” (yes…and here's the article about it), yet until companies recognize that parenting and the needs of working parents are for decades vs. years, we're only seeing a small part of the picture and sorely missing the mark. Parental leave for new parents is wonderful. For veteran parents, it's essential.
This piece was originally published here.