Major League Baseball has its first tiff of the season, but it’s not among players. It’s not because someone got hit by a pitch, or because someone slid into second base with their cleats too high. What happened was much more sinister: Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy missed his second game of the season Wednesday night while on paternity leave.
Oh sure. You don’t think that it’s a big deal. But according to professional meathead WFAN radio hosts Craig Carton and (former NFL quarterback) Boomer Esiason, Murphy’s time home with his newborn is nothing short of a waste of time. One of these sweethearts would actually rather see his wife undergo surgery than miss Opening Day.
Plenty of athletes in every sport take paternity leave. But those athletes are eating crazy wafers, according to Esiason and Carton.
Here’s the segment (partial transcript to follow):
Carton, who’s “got four of these little rugrats,” has this to say about Murphy’s leave:
It’s one thing obviously when you want to be there for the birth of your child – which every one of us supported 100%. Murphy misses Opening Day, what’s the reason? His wife’s in labor…nobody can argue that, right? But, now, to me, and this is just my sensibility – assuming the birth went well, assuming your wife is fine, assuming the baby is fine – 24 hours. You stay there, the baby’s good, you have a good support system for the mom and the baby…you get your ass back to your team and you play baseball. That’s my take on it. There’s nothin’ you can do anyway – you’re not breastfeedin’ the kid.
Now, initially, Esiason sounds like he’s going to support Murphy’s decision, replying with (a smirk, and) “but he’s got legal rights to be there if he wants to be there.”
But then it becomes so much worse when Esiason says:
“Bottom line, that’s not me. Quite frankly, I would have said ‘c-section before the season starts, I need to be at Opening Day.’ I’m sorry, this is what makes our money, this is how we’re gonna live our life, this is gonna give my child every opportunity to be a success in life, I’ll be able to afford any college I wanna send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”
WHAT?! Demanding that your wife have a risky surgery in which they literally take out part of her guts and pull a baby out of her and then sew her back together – just so you can play Opening Day – doesn’t seem right. That’s not getting fatherhood off to a rousing start. And what would Boomer have done and felt if his wife had died on the table during childbirth? Oh sure, Boomer – c-sections only account for a “0.3% increased risk of a major adverse maternal outcome in the first pregnancy” - but what if your wife is one of that however small percentage? The rate goes up for subsequent kids, and I’m sure a dude like Boomer wouldn’t mind asking his wife to do him a solid more than once. “C’mon babe, it’s Opening Day!”
“…it crosses the line to suggest that someone have an un-needed major surgery, with all of the attendant risks to mother and baby, to uphold some outdated model of masculinity,” says blogger Scott Behson. “Simply disgusting.” Behson’s Fathers, Work and Family site tackles these kinds of issues all of the time. Behson applauds the MLB for helping its players be involved in their kids’ lives, and even interviewed a rep from Labor Relations within the MLB for the 2011 decision to give players paternity leave.
“The first few days of my children’s lives were ones that I wouldn’t trade for a million dollars,” adds blogger Jason Greene. “…did my wife ‘need’ me to be there? You would have to ask her, but I needed to be there.” Greene’s daughter was in the NICU for eight days after birth.
Greene continues: “Those first few days set the groundwork for the rest of my parenting life. I was involved and will always be involved. And in those moments when I’m frustrated with my daughter, all I need to do is remember holding her blue body in my arms as she was hooked up to tubes and machines to bring me back to earth.”
The radio hosts just don’t get it. Boomer Esiason should, considering his son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age two. Boomer created the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which has raised over $100 million for research and given scholarship grants to cystic fibrosis patients. You’d think a guy like this, who’s doing all sorts of good, would understand spending as many moments with your kid as possible.
Carton and Esiason weren’t the first to cut into Murphy for his paternity leave. Mike Francesa, another WFAN host, was both at a loss for words, and
“You see the birth and you get back,” Francesa said, during his 22-minute take on the issue. “Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days.”
Francesa continues with other zingers:
“What are you supposed to be doing? Vacationing?”
“What are you gonna do? Sit there and look at your look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?”
“You’re a Major League Baseball player – hire a nurse.”
“Harrison was born at 9am…I was here at 1.”
“I’d rather go out and get a couple of hits.”
“That’s a scam and a half.”
“What a gimmick.”
“What a scam that is.”
Francesa is so cute, calling it “maternity leave” the entire time (his producer corrects him at the 14:50). There you go – that’s why he doesn’t understand the issue. He won’t even call it “paternity leave.” If he admits that paternity is a thing, then he might understand why men feel that it’s important to take the time to participate in it.
Even Francesa’s callers disagree with him – defending Murphy’s decision not only to be involved with his son’s birth, but to enjoy the first moments of his kid’s life.
Listen to Francesa bumble for 22 minutes here:
Murphy has defended his paternity leave (which no man should have to do) in an article on ESPN, saying that it was “the right decision to make.”
Look, I worked in an office some years ago where the men were allowed by law, of course, to take paternity leave, but they sure weren’t encouraged. The men in the office – even the higher-ups – would call you a “pussy” or “pussywhipped” for wanting to be there for the Opening Day of your kids’ lives, and to help around the house and enjoy time with your newborn. Sure, it was some meathead joke in the hallways and guys could “easily” shrug it off and fire back with an insult. But that’s not good enough. We need a society that takes care of fathers.
Coincidentally, dads in Sweden get – you ready? – 480 of paid paternity leave. Four hundred and eighty! And, maybe this is related, maybe it’s not, but the 2013 European Social Survey found that Swedish women were most happy with their partners when it came to helping around the house. It sounds to me like when you take care of your employees, those employees take care of their families. Everyone wins.
The United States has no paid paternity leave, and the details of unpaid paternity leave vary state to state. So, you know, that leaves us with guys like Francesa, Esiason and Carton.