When Meghann Foye sugested that non-parents should be able to take “meternity leave” to get the “me time” that women receive during maternity leave, the response was swift and hostile. People have said that she’s “hurting the fight for paid family leave in this country,” that she can have “meternity leave” if she were to “bleed, not sleep, put your nipples in a shredder for the duration.”
Yes, I can see why people would be upset with Foye’s suggestion that maternity leave is similar to a sabbatical. But one fact that’s getting lost amid the angry responses is that Foye had to quit her job to take her “meternity leave” after her father died—presumably because her employers wouldn’t support her taking an extended period of time off to grieve.
As someone who’s written before that flexible working policies should be extended to all employees, not just parents, I believe that all employees’ personal lives matter. And in a changing society where many women are starting families much later or simply choosing not to have children, the argument that they just need to “wait their turn” to take advantage of maternity benefits no longer resonates.
Today’s realities mean that if you don’t have children, you don’t receive the benefit of time off for important personal life choices—and you also may be in the position of taking on more responsibility so that parents can take family leave and maintain flexible work schedules. As Foye suggested, grabbing a margarita with a friend who had a miserable first date is not typically seen as a valid a reason to leave on time, but picking up a child from daycare usually is. The underlying message is that my life choices—and those of all single employees—matter less than the choices of workers who have decided to procreate.
It’s not unreasonable to ask that employers and others in the workforce begin to imagine and build a system where spending time with friends and family and on meaningful personal pursuits is valued and encouraged. Where making sure that I’m able to make it to my 6 p.m. indoor-cycling class or my friend’s engagement celebration is prioritized and is not derailed by my being the only child-free person left in the office when a last-minute assignment comes in.
Read more: This Woman Wants People Without Children to Get Maternity Leave, Too
I applaud Foye for taking control of her life and dedicating time to herself. I just wish that it hadn’t been a choice she had to make alone and then defend. Rather, there should have been an employer-approved leave policy that showed support for her personal life and development.
Lara Levin is a public relations professional living, working, eating, thriving and Dogspotting in San Francisco.