‘Meternity’ leave for childless women not as ridiculous as it sounds – Miami Herald

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Ask any parent for an analogy for caring for a new baby, and vacation isn’t likely to be one of them. Acclimating to the life of sleepless nights, dirty diapers, endless laundry and no social life is a far cry from sitting on a beach with a pink-umbrellaed cocktail and good book working on your tan.

But “Meternity” novelist Meghann Foye, 38, seems to think maternity leave is a time for relaxation and reflection. She argues that even those without kids should be allowed “a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs.”

Rebecca Traister, author of “All the Single Ladies,” a recent book exploring the growing population of women who chose to neither marry nor have kids, said Foye has a legitimate point that women without children are often assumed to have no lives outside their job, and therefore are expected to work more.

“Having been an unmarried woman in an office for many, many years and then having been a married woman and having kids, I have been on lots of sides of this. Never have I been treated as respectfully as when I went on my honeymoon,” Traister said. “We need paid time off for people for reasons other than taking honeymoons and having babies, and that’s not to say that time that we take off for those things is silly or spa-like … I think the easy assumption that maternity leave is just a vacation was probably a mistake and likely to enrage lots of parents struggling through the early weeks and months with a new baby.”

Traister said Foye is getting flack for the “cavalier” way in which she referred to maternity leave as a rosy time to recoup from stressful work environments. Foye is wrong to assume that access to maternity leave is the norm, Traister said, when in fact many Americans — both women and men — do not have access to paid leave to care for a new baby or a sick relative.

The “All the Single Ladies” author says single women are often cast as “selfish” because the focus of their lives is not caring for a married partner or children.

“The characterization of selfishness when you are trying to care for yourself and trying to make a life that is healthy and satisfying and to pursue your goals and stay sane, it’s just so easy to write it off as a cartoon of ‘me me me me me me,’” Trasiter said. “We don’t value the very full, robust, complicated, vexing lives of single women enough. That we don’t consider them full and complicated enough, that we don’t afford them much needed time for their own health, for their own wellbeing and that we don’t make imaginative space for the kind of responsibility they have outside of the workplace.”

Foye told Good Morning America she has “tremendous respect for moms” but couldn’t help but feel they weren’t working as hard as everyone else in the office where she worked as an editor. She had her own version of “meternity” after saving up money and quitting her job to start a freelance writing career. She used the time to write her first novel for which the term was coined, about a woman who fakes a pregnancy to get paid time off work to “figure out her life.”

“Ultimately, what I learned from my own ‘meternity’ leave is that any pressure I felt to stay late at the office wasn’t coming from the parents on staff. It was coming from myself. Coming back to a new position, I realized I didn’t need an ‘excuse’ to leave on time,” Foye wrote in the New York Post. “ And that’s what I would love the take-away for my book to be: Work-life balance is tough for everyone, and it happens most when parents and nonparents support and don’t judge each other.”

‘Meternity’ leave for childless women not as ridiculous as it sounds – Miami Herald