This just in from The China Daily: the labor bureau is deliberating whether to give fathers in Hong Kong paternity leave. Granted, Chinese fathers currently get none, but this is a high-water mark for a wave of paternity law change that’s crashing on shores worldwide. A couple weeks ago, South Korea changed its employment laws to give male workers five days paternity leave. Australia recently loosened its guidelines as well.
The U.S. policy on paternity leave (no paid leave; take unpaid leave at your own professional risk) isn’t going to change anytime soon, so add this to the growing list of things China is outpacing us on (economic growth, jobs, manufacturing, science and technology, education).
To get more time with our families, we’re going to have to be craftier. That’s when it came to me: When can you miss work and no one says anything about it? Religious holidays.
Religion (look left, look right, look for dangling piano overhead) offers the perfect opportunity to get extra QT with your kids. But which one to choose? Here’s a breakdown of a few faiths and sects to consider.
WICCA. Giveth Me the Skinny: Wicca, or Witchcraft, is an earth religion, meaning its beliefs are based in the forces of nature and the universe. Their divine leaders are gods and goddesses, including the triple Goddess of the waxing, full and waning moon. The Pro-eth: You worship cool things like the moon, the sea and the trees. Goodnight Moon and The Giving Tree take on deeper meaning at bedtime. The Con-eth: Wiccans often plan large projects, like planting hundreds of trees to offset forest depletion. Just writing that made me exhausted. And on Every Day Possible, He Rested: As far as getting out of work, Wicca has major celebrations for the turning of the seasons (winter equinox, summer solstice, autumn equinox and spring solstice) and for Lughnassadh, the turning point for Mother Earth’s year. There is a pre-harvest festival in which the last herbs are gathered. To ease your bosses into your new religion, give them traditional Wiccan amulets made from feathers, nuts and beads. Rating: Two out of four karmas.
JUDAISM. Giveth me the Skinny: A faith as old as Genesis and Exodus, Judaism teaches modern day life lessons while staying grounded in tradition. In other words, it’s old skool. The Pro-eth: Cool celeb parents like Jack Black, Jon Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Adam Sandler. The Con-eth: Jewish law says any man falsely accusing his wife of not being a virgin must be flogged and pay her father one hundred sela. Flavor-wise, unleavened bread could use some leavening. And on Every Day Possible, He Rested: Jewish holidays are aplenty, and government institutions and swimsuit calendars alike recognize them. There are approximately 20; the list includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Hanukkah. The bris (circumcision ceremony) is held eight days after baby’s birth, so depending on timing, that’s another day you won't spend staring at a paper-jammed copier. Rating: Four out of four karmas.
BUDDHISM. Giveth Me the Skinny: After much fasting and meditation, Siddhartha goes through a metamorphosis and reemerges as Buddha. He puts together the Five Precepts of Buddhism, which are 1. Do not kill 2. Do not steal 3. Do not engage in sexual activity 4. Do not lie and 5. Do not take drugs or drink intoxicants. The Pro-eth: Get to act special at benefit concerts. The Con-eth: It’s not a family-centered religion. After all, Siddhartha forsook his obligations as a son, husband, and father to pursue enlightenment. And on Every Day Possible, He Rested: Like Wicca, many Buddist holidays revolve around lunar activity. Holidays include the Tibetan New Year on March 5th (might dovetail nicely with that spring break trip to Panama City Beach), Buddha’s birthday (April 8th), and Enlightenment of the Buddha (December 8th). There are also four monthly holidays: full moon, half moon and two quarter moons. Your boss’ general confusion should earn you at least a few of these off. Rating: Three out of four karmas.
CATHOLICISM. Giveth Me the Skinny: It embodies all the Christian beliefs (Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Ten Commandments), and observes them regularly in stoic yet highly ornamented ceremonies. The Pro-eth: Wine served at church. A heavy rotation of standing, kneeling and sitting during services, commonly known as “Catholic Aerobics.” (Great for busy parents looking to shape up.) The Con-eth: Divorce is considered sacrilege. Purgatory. And on Every Day Possible, He Rested: A meager two days off during the year (Easter and Christmas). Add one more if you schedule a christening during the week. Rating: Two out of four karmas.
No matter what the laws state, American parents will find creative ways to spend more time at home. Forty-nine percent of moms use sick days, vacation days, and disability leave to extend their maternity leave. Paid family leave has been shown to reduce infant mortality by as much as 20 percent. In Sweden, it's actually illegal for men to take less than two months paternity leave; that country also has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. The U.S. ranks 33rd in that category.
When it comes to competing with China, the story doesn’t begin at the workplace or in the classroom. The story begins where the story begins.