Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason's evident dismay over New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy's audacious decision to take a few days off early in the season to spend time with his wife and newborn child is yet more proof that pro sports today is as much about eye-rolling "color" commentary as it is the brief spurts of athleticism on the field. Baseball games are only a few hours long, leaving hours upon hours of airtime available for paid talkers to produce cringe-worthy commentary.
Tempting as it is to dismiss Esiason's silly, sexist words with a well-deserved "who asked you" (Murphy's wife should have had the good sense to schedule a C-section before Opening Day? A father really only has to be there for childbirth? Please), I can't.
As a father of young twins who juggles full-time work with caring for new humans, it's hard not to detect the fading cultural sensibility underpinning Esiason's criticism that sadly is still reflected in our weak labor protection for new parents. Federal law generously provides certain (read: not all) workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, probably to cover the cost of breast milk. Those of us fortunate enough to work in California are entitled to six weeks of partially paid leave covered by the state, although the money is certainly not enough to persuade a full-time worker to go on the government dole for good.
And similarly well-developed nations? Read this, and try not to wish your grandparents hadn't left the old country.
As a Major League Baseball player, Murphy is entitled to three days of paternity leave. He didn't ask for special treatment, even though Esiason and others might wonder what it is about a newborn child and a wife who just went through childbirth that would make a man skip the sacrament of Opening Day.
Sure, new fathers like myself can't give birth or breastfeed, but many of us refuse to plead anatomy and acquit ourselves of child-rearing. I was useless as far as milk production was concerned, but my wife appreciated having another adult -- who didn't have to drive to work in the morning -- suffer frequent night awakenings with her while she half-consciously breastfed our premature, underweight twins. Too few of us are lucky enough to have a government or an employer understand this need; I was, and so is Murphy.
As for any decision a father or mother makes that doesn't rise to abuse or neglect, Esiason and pretty much everyone else would be wise to adapt a rule often attributed to Ronald Reagan for dealing with his rivals in the Republican Party: Speak no ill of fellow parents.
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