The Netflix employee benefit that just may get us talking.
I am completely biased. I know it’s true. I grew up in a rustbelt economy in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania predominantly in two counties, Cambria and Somerset County, that have been stagnant for decades. Neither my grandparents, nor my parents, had any special perks during any of their working lives. My grandmother worked in terrible conditions sewing sleeves in a shirt factory and my mother worked at a small town insurance office. Taking time off (for any reason) was a big deal.
Fate had some interesting plans for me, and I moved to Canada when I was 18 years old. At first I was shocked by how completely spoiled rotten Canadians had it with their universal healthcare and their 1 year national paid parental leave. Its just not the dog-eat-dog society I, or any American for that matter, was raised in. I did not respect it, at first blush, feeling my ego swell as the American who understood true sacrifices, unlike those polite, pampered Canadians I found myself living amongst, but I’ve come to appreciate the positive impact this has had on society here and there is certainly something to be said for a conversation that Americans need to engage in.
This upcoming March, after my child is born, I will have one year of parental leave available to me and my husband. The pay is not great (I will be maxed out at $524 weekly) but it is certainly not starvation wages for someone living a middle-class lifestyle within their means. Sure, my budget will be tight, but I have sorted it out. I would also be permitted to earn up to an extra $200 per month separately, without it affecting my benefit and my spouse of course will continue to work full time so that we continue benefitting from two incomes. I could elect to split the year with my spouse as we see fit. If, for example, I want to spend the first 9 months home with our child and take care of the important act of nourishing my baby, then give Daddy a great opportunity to bond for the last three months with a a baby that is a little more manageable in terms of his ability to supplement solid foods into baby’s diet, once dominated by milk, we can do that. Allowing either parent also provides flexibility for families where one income earner makes significantly more and cannot afford to take the income “hit” for long, as it would make more sense for the lower income earner to do so, if finances were an issue. You can also abstain from utilizing the benefit, so really, the choice is completely designed to support whatever best works for the family. I may simply go back to work after 8 months to help my income rebound quicker.
So why is this a good thing, again? There is a domino effect of positivity. You have a society of children who are brought into the world bonding with their parents during the day instead of being carted to the babysitter’s fresh out of the womb. Given the fact few families can survive on one income today, particularly after bringing another person into the world, this keeps people’s careers progressing forward as their job must be held for their return. Fathers get an opportunity previous generations could only dream of and can not only develop a strong sense of appreciation for what goes into raising a child, but what countless previous generations of mothers were expected to experience (mostly) on their own. I can’t think of a more empowering way to connect men to the lives of their children from such a critical, young age.
We talk about absent Fathers but why do we do nothing to offer meaningful support to the American family? Why does nearly every other prosperous nation have meaningful paid parental leave and Americans insist on driving their worth further and further into the ground? Netflix may be one employer in the grand scheme of American companies, but there is bound to be a conversation and that is one I am proud to partake in if it means empowering the parents of a nation that have been told for far too long that there is money for everything but the things that matter most to them. Americans think Canadians must have higher taxes and yet the difference is minimal, at best, the median family income is a full $20,000 higher and property values are significantly higher. There is no doubt that a strong social safety net and a focus on investing in families has a positive economic payoff. The magic lies in striking a balance. Would you sacrifice say 10% of Pentagon spending to give families the best start, or not? I truly hope that the decision by Netflix is one that gets us talking because this is a conversation America needs to have, and very would could have had twenty years ago.