Thursday, November 22, 2012

Humanitarian

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I figured there aren't going to be many people online today, what with all the turkey making. So I decided to take a break from my usual stories and post something that I found... interesting. I figure I won't get bombed with comments since it's a holiday and all.

I made a post on Mothers in Medicine yesterday about whether people with small kids should get preference for having specific holidays off in jobs that require people to work holidays. My argument was yes, mostly because you can just as easily see family or friends on Jan 25 as you can on Dec 25, but there's less flexibility when it comes to schools or daycares being closed and people with kids having to scramble for reliable childcare.

Just to be clear, I absolutely wasn't trying to say that a parent should get every holiday off and a non-parent should work every holiday or anything close to that... but if everyone gets, say, three holidays off and the parent says they really need Christmas off due to not being able to find anyone to help watch their child, that should receive preference. I'd feel the same way if someone was caring for an elderly or disabled relative. As a society, I think we should try to provide flexibility for these people who need it, or else risk driving them out of the workforce entirely.

However, putting all that aside for a minute... one person argued that while you could see family and friends on any day, if you want to go to the Christmas church services, that can only be done ON CHRISTMAS. And that is just as legitimate an excuse as having nobody to watch your kid that day.

This argument struck me more than anything. I respect people who value religion and find comfort in their faith. But at the same time, don't most churches teach you to be a humanitarian? Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. But would you really feel worse about yourself if you had to miss church than if you, say, forced a single mom to have to scramble for childcare for her small children because you were in church? Is a good Christian someone who goes to church on Christmas or helps a parent be with their small children during Christmas?

I feel like an attitude like this is all about following some kind of mantra and not about caring for your fellow human beings. It's like politicians who restrict abortions and at the same time, cut off funding to poor, single mothers. I think you should practice what you preach.

176 comments:

  1. I think that it is presumptuous to suggest that one person's childcare concerns are more important than another person's religious beliefs and observances. Sure, it would "humanitarian" if people put their own religious observances aside to aid a single mother in need, but I don't think you can impose your value system on other people and expect them to accept it.

    People without children end up covering for their coworkers with small children in other ways throughout the year, whether staying late to organize a meeting so that their colleague can pick up their child from daycare, or working to complete extra tasks when their colleague has to stay home with a sick child.

    While it is certainly true that a non-parent can get together with friends any day of the week, on Christmas and Holidays, many people have friends and family gather from OUT OF TOWN to celebrate and be together. Those gatherings are not easily replicable if your family is spread across the country.

    I don't think a blanket rule giving parents preference for holidays is appropriate or acceptable. Perhaps work-place sponsored childcare for the holidays for employees that have to work is more realistic...

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    1. I have two kids and I *never* ask people to cover me throughout the year for child-related reasons. I don't think that's a fair assumption.

      I would, however, be happy if work provided childcare on holidays. That's an excellent idea.

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    2. I practiced medicine for 35 years; some of them with children, others obviously without; with partners both with and without children. If I discovered one thing, it is that partnerships only work if there is mutual respect. Not "my needs (childcare, holidays, income, time off, whatever) are more important than the other person's". It is that simple. We made up years' worth of rotating holiday (three summer, three winter) schedules far in advance. Anyone, in any working relationship, who insists that his/her needs for any given holiday are more important than anyone else's is asking for trouble.

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    3. ^ well said. A blanket rule is far too simplistically putting things for the real world with complex and varied factors in each issue.

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  2. Religion generally includes both ritual and ethical requirements for members. Very few religions prioritize the ethical over the ritual to the extent that you suggest. Service to the deity is generally just as requires as service to your fellow human. So I'd say that making it to services for a holiday might be just as important to someone as being with your kids is for you.

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    1. I always thought better of religious people, that they might be better humanitarians because that's what Jesus taught. Maybe not.

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    2. "I always thought better of religious people"
      This is a common problem. People think that being religious makes a person better regardless of the frequent intolerance to other religions. Why should it matter what religion a politician like the President is? Why couldn't they do the job even if they were atheist?

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  3. I have 2 older children now, but when I went through residency, I was single, with no family for 2000 miles. I understand the idea of wanting to be with your children for the holidays. However, I also wanted to be with my family for the holidays, and I was far more lonely on a day-to-day basis than many of my fellow residents, who had husbands and wives and small children to greet them when they arrived home from work. It was far easier for them to celebrate the holiday on Wednesday or Friday than it was for me to try to fly home and convince my family to celebrate on a different day. I think it's important to realize that everyone needs to be with people they care about, and that our kids can actually be flexible about this.

    That said, I do think that people with kids should get preference for the minor holidays: Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day, etc. No-one is really celebrating these, but schools and day cares are closed, and it makes it very complicated to find someone to watch the kids;

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    1. OK, here's a scenario that isn't so far-fetched. Two residents want Christmas off:

      One resident is a mother whose husband is also a resident and already has to work Christmas. She has no family in the area and her usual daycare is closed and her usual babysitter is not available.

      One resident is single and has family far away, and would like to visit them for the holiday.

      Who should get Christmas off? I obviously think it's the mother. The single resident might be a little lonely that one day, but she can visit her family a week or two later just as easily, right?

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    2. The problem is that your scenario is the worst case scenario for resident-parents, but that it was often taken to justify having resident-parents get first priority on holidays overall. I hear too many people saying that single/childless people should just suck it up and work on all the holidays so that parents can be with their kids. Having been on both sides of that equation, I will tell you it was far lonelier to be working Christmas or Thanksgiving knowing that I had missed any possibility of being invited to a dinner or celebration than to work one of these holidays than having a husband and kids and knowing my kids would celebrate with me on December 26th, or come to the hospital to see me. I am not saying that parents don't have special needs; however, I think we don't consider the special needs of childless people enough in this situation.

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    3. I don't think it's a worst case scenario though. I think it's a really common scenario, when it's more and more common for both parents to work and physicians tend to marry other physicians or people in medical fields that require holiday coverage. I just had to change my Christmas vacation schedule for another attending with exactly that situation.

      When I was single, I actually didn't mind working Christmas or Thanksgiving, mostly because there was tons of good food in the hospital and sort of a festive atmosphere. At my work, we do potlucks on holidays. And it wouldn't have been so bad if I knew that in a week or two, I'd be able to visit my family. I personally find it crushingly depressing when fun holidays end and there's nothing coming up.

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  4. What about the father? Could he get the day off to do child care? Should they both receive priority?

    As you note, schools and such are off. What if the single resident is dating a teacher and it's the one long weekend they can go to meet one of the families?

    Put it this way: is there anything that trumps "do it for the children" in this discussion?

    (On the religious thing, I think a whole lot of Christian I see are less interested in the ethics than in other aspects of their religion. The ones who aren't are already volunteering in a soup kitchen, helping at a shelter, doing all sorts of quiet stuff that matters.)

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    1. I mentioned in the original MiM post that my husband isn't in a profession that makes him work holidays, so I don't ask for preference with holidays. But lots of physicians are married to other physicians or people in fields that require working holidays. Maybe the husband can get some holidays off, but not all, and the wife must cover the others. I don't think that's unreasonable to ask for the particular holidays that can't be covered by a spouse or family. I'm not saying parents should get off ALL holidays, but maybe just have first choice.

      Saying "do it for the children" may sound trite, but small children legally require a guardian. While some doctors may be required to come in to help in an emergency, nobody would require a parent to leave their small children unattended to come in to work. It's more than just a touchy-feely issue.

      Regarding the teacher and the long weekend... I unfortunately know that schools get tons of vacations every five minutes. If they miss that particular long weekend, there will surely be another two or three next month.

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    2. I'm a teacher, and actually a lot of the long weekends for the kids are *not* long weekends for the teachers. We have inservice days at school, conference days where we meet with parents, and sometimes professional development elsewhere (for example, my school sends its entire faculty to a conference every other year, so that's an inservice day). I realize that these days can be inconvenient to parents, and I sympathize. Nevertheless, it's unfair to characterize schools as getting "tons of vacations every five minutes." There is a perception that teachers are lazy and have tons of time off. True, I have more time off than my sister in med school - but much LESS flexibility about vacations than my friends who work in software, law, or accounting.

      Many people have strong feelings about their time off, and there are a lot of factors. To simplify it down to a single issue - whether or not you have kids - minimizes many other valid concerns.

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  5. For the time being I'd be glad to work Christmas and so are some others that I know. Means missing out on awful family gatherings! Urgghh!

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  6. I work in a veterinary emergency hospital that is open 24/7. Until several years ago I thought people with children should have Christmas off and those of us with no children should work. Not because of child care issues but because its Christmas and people should be at home with their kids. Then it came up to be my turn to have Christmas off and I realized how much I had missed celebrating Christmas with my family. Now I think people without kids should have the chance to get Christmas off. If you work in the medical field you should realize that you will be working holidays and it's presumptive to assume people without kids should work holidays just because it's hard to find child care. And it's ridiculous to think they should volunteer to work.

    And why should someone who is religious work so someone doesn't have to deal with finding child care? A good christian isn't someone who changes their plans so you don't have to.

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    1. As I said in my post, I was never trying to say that childless people should work all holidays and people with kids should work none. I was simply saying that they should get preference in choosing which holidays they want off, since certain days might be easier to arrange childcare than others, and they may not have any control over that.

      I don't think a Christian is obligated to change their life to help another person. I was just suggesting that it might be more important to follow the tenets of Christianity than to actually sit in church.

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    2. I do agree that it is often more important to live as a christian then to sit in church but sometimes going to church is also important.

      I disagree people with kids should get preference in choosing holidays off because it is difficult to get childcare. If you have kids you must realize this may happen. And don't most schedules come out several months in advice? It seems like people would have plenty of time to make arrangements.

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  7. What about partnering with coworkers that are not Christian and have important holidays on other days? Other religions don't have their holy days off, even though it is just as important to them. If I had a partner who could cover for me during a time when I would love to be home with my family, then I would be more than happy to cover for them on Christmas.

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    1. It all revolves around the school/daycare closings, not around personal religious choices. I've never worked with a Jew where it was a big deal for them to get a specific Jewish holiday off.

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  8. I agree with Brandy. You are in a field that doesn't stop on the holidays. I think major and minor holidays should be split evenly, regardless of whether you have a spouse, kids, live far away from family, religious reasons, etc.

    If you are scheduled to work a holiday that you want off for whatever reason, compensate someone else that isn't working that holiday to do so for you. If you can't find someone, then maybe it'll work out next year. More than likely, you'll find someone willing to help you out, but it's ridiculous to hear someone propose that certain people not ever get scheduled to work holidays.

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    1. In addition, the call schedule is usually done plenty in advance, so there is plenty of time to plan for childcare, etc. I know it's not exactly easy to find someone willing to babysit on Christmas, but it also gives you plenty of time to figure something out.

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    2. From my original post above:

      "I wasn't trying to say that a parent should get every holiday off and a non-parent should work every holiday"

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    3. I realize that. How do you feel about splitting major/minor holidays evenly and compensating those not working if you're scheduled to work and don't want to?

      In reality, sometimes working holidays is the easiest call day, depending on the specialty. So if I'm getting compensated fairly, I don't mind working holidays. On the other hand, holidays like Christmas are great to spend with extended family, as it's one of the only times of the year that the everyone gets together in one place. Makes visiting everyone much more convenient. Don't need to do that every year, though.

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    4. I don't think it would be unreasonable for people who worked holidays to get paid a little extra to make it more attractive. For the parent, it's probably easier to "pay" to not work a holiday than have to pay some exorbitant fee for full day holiday childcare.

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  9. Dr. Fizzy,
    I especially liked your last starement.

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  10. As a mother working in veterinary medicine... I can understand your point. However, we decided to have this career AND these kids at the same time. I don't think it's right to give preference to people with families as a blanket policy.

    Each practice has to decide how to sort out the coverage. In my hospital we take turns, despite some of us having kids and others being childless. When someone has a new baby, or a big event, we do some creative scheduling to help each other out.... and eventually each person returns the favor.

    As for childcare, we will never have it easy there. It's just another scramble, and we just keep juggling. But again, we chose to do this, so it's on us to deal with it with or without other people giving us a break.

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    1. I simply foresee situations where a parent is able to arrange childcare for one holiday but not another. Say the father is able to take off New Years, but must work Christmas. Why can't we give the mother preference that year to get Christmas off so the child won't be with a stranger? Is that really so crazy?

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    2. The craziness is that it assumes that one particular good reason for wanting a particular holiday off trumps everyone else's good reasons.

      I don't have children, and I've accepted some of the bad treatment that goes with that, such as my family members never visiting me but visiting my sister so they can see her kids. The kids are cool and interesting, and I can go with that. I'm also nearly always happy to accommodate coworkers who have child-related emergencies. Genuinely happy, glad to shoulder some inconvenience to contribute to making the world run better.

      Holidays are part of what holds families and communities together. Yes, people have to work them as well, and I've spent many a holiday at work (sometimes it was fine, sometimes miserable). I've often volunteered to work holidays for many reasons including being happy to give coworkers the day with their children. But saying that people with children have automatic priority in this regard, that I should be required to step aside for them, is saying that I am a lesser member of society, or that the connections I reinforce with my family (yes, those of us without children do have family) are in some way lesser. That's not fair, and it's a slap in the face to boot.

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    3. OK, how about this then? What if there is a coworker with a frail, elderly demented parent who has a home health aid that she knows in advance will be gone during Christmas and Easter Sunday one year? How would you feel about that person getting priority in asking for those two holidays off that particular year? Or would you feel that she must scramble around after holiday coverage is randomly decided, begging for people to help her?

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  11. I guess when I hear a sort of generalized policy that " people with small kids should get preference for having specific holidays off in jobs that require people to work holidays" I think that the preference will get exercised more often than not.

    I think we're making a logical error, but I don't know the name. Someone probably does. We're looking at this from two points of view.
    1) A person who has kids thinks that they're only asking for this preference once in a while, perhaps once a year.
    2) The person who doesn't have kids is also thinking not only of one person making the request, but of all the people with children making the request. And, while the years when someone MUST be with the child are relatively short (say 10 years? At what point do you as a parent think your child can be alone), in any group involving fertile couples, new kids will be born, so the person who doesn't have kids perceives a never-ending stream of requests when someone with a child will request preferential treatment.

    I don't know how to solve the dilemma, though. Is there an equitable way to split holidays? I know that for enough money, someone will babysit. So there's a point where it's a matter of relative inconvenience. If it's too inconvenient to come up with enough money to pay a sitter, a parent is willing to inconvenience someone else, but won't think of it as a money issue, but as a necessity issue.

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    1. I think one issue to remember is that MOST people do have children at some point. I know it's not everyone's choice, but I don't know anyone at my work over the age of 40 who doesn't have kids. So in general, this preference is something that most people will benefit from at some point.

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    2. Except as a 52 year old who chose not to have children, not so much. But I hear a lot of requests for preference. (And subsidize those same people through the lower pay we all get so they can get up to $9k in untaxed benefits for health insurance etc through our employer.) I'm not totally unsympathetic: I've covered (one part of the job) for several weeks for a colleague who took parenting leave without any compensation.

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    3. In terms of money, people without kids are always going to come out way ahead. I took my maternity leave unpaid, and I spend a ridiculous amount of money on childcare. And before I had kids, traveling was way easier too. Truthfully, I'm much *less* likely to visit family during the holidays now because the kids are such a PITA to travel with. I'm sure, since you chose not to have kids, you realize the many benefits.

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    4. Whats next Fizzy? People with kids should get paid more 'just' because they have kids to care for!?!

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    5. Well, that would be awesome :) But I don't think that was what I was saying. I was just pointing out that even though a single person may pay more than their share of health benefits, they still come out way ahead financially.

      If you want to argue whether everyone should pay out of pocket for their health care, that's a whole other argument.

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    6. If it were just about money, then maybe (though there are lots of things that are just as expensive for a single person as for a couple, but if both members of a couple are working for income, they might come out ahead.)

      But I'm guessing that most of us would argue that there are wonderful benefits to having children. And we wouldn't really want to put a pricetag on that.

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    7. Absolutely, Anon! :)

      And actually, since we get a tax break for having kids, we do actually sort of get paid more... so *someone* thought that was reasonable, despite the fact that we made the *decision* to have kids...

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  12. I usually enjoy your blog, but I'm finding the posts on this topic bothersome. They make you sound extremely selfish. I am a Medicine Intern, unmarried, no kids. Though my program claimed that they would divide the holidays up evenly, I ended up working nearly every holiday. I know intern year is not supposed to be a breeze, so I was ready to just suck it up and work as scheduled.

    But to suggest that because I don't have kids, I have no reason to need the actual holiday off, is ridiculous. I get along very well with my extended family and for most holidays, we have a large get-together where all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids, and whoever else comes to celebrate the holiday. I was scheduled to be on call (which would mean being at the hospital admitting from 7 am-9 pm) on Thanksgiving, so I unhappily made peace with the fact that I would not be able to make it home for the Thanksgiving celebration.

    Even though I would have gotten a weekend day off, there was really no way that my family could have moved this celebration to accommodate my schedule, when we have all built Thursday into our schedules year after year. Yes, my parents and siblings would have probably come to visit me and have a late turkey dinner, but it wouldn't be the same.

    I said all that in the conditional tense because I was actually able to get the day off, because one of my fellow residents was willing to switch call schedules with me. Her family lives far away, too far to be able to go home with only a day off, whereas my family is only about 2 hours away. I'm really excited to be able to see all my family, because I don't think I'm going to be able to make this happen again on christmas (when both sides of my family have large, happy celebrations on both christmas eve and day.)

    I think this is how holiday scheduling should work. From an administrative standpoint, no one should be given priority to have holidays off. But if those people with kids have special reasons they would like off, they should work it out with their colleagues. If the colleagues want a reason to miss the family celebration (which I guess some would, but that is certainly not "most" people), they can switch and do a favor for the people who have issues finding child care or whatever else.

    Since I don't have kids, I have never had to scramble to find someone to watch my kids, so maybe that's why I don't have much sympathy for your argument. But, really, I think that if you have kids, you would know that you will sometimes have to make other arrangements. I would be pretty upset if my program told me I had to work every holiday (or even a disproportionate amount) just so people with kids didn't have to find a babysitter.

    Holidays are important to everyone, whether because of kids, church, parents, volunteering, or whatever. Who are you to judge which reasons are most valid?

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    1. I worked most holidays during residency too, both when I had kids or didn't.

      I think we can all agree that some reasons for wanting a particular day off are more valid than others. If, say, your mother was having surgery and you wanted to take that day off, that would be more valid than my wanting to take that same day off to see a movie.

      Similarly, I think a parent whose spouse is working on Christmas and has no family in town or other decent childcare options beyond hiring a stranger should get preference over someone who wants to go to church. Maybe you'd disagree in this case, but that is *my opinion*.

      Like I said to many people, I never ever said that single people should not get any holidays off. But if you were asked to work Christmas one year because a resident/parent couldn't arrange childcare that year, and instead got Thanksgiving off, would that really be so devastating?

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    2. Fizzy - Dr Abby's post was extremely well written and I wholeheartedly agree. As a male pediatric resident, I already cover call for numerous maternity leaves etc. I have never objected the work load knowing that they will (at some point) cover me for a golden weekend. However, the point you continue to make despite many objections, is that childless people should have less say in picking holidays. I think you forget that each holiday is special to that person for their own reasons or traditions. As you mentioned, the whole family going to Christmas mass. For me, despite not having children, I still fight for Christmas off so I can celebrate my Mom's Christmas Eve birthday with her. So being asked to work Christmas with Thanksgiving off, means I miss that opportunity.

      Honestly I think you stirred up the hornet's nest here expecting the same support that you received at MiM. I think your entire argument is flawed. It makes me think of the "Your failure to plan, does not constitute an emergency on my part" quote. Your inability to find childcare, does not mean I should be forced to take second pick at holidays or only taking "minor" holidays. I know plans fall apart and life happens but still. These discussions should be left to each individual group to discuss separately as they plan holiday schedules. But you do not deserve any special favors on the argument you have children. I could make the same argument that since I don't have children or family nearby I should get first priority at holidays since it would entail a 6 hr plane flight. Honestly I have enjoyed your blog until your posts have taken on more of a "rant" style posts of late. And I agree with everyone else that this just makes you look extremely selfish. Each of us value certain holidays for very personal/family reasons, and who are you to demand special favors because you have kids.

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    3. No, I wrote the post to entertain me with comments on Thanksgiving :P I like people to get involved, thinking, even sometimes angry. I'd be an idiot if I didn't expect certain people to get angry over a post like that.

      If your mom's birthday is on Christmas eve, I'd argue that you should have priority over someone who wants the day off just because. I mean, wouldn't you be angry if someone else got the day off who was just going to hang out at home and do nothing and you missed out on seeing your mom? In general, I don't think it's unreasonable for popular holidays to be "rationed" based on need. A physician with a small child whose spouse is working that holiday has higher need, in my opinion.

      I have celebrated holidays with my family in the past, but it was never *the day* that mattered to me. It was seeing my family. I'd happily move a trip so that someone who absolutely needed to be off on a particular day could have preference.

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    4. I also want to add that I work with one father of two who is married to another full time physician and one who is a single mom of four small kids. If anyone should be complaining about having to cover for people leaving early or wanting holidays off because of their kids, it should be me. But I'm not.

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    5. I think the problem with what you suggested in your post is that it should be "policy" to let people with kids get to choose the holiday. This means that they will get first dibs on the holidays they want...no matter the reason they want off. I want to be in a work environment where people are willing to work/cover for eachother. So...if when holiday scheduling comes out...a 2 physician household realizes they are both scheduled for Christmas and wouldn't be able to find child care, at that point they go to their colleagues and find one person that is willing to cover for one of them. If you are in a supportive environment that should end up working out. I would be more than happy to help someone out in that situation...but I would NOT agree or be supportive of a policy that gave parents first pick of holidays over non-parents.

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    6. Why is that really so much better than one parent discovering (well in advance) that their spouse is working Christmas, so explaining that to the boss and asking for that day off in lieu of a different day? The end result is the same, but this way, the parent doesn't have to go around begging.

      Also, the way you suggest, the nice person always is going to be the one who has to give up their holiday because they'll feel compelled to help, but the jerks will refuse to trade. So the nice guys get punished.

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    7. That's fair enough...but I that isn't what I got from reading your post. I'm not sure that I agree with that...but either way (asking your boss to change a holiday and asking your colleagues to switch) is not the same to me as giving parents first dibs on which holidays. I would think there could be a policy that you can go to your boss with a reason why you need a switch (on a holiday or a regular day) and they will either say it is possible or not... some peoples reason may be having a kid that needs childcare, some will be a parent's birthday (to quote an above example), some will be that they have worked the last 3 Thanksgivings and could they please have this one off... the boss can way each separately and grant the requests he/she feels are reasonable and able to be worked through.

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    8. I think it's fine if everyone explains to the boss their reasons and he/she decides what's fairest. If there's one person who always, always asks for Christmas off due to the kids, I agree that does sound unfair.

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    9. I used to work in a fairly hostile environment... a medical one at that. I do not have faith that my boss would be able to determine whose need was more important. After all, I got screwed on more than one occasion--I asked for Thanksgiving off and by my schedule was supposed to have the Wednesday before off, but when the schedule came out, I worked every day for a 12 day stretch except Thanksgiving. Another time, I took two weeks of vacation, and didn't get the new schedule release because it came out during those two weeks. No one bothered to tell me that I was on call the morning I came back, or that our night shift people quit while I was gone, so I was guaranteed to work that call shift, until about 5 hours before I was supposed to come in and I was on the road trying to get home. Needless to say, I was rather pissed at that scenario.

      We arranged holidays as fairly as possible... we ranked which holidays we wanted off, and everyone was guaranteed to have at least one off. After the schedule was released, you were responsible for finding your own coverage. If you wanted both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off for family celebrations, you had to find someone who was willing to work. I could care less about Christmas, since I'm not a Christian, so I worked both in exchange for New Years Eve and Thanksgiving.

      So, basically, I agree with Anon above. I don't think the boss should make the decision, I think the person in the conundrum should work to find their own coverage in the event they are not randomly assigned the schedule they want.

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    10. What you're saying is interesting because you're right that the boss rarely decides things in a "fair" way, and holidays off are almost never picked randomly. So what generally happens in real life is not that the person with kids or other obligations gets priority, but the person who's the pushiest or buddies with the boss gets priority. The people who are nicest and most considerate are much less likely to get what they want, and end up being the ones who have to scramble. That's what we should really be pissed off about, not letting some mom be home with her baby.

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    11. I mean... isn't this kind of true in life overall, though? Yeah I get that it's not good to take advantage of nice people's charitable instincts, but this wouldn't be coercion, as it would be with a boss. If someone is resentful of always ending up giving in to requests, then THEY should be taking active steps in learning how to say no. Because they're ultimately the ones who experience the consequences.

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  13. Wow! My wife and I are doing Thanksgiving in the hospital cafeteria so there's no food prep time for us, and I figured your statement about few people being online to read would apply. All smug with the idea that I might be the first to comment on your entry, I opened up my web browser only to find that there's already a slew of comments ahead of me. I guess you know you've made it when people are reading your blog (and writing responses) on major holidays :)

    Getting to your point, this is something that I occasionally wonder about as well. The 2012 presidential elections sort of put this out there, too, what with the conflicting ideas over social programs and whether it turned people into parasites or helped them in times of need. It seems doubly strange, because the regions claiming that welfare recipients were irresponsible, lazy leeches tended to be the regions most heavily associated with religion. Make that triply strange, because many of those regions (the South and Midwest) also have a reputation as being home to people who are very personable, friendly, and always willing to help. By comparison, it's the city folk who won't stop to give anyone the time of day or offer to lend a hand. Yet when it comes to the national stage, it's as if the stereotypes are flipped. What gives?

    My thinking is that it's not a case of selfishness vs. humanitarianism, but rather it's about trust. As far as I know, many religions advocate selflessness and compassion toward others, but none of them dictate that this must be done to an extreme. There are also teachings about self-preservation and not allowing oneself to be taken advantage of. In a small community, or at least a community where people can interact face-to-face, trust can be formed quite easily. But now we live in a time of faceless communication, where we can't see or read physical cues from the person we're conversing with. There's also fear, because bad news from one community is now broadcast to every community (and thus there's always bad news). Thus, when it comes to discussions about social programs, it's not that people don't care for others, but rather they don't trust that the offered help is being used for good purposes. (It's not as simple as being only for that reason, but I'm just rambling off a thought here.)

    The situations you're describing may still be about trust. I think that almost anyone would be happy to sacrifice for someone else if they knew that the other person really needed it, and if they knew that others would sacrifice for them in their times of need. Yet there are plenty of times when people ask for help when they don't really need it, and/or they accept help and then are loath to return the favor. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of.

    A final thought is that there may also be some shifting in priorities going on. We often hear about how this is the "me generation," where we're living in an age of selfishness. As a result, people highly prioritize their own desires and activities. Taken to an extreme this can come off as being terribly selfish and self-centered (although the opposite extreme of being a "doormat" isn't particularly healthy either).

    Perhaps the common thread between all of those ideas is that the increased connectedness of the modern world has damaged our sense of community and our trust in others.

    I apologize for the somewhat disorganized thoughts, but hopefully you'll find them interesting. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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    1. Good points. Just hours after I wrote yesterday's post, a colleague of mine asked me to sacrifice a holiday I wanted to take off b/c he had childcare issues. I'd already given him another holiday, so my first instinct was to get pissed off. But then I remembered that is very selfless at work and always willing to pitch in and help out, so I changed my plans without any ill feelings. I wouldn't want him to have to scramble for emergency childcare because I just *had* to have a particular day off.

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  14. I think your argument is displaced. Christians celebrate 2 specific Holy days each year. Would you feel the same way about a Jewish person wanting to honor Yom Kippur? You shouldn't blame someone for wanting to worship on a day they feel is holy. You should blame society for making Christmas into a national, lets-give-everyone-presents-on-this-day, materialistic celebration that no one wants to miss. Because society itself shuts down on Christmas, that doesn't make a person who wants to go to church and worship their Lord, selfish. In the specific situation that you speak of, however; sure most real Christians would try to help. Drives me crazy though, how much people hate on Christianity and then turn around and expect them to selflessly give. Double standards, right there.

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    1. The fact is that devout Christians in medicine ARE going to have to work Christmas at some point. If they can't deal with that because God won't forgive them, then they shouldn't have gone into medicine in the first place.

      I don't know what to say about the Jew and Yom Kippur because there are so few Jews in this country that I'd imagine nobody else would argue about letting them have that day off. And there aren't any issues with childcare since schools are open (except in New York, I guess). So it's not really a comparable situation.

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    2. Interesting point about the Jewish holidays. I've encountered a number of Jewish doctors who observe the Jewish holidays, and they routinely leave early on Fridays to observe the Sabbath. In most cases this is acceptable, because they're the ones who always come in on Christmas, New Year, and other high-demand holiday time periods. It's like a favorable trade.

      The issue with Christmas and the holidays around that time is that the majority of people want to take that time off, but obviously that can't be granted to everyone. How do you prioritize who gets the time off? I think that's what Fizzy was getting at with her entry.

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    3. About 1/2 the people I work with are Jewish, and nearly all of them observe the high holidays. And no, I do not live in NYC. My friends who are Orthodox tell me that there is an exception clause for "saving lives" that allows people to miss the high holidays or to not observe the sabbath that Orthodox Jews use to enable them to work as drs.

      As for your other points, I completely disagree. As a parent, I try to plan ahead as much as I can for situations where I need to plan for backup childcare. At times childcare falls through, and I'm forced to rely on the goodwill of others. But that's just it: It's GOODWILL. You can't force people to give you a break just because you're a parent and I don't think you should. Furthermore, there are some people who chronically do not plan ahead (are you one of these people?) and who are forever in "need" of other peoples' help, mostly out of their own laziness and lack of foresight. Do you really feel it's the job of childless people to pick up the slack of the chronically underprepared parent? That kind of attitude makes childless people much more resentful of being asked to help parents when they really DO need the help.

      As a parent, mostly I just want enough advance notice of what my schedule will be in order to plan ahead adequately. The real problem in medicine is that you're often not given ANY notice that you'll need to be working, and then people get pissed at you when you say you need to go pick up your kids.

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    4. My husband isn't in a field where he has to work holiday, so we don't have any issue most of the time. If you read my other post about residency, that was only an issue because it was a two week gap that I had no idea about until right before.

      I guess I'm of the opinion that goodwill shouldn't be the only thing keeping parents from having to abandon their kids. If everyone was so full of goodwill, the government wouldn't have to collect taxes to help feed poor children. I don't trust goodwill. And it's sad that we can't make medicine more friendly to doctors with young children.

      I agree it's not fun to pick up someone else's slack. But if someone tells you months in advance that they would like Christmas off because their spouse will be working and their family won't be available for childcare, I don't think we should just say, "Screw you, find a way to work it out."

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    5. "But if someone tells you months in advance that they would like Christmas off because their spouse will be working and their family won't be available for childcare, I don't think we should just say, "Screw you, find a way to work it out.""

      True, but it goes both ways. They also have months to try and find someone to care for their kids. Or to make an arrangement with co-workers to work in place of them. I think you are generalizing an argument off of a very particular "worst case scenario" situation.

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    6. Yes, you're right. They could find a childcare service and hire someone they hardly know to watch their kids for a small fortune. Or they could simply be allowed to work a different holiday when their spouse is available.

      But it's true. You can't force anyone to be considerate these days.

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    7. Well, kids are expensive and stressful. Didn't you know that before you had them? I don't feel bad AT ALL for doctors who have kids during training and then discover that childcare is expensive and inconvenient. No freaking kidding.

      I still don't see the problem with telling people in advance, so they can plan ahead. Like I said, plans can fall through and sometimes you may end up having to ask for help. But you're a lot more likely to be on the receiving end of goodwill if it's something other people feel you deserve than if you assume that you're entitled to it, just because you're a parent.

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    8. However, there are benefits that parents receive that they don't have to beg for, that they get because it's acknowledged that it's needed as a parent. An example I've used in this thread is maternity leave. Nobody seems to be arguing that a woman needs to check if it's all right with everyone before taking a maternity leave. Why should a woman get 12 weeks off just because she had a baby?? It inconveniences everyone a whole lot more than asking to take Dec 25 off rather than Jan 1.

      So the question is, do we all feel that parents shouldn't be entitled to *anything*, including maternity or paternity leave, or do we acknowledge that people with kids do sometimes need extra flexibility? I feel like it's inconsistent to say one is fine but the other isn't.

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    9. Women get 12 weeks of maternity leave (and not all of them do) in order to recover from the physical ordeal of birth, and the horrendous sleep deprivation that often follows. Do YOU want to be the employer of a woman who is a walking zombie because she is so sleep deprived?

      Comparing hiring an agency sitter that you don't know well to not having maternity leave is completely disingenuous and you know it.

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    10. Plenty of women go back to work after 4 weeks or less, and we don't stop them, so clearly the 12 weeks are not *needed*. Do you think the mother of a 12 week old is any less sleep deprived than the mother of a 6 week old? Of course not. At 6 weeks, you're cleared for sex, so I'd say the physical ordeal is over. But they get those 12 weeks. And plenty of people will argue that it's totally unfair and women shouldn't get those 12 weeks.

      So really, tell me a good reason why women should get 12 whole weeks off for maternity leave, but that we shouldn't give them first shot at one particular holiday if they don't have good childcare options on that specific day.

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    11. Yes, 12 weeks is a totally different ballgame for most women than 6. At least it was for me. At 6 weeks, we always had 2 night feedings, and sometimes 3. At 12 weeks, we usually had 2, and sometimes even 1 night feeding. And at 14 weeks we got a couple nights of 10 hours in a row.

      At 4 weeks post c-section, I was barely able to walk a mile. At 12 weeks I was able to jog 3 miles quite comfortably.

      I don't know where the 12 week standard came from. Perhaps it's because most infants who get fevers before 12 weeks require hospital admission, so many people would recommend against group childcare before then?

      And if you're going to compare sending your child to daycare at 6 weeks to hiring an emergency sitter you don't know well? Don't even start. Not even close to the same thing.

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    12. I actually know tons of women who have sent their infants to daycare at 6 weeks, and they did great. Are you calling them negligent parents? Sending a 6 week old baby to a trusted daycare is no big deal, in my opinion... certainly safer than leaving your kid with a stranger. And I felt just as good at 6 weeks post-partum as I did at 12. Lucky thing, because most residents take closer to 6 weeks, many less.

      It's definitely arguable that 12 weeks is gratuitous and that anyone who takes it is taking advantage of their colleagues who have to cover. I could point you to many threads where people will argue vehemently just that. Here's one that popped up when I typed it into google:

      http://www.bhagwad.com/blog/2010/rights-and-freedoms/is-maternity-leave-unfair.html/

      There are undoubtedly thousands of others. All I'm saying is that you can't argue for parents to get one huge privilege and then argue that another is unfair. All the arguments you're making are similar to the ones people make against maternity leave.

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    13. Yes, I do think it's a bit risky to send a 6 week old baby to daycare. Do some people have to do it? Sure. That doesn't mean it's optimal. And again, not even remotely in the same category as covering you -- a doctor who should know better -- for a holiday that you didn't want to be bothered to find advance childcare for.

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    14. Don't try to pull the "some people would say" argument here, because we both know you don't think that there should be no maternity leave. I've read other posts of yours, and you've made it clear that you find it unfair that the world would no subsidize 12 months of paid maternity leave for you.

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    15. So it's risky to send a 6 week old baby to daycare, but it's not risky to hire a sitter you barely know to watch your child?? Are you serious?? Like you said, it's not "optimal". And if you're so scared about sending your 6 week old baby to daycare, you should *plan* since you're a doctor who should know better, and hire a nanny until the baby is 12 weeks old. Also, what if it's Christmas and you're back at work, but your baby is only 8 weeks old? Should you now have priority because your baby is under 12 weeks and that's the "golden time" when everything becomes totally safe? I hope you see how ridiculous this argument is.

      You know there's a similarity. And yes, I do believe in maternity leave. If you said that maternity leave is unfair, then I'd have to give you points for consistency. Ask your coworkers if they'd rather cover for you for 12 weeks this year or cover for you one day on Dec 25.

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    16. And if you're so scared about sending your 6 week old baby to daycare, you should *plan* since you're a doctor who should know better, and hire a nanny until the baby is 12 weeks old.

      Well at least we agree on SOMETHING. Hooray! Fizzy is advocating personal responsibility for once!

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    17. So you do believe that women who take 12 weeks maternity leave such as yourself are being selfish and entitled?

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    18. How many nannies abuse children? Not all that many, actually. Especially when you compare that # to the proportion of parents who abuse their children. Don't they have nanny agencies in the city you live in? Don't you believe in planning ahead?

      How many babies go to daycare and end up with a febrile illness within 3 weeks of starting? Practically all.

      Math, Fizzy. I thought that was your thing?

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    19. I have never taken 12 weeks of maternity leave. Further I when I took my leave, coverage wasn't required, so the only person I put out was my husband.

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    20. And how many of those babies who go to daycare and suffer febrile illness end up with any permanent or longlasting ill effects?

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    21. Well, I can't keep track of all these Anonymous commenters. But apparently I've succeeded in talking somebody into thinking maternity leave is selfish.

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    22. And no, I don't think maternity leave is "selfish and entitled." Expecting your childless coworkers to gleefully give up their holiday plans because you're a parent who didn't plan ahead is.

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    23. You're right Fizzy. Getting admitted to the hospital as a 6 week old is so much less risky than hiring a last minute sitter. /sarc

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    24. I know dozens of babies who started daycare at 6 weeks, none of whom were admitted to the hospital. You're grossly exaggerating the risk for your own purposes.

      Can I ask why you're so angry about this? I have no idea who you are, since you're only willing to post anonymously. Why does my suggestion that parents get a little extra flexibility around holidays anger you so much that you feel the need to personally attack me? Especially when you're in favor of maternity, which is a very pro-parent policy that also inconveniences people without kids?

      I'm not trying to be hateful. I am genuinely curious.

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  15. If you can't pull your weight and do your fair share due to your situation, then you need to leave. No offense, it's just that your situation doesn't allow you to work there. It's nothing to be embarrassed or angry about on either side.

    It's why they call having small kids or religious responsibilities or whatever "sacrifice".

    To put it in the employee's terms, if an employer won't support your responsibilities, you need to take your services elsewhere.

    There are plenty of 9-5 M-F no-call jobs out there. The reason that we get paid extra in higher-demand positions is because we put up with shift work, call, long hours, and other various chaotic nonsense.

    When I was young and single and stupid, it was appropriate for me to work in those high-demand positions. Once the kids came along and various other things happened, I made sacrifices to take care of my responsibilities. For a while I made less money and was off the high-speed treadmill.

    When I was the big boss partner later on, I was willing to help you out, but in some cases it was much more appropriate to "help you OUT". I'm staffing my medical practice here and it is serious business.

    Many people want to "wear the name but not play the game". I've had people sign on the dotted line, then after all their training and screening and background and drug tests, and after turning away lots of other fully-qualified candidates, they come to their boss (me) and say "Oh, I can't actually work any more Sundays" or something similar that they knew about before.

    Well, then, I can't actually pay you for work you refuse to perform. I'll have the paperwork and your final check processed in the next few days based on your hours this week, good luck to you. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go hire someone else in the hopes they won't flake on me like you did.

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    1. AMEN, I totally concur! Get off your high horse Fizzy!

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    2. Do you really think I'm saying that I think people with kids should be allowed to completely break their contracts and work whenever they want? If someone told you that they would work Sundays and then refuse to do it, they deserve to be fired.

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    3. Also, I don't think I'm on a high horse, because I personally currently make sacrifices for others who are in the situation where childcare on holidays is a big problem. So really, I'm on a low horse. I try to help others who are in a jam.

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    4. A-freaking-men anonymous.

      Fizzy -- If you want to help others, then HELP THEM. Don't try to legislate that other people must help too so that you don't have to as much.

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    5. I guess I just feel it's the right thing to do. And unfortunately, I do feel sometimes people have to be forced to do the right thing.

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    6. If they're being forced because you haven't bothered to take care of your responsibilities as a parent, then I don't really agree that helping is "the right thing."

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    7. Original Anon here again; I'll admit that I adapted the topic to the situation that I deal with. Narcissism - it's part of my charm.

      If you are comfortable trusting your co-workers to help you with these responsibilities via your "goodwill" point earlier, then you should consider staying in that situation. It is a situation that is viable for all.

      If not...

      What you recommend is that management rank employees for a job "perk" based on their non-work situation. Sorry; that doesn't work. It builds resentment and may be illegal (discrimination) in most states. It is a good way for the boss or company to get sued.

      I was a JD before I diverted into medicine (before I took the bar) and I can tell you that's fertile ground.

      I've been there; I've gone so far as to let the parties know that if they wanted to rank themselves I would have the schedule adjusted accordingly with my compliments for being nice to one another. But that I could not come down and punish people because they are single/childless.

      Here's why that attitude is dangerous. I can "not hire" someone a lot easier than I can fire them sometimes, if they get themselves into a situation that impacts their job (they have kids). Let's say I get burned a couple of times with mothers (or religious, or whatever) that all of a sudden don't want to pull their weight and/or want all kinds of concessions.

      Do you think it will give me pause next time I hire?

      This is the reason why women make less and don't get hired as easily. Go ahead and call me whatever names you like, but it's true. Don't flame me; I agree with you that it sucks and is unfair. Such is life.

      There's a damn good reason why the interview books tell you not to disclose a medical condition or that your kid or elderly parents require care, or that you have other things that may make you high-maintenance. Because, having learned that lesson, they are going to think "next!".

      Fast forward to someone who's in mid-career; the boss (you) is handing out bonuses or doing evaluations, or maybe just reflecting on two employees:

      Employee #1: Hands like stone, decent worker, can be moody, secretly hates nurses and other doctors, works schedule and hours and covers without complaint.

      Employee #2: Gifted clinician, brilliant surgeon, very nice person in general, came to me expecting "most" holidays and weekends off and demanded call/cover schedule adjustment due to unresolved personal situation.

      I'll leave it at that, I suppose. It's why I (actually don't sometimes) get paid the big bucks.

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    8. What you're saying is exactly why I've written on Mothers in Medicine before about how medicine is NOT an ideal career for a mother in many, many ways. Unfortunately, a lot of us enter the field before we have children or other obligations and realize what our needs will be, and at that point, it is too late to start over. There are many, many times when I've wished I was in a profession like my husband's where *everyone* gets the holidays off.

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    9. Not saying start over. Within a given specialty, there are a wide range of situations from which you can choose. If your position does not fit you, it is time to look for one that does.

      I suppose there are exceptions, but if you're single (widowed) with 5 kids (two with special needs) and no backup in town you just don't belong in an ultra-short-fuse transplant surgery job(*), or any other super high-speed position. Like I said, time to look for that 9-5.

      (*) actual situation

      You will take less money and such. Sacrifices.

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  16. Among co-workers, there is nothing wrong with giving a nod to someone who has stuff going on. That's called "not being a jerk". But it can build resentment pretty fast if it's even slightly abused.

    For example, asking for someone to cover/trade your shift on Xmas or whatever is totally appropriate. If you are generally likable and willing to help out in return, your co-workers will usually step up.

    Complaining (especially to the boss) when it doesn't happen or asking for special treatment is a path straight to workplace hell. Do what you can, then if it doesn't work out, suck it up or go someplace else.

    (same commenter as above from the viewpoint of my younger days working at Humongous Metro Hospital)

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    1. I just don't trust people's willingness to trade.

      In residency, I made a trade with a resident to take a holiday call for her due to some plans she had to see her family. I later asked her if she'd trade with me to get out of a call on my birthday and she refused. I've gotten burned like that so many times, I just don't trust that system anymore.

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    2. If you don't trust that co-workers will bail you out (and it's probably not fair to your co-workers to rely on them to be your backup childcare anyway -- which is what they really are if they are covering for you at work), then you probably need to be paying more for childcare. Sorry.

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  17. I read some and skimmed some but didn't read all, but I don't think this angle was raised.

    When I was younger my parents and I would travel on Christmas to go and stay with one of my Aunt/Uncle's for 3-4 days. This travel time was 3-4 hours depending on the weather. This meant that every year we got up fairly early (no relaxing mornings), semi rushed through opening our gifts then were on the road around 1. I remember always having to decide which of my (portable) gifts I wanted to bring with me.

    We had a big family dinner that night as well as on boxing day, then my mom and I would go shopping for boxing day (which in that city was always the next day). After the big family dinner we would watch EVERYONE else open their gifts.

    Now remember, I've left most of my gifts at home, so it was always bittersweet as a kid watching this. When I was 12-13 or so I finally convinced my parents how much I hated rushing through our Christmas in order to go to this dinner. I proposed a solution - have our Christmas a couple of days earlier so we got to open our gifts and enjoy them as well as having a relaxing day.

    That was the best thing as a child - having Christmas early! I have since grown up and moved away but ever since if either myself or my parents (99.9% me) had a conflict we would just agree on another day. I frequently worked Christmas/Boxing day since I would get paid more and we would celebrate either before or after. It is JUST a date (if you aren't religious).

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    1. I totally agree. There are some things that CANNOT be moved (i.e. daycare closed), but I feel we should try to be flexible about everything else. It's just a date, like you said.

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  18. As a woman over fourty who has chosen to remain childless, I find your arguments very self-serving regardless of how you want to defend them. You chose to have children. Parents who both work in professions that work on holidays chose to do so. Asking for preferential treatment for something you chose is selfish. You can say that you are not stating that the childless should pick up the slack but re-read your suggestion. Preferential treatment for parents means than non-parents must pick up the slack.

    I don't work in medicine. work in research. I already watch parents come in later and leave earlier because of the children. I already start experiments or finish things off because of the children. Don't ask me not to feel resentful when you want to give those same people preference on the holdidays. They already get preferential treatment all year round.

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    1. So do you think 12 weeks maternity leave should be eliminated? By your own arguments:

      1) Having kids is a choice

      2) Others have to pick up the slack when the worker is out

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    2. AMEN!!!

      I am 54 years old and hate hate hate when another manager used to always BOO HOO on a Friday afternoon when a special project was given to her department (we were both senior management with staffs but I had 30 years on her in the field) that the project should be given to "the old lady" because after all she had kids at home and I had "no one waiting". Um WHAT? First off I am younger in spirit than she could ever dream of, she was a stuffy Mormon type and I ride a huge motorcycle, second, how dare anyone assume that I have no one or nothing to do? And thirdly, I did my time of long hours to get to my position of status in my field. It's your time to do yours!

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  19. Forcing people to give up their holidays so that parents can have them isn't encouraging charity. It's a tax.

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    1. It would be if I ever were saying that people without small children should give up all their holidays. From my original post:

      "I wasn't trying to say that a parent should get every holiday off and a non-parent should work every holiday... but if everyone gets, say, three holidays off and the parent says they really need Christmas off due to childcare issues, that should receive preference."

      I don't think this is as extreme an idea as everyone is making it out to be. It's certainly less extreme than every woman being entitled to 12 weeks off when they have a baby. And who pays for those women to get disability? You. How is that better?

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    2. No it's not, Fizzy. At least some maternity leave is necessary for most women to recover from birth. Further, in the U.S. at least, it is not required that those 12 weeks even be paid. Receiving disability to recover from surgery is not the same thing as forcing coworkers to cover for parents who can't be bothered to be organized to arrange and pay for adequate childcare.

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    3. You could argue 6 weeks are required to recover from a birth. So what are those extra 6 weeks for? During which time everyone else has to work their ass off to cover. I'm sure you must know there are a thousand threads out there from single people pissed off that they have to cover for women taking maternity leave. I've argued against them many times myself. And the argument reminds me a lot of this, which is why I bring it up.

      And asking for a specific holiday off months in advance because you know your usual childcare options won't be available IS being organized.

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    4. Ah, but that's not what you're arguing now, is it. You don't want to have to ask months in advance to get what you want, you want to be GRANTED the holiday off before everyone else, just because you're a parent. Totally different kettle of fish.

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    5. That's not what I'm saying at all. I was clear in my original post about that. I absolutely never said that parents should be granted every single holiday off without having to ask. That's probably impossible, considering many people are parents.

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  20. I don't mind working most hols, but then again I don't have kids and my nearest relatives are 1600 miles away. I don't see them anyway and it's depressing to sit at home by myself when I could be doing something productive.

    On that note however, I think it should be a fair trade. I work Christmas, but you work my birthday.

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  21. As a physician who is both single and not Christian, I get it from both ends. Most of my colleagues are married with kids. Very few of them are *actually* Christian (i.e. go to church, have read the Bible, etc). And yet, when I joined the practice, you could see everyone's eyes light up because I didn't celebrate Christmas, and therefore, I would have no problems doing call over that period, every year (despite the fact that there's 9 of us in the group).

    EXCEPT...I am very close to my parents (it's just the 3 of us), and they live about a 4 hour flight away. Yes, I could take another 2 days off, but Christmas and Boxing Day are the 2 days that THEY have off as well. I love going to see them, but it's kind of ruined if I go to see them, but they are working. Or if they come to see me, and I am on call (and given the unpredictability of call, I have no idea if I will get to spend any significant time with them). If there's a true religious reason for someone wanting time off, then fine, I am more than happy to cover it. However, if the only difference between someone wanting time off and me wanting time off is that they want to spend time with their family to open presents, and I want to spend time with my family to just hang out, how is that different? I don't actually even get my religious holidays off.

    The kid thing is just unreasonable. The number of times I have had to cover for my colleagues (usually women, because the guys often have stay at home wives who look after the kids) is insane, and very frustrating. Leaving early to pick up the kids (which means that I end up staying until 8 or 9 finishing up their work on the wards), pawning off talks and whatnot (because some kid-related issue came up), and then covering "spring break" when the whole family wants to go away is annoying. You may not use your kids to take advantage of other people, Fizzy, but a lot of people do. It's like having kids is a "get out of jail(call) free" card. I once had a colleague call me in from *vacation* to cover her OR list for her, because she and her family had to go to the consulate to get Visas. To go on vacation. I later found out that they held about 6 interviews per hour, so she could have easily rescheduled. When I was trying to change my schedule around so that I could go give a talk on another continent, her advice was "Just book it. That way someone will be forced to cover for you if you've already booked a hotel and the flight, especially for the kids."

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    1. Well, it sounds like what many people are saying is not that it's so unreasonable that someone who is stuck for childcare be given priority for a holiday, but that the people who ask for such things are *constantly* asking for coverage so it's maddening to give them one more thing.

      And you're right on this. Many people with kids take advantage constantly. I genuinely try not to do that. When I get called out to pick up my sick kid from daycare, I come back in the evening to finish seeing my census of patients. And my colleague who asked me to cover Christmas week due to his daycare being closed has never, ever taken advantage of me, so I do not feel resentful of helping him. But I know that's not the case with a lot of parents, and you're right: it sucks. Nobody should use their kids as an excuse to get what they want.

      What's the solution? I don't know. Maybe people who need that flexibility should take a lower salary in exchange for all the work others have to cover.

      Delete
  22. And quite honestly, your argument smacks of entitlement and wanting to have it all. You think that knowing months in advance that neither parent will be free to look after your child is a reasonable excuse for someone to cancel/change their plans in order to accommodate you, because you don't think that it's fair to "leave the kids with a stranger". Guess what? Lots of us were left at one point or another with baby-sitters who weren't family or close friends, and the majority of us turned out fine. Not wanting to leave them with a stranger is not an acceptable reason for someone to cover your call - it's not like you're pulling in someone off the street; more likely than not, you are going through a reputable firm/agency, or word of mouth, if you use someone with whom you are not familiar.

    When you make comments like this, it's almost like you are saying that people with kids are busier/more important than those of us without kids (and you may not be saying that, it's just what it reads like). What about people who take care of their elderly parents? In some ways, that's more work (and less easy to find someone to mind them) than kids. My program director once refused to let a girl do a rotation in another province (where her boyfriend of 7 years worked, and this girl wanted a job there in order to be with him) because "it's not like they're even married". Your argument smacks of the same arbitrary assignment of value: marriage>long-term relationship, kids>no kids.

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    1. I don't think it's awful to be left with a babysitter. I've left my kids with plenty of sitters. But on a holiday, it can be much harder to find someone. For the record, I've used an agency before, and had the most, horrible disgusting experience, so I don't think it's that simple. (Fun fact: I know of someone who got a sitter from an agency who turned out to be wanted for murder in another country.)

      I work primarily with geriatric patients, so I am totally sympathetic to the plight of someone caring for their elderly parents. If the home health aid for your elderly demented parent needs to take Christmas off, why is that any less important than having a kid with no childcare? It isn't. I completely agree that person should get just as much priority. I think ANYONE with the responsibility of caring for another human being should have the same priority. And YES, I do think people who have that kind of responsibility are busier than those who don't. How could they not be???

      Delete
  23. Fizzy stop posting on a holiday!

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    1. I'm bored! It's too cold to go out, the book I'm reading isn't holding my attention, and my kids have been watching these dumb shows on TV. So what else is there to do besides argue with people online?

      Delete
    2. And my parents are watching the kids... always a recipe for over-internetting.

      Delete
  24. Fizzy - I'd be intrigued to hear your opinion of mat/pat leave in Canada, where new parents get a year off (it's mandated, in that if you ask for it, your employer has to give it to you, and your job is safe and waiting for you when you get back). Most people split it up, so that mom takes 6 months and dad takes 6 months. I've never known any other way, so most people don't really get annoyed at this (as far as I know, anyway). Even as someone who doesn't have kids, my reaction is "Oh, congrats! Enjoy time with your newborne, even though I know it will be more exhausting than being here on call." From my experience here, most residents/physicians take their colleagues' mat/pat leaves in stride, without the animosity.

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    1. I think it's great. Although I do think some of the same issues come up when a physician is in private practice in Canada, where that year isn't guaranteed.

      I do think many other countries seem to have a much healthier attitude toward working parents. It's disappointing to see how much anger there is expressed on here. And I don't even blame the people who are angry because the system is set up so that there's no safety net in place to cover the physicians who need extra flexibility, so other doctors (already stretched too thin) have to pick up the slack.

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    2. I think you totally hit the mark when you said that people are already stretched too thin. That's the real problem, isn't it? For a lot of us, all over.

      To change the thread, slightly, I wonder if parents at groups (or whatever) ever group together to share babysitting to help so that if someone has to work, another set of parents cares for an extra child or two. Each parent would be sure the child was cared for, and wouldn't need to get an emergency babysitter. (I realize that it's hard to care for an extra child or two, but it's not impossible, especially if you're already an experienced parent, or parents.)

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    3. Someone else mentioned the idea of hospitals providing daycare during holidays and I think that is a great idea.

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    4. Anon 9:24 here. I actually meant parents doing the caring for someone else's child if that other person had to work.

      I wasn't thinking of an employer providing daycare, but parents sharing care.

      Delete
  25. I think this a pile of nonsense, Fizzy. No one has a right to tell anyone why and when they want a day off. Just because a parent's holidays may need to sync with their kid's day care timings does NOT in ANY way give them ANY priority over anyone else. To me, it's like saying 'Your sadness is worse than mine because I am sad over a death and you are sad over your lost teddy.' But it doesn't factor in that the persons may be different and have different ways of living. I am all for equity, but it's NOT as simple as 'oh, you're a parent, you poor thing... here, take off all the fun days of the day'. fuck that shit. parenting is a challenge and this is one of them. I'm not saying don't be kind, I'm saying PRIORITIES need not necessarily be given! by simple virtue of the fact that, who are YOU or ME to decide what/how someone ELSE wants to do with their holidays. you are losing the definition and sanctity of holidays to non-parents and that is as unfair as keeping the spotlight on those who are parents.

    sorry for a blunt post. I hope you won't be offended by this but take it as an opportunity to understand WHY I'm saying what I'm saying. if you disagree, then we agree to disagree. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. I guess we will have to agree to disagree then. I recently covered for a colleague whose father died, and I wouldn't have been willing to cover if he lost his teddy bear. I think the circumstances DO matter.

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    2. But death and losing a teddy bear aren't comparable. Whereas not being with family far away for Christmas as a non-parent and not being with your little girl at Christmas are, because both are family-orientated, and I think it's just unfair and wrong to say one is worth more than the other. And you're forgetting other factors that go into thisdaycare situation - such as husbands/wives being at home, other members of family being at home, neighbours etc. being at home. If you can argue the non-parents can see their family whenever, then why can't the parents, too?

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    3. I think it's a reasonable thing for a child to be with one of her two parents on Christmas, and for them not to have to find emergency childcare they're not comfortable with. Yes, I think that trumps just taking a fun trip because it's an obligation.

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  26. It seems to me that these issues need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. In a case where a mother and father are both working on Christmas and childcare is extremely difficult, of course one of the parents should be able to get it off. No doubt! But that is not always the case, so giving parents first choice on holidays every time is just not fair. If difficult situations arise, they should be looked at and considered carefully, but I don't think that there should be any policy in place that automatically gives "first dibs" to parents.

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  27. "I figure I won't get bombed with comments since it's a holiday and all."

    Ummm, I think you figured wrong this time.

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    1. I know. I mean, I intentionally stated a controversial point of view on the issue, trying to encourage people to write in. I wonder what the response would have been if I said the exact opposite. I could argue either way. Maybe I'll try that next year, when everyone has forgotten.

      Delete
  28. P.S., If everyone just tries to be kind and considerate, Golden Rule stuff, I think they can work it out without needing a bunch of administrative policies and rules.

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    1. That is a big "if" though. As I pointed out earlier, leaving it to people to trade ends up penalizing the "nice guy" who feels guilty ever saying no.

      Delete
  29. Fizzy, I usually love your blog, but this post leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Especially the suggestion that religiously observant people should work on all of the holidays out of a sense of selflessness.

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    1. Where did I say that religious people should work on all the holidays? I only said that it seemed "un-Christian" to value going to church over helping out someone in a bind.

      Delete
  30. I'm single. Also childless, not by choice but due to a serious medical condition. At work, I am ALWAYS told, at every holiday, to be accommodating to my co-workers who are parents or have significant others. And guess what? That means every Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas I have to fight to get the holiday off. And since I don't always win the fight I often cannot plan ahead enough to get the cheapest airline tickets, so this can hit my wallet as well.

    At the same time, I am ALWAYS hassled, even yelled at, by my family when I tell them I can't make it home for a holiday. I'm told I am inconsiderate and, best of all, "but you don't have children, so it seems like you should be able to be even more flexible than the rest of us." Yep, the exact same argument my co-workers with kids try and pull with me. Most family members do not want to celebrate the holiday on some other day due to their own scheduling issues, and sometimes, just due to stubbornness. I don't think my family is the exception to the rule. I think that's how many families are.

    I have absolutely no problem splitting holiday work obligations 50/50 with my co-workers who are parents. But to ask me to always give them priority is ridiculous, but this has been the rule at every place I have worked for the past 20 years.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that you're getting hassled from both ends. It must be extra hard in the face of wanting kids and not being able to have them.

      As I keep saying over and over, I genuinely don't think people without small children should get to have every holiday off and others should have to cover for them. I think people read one sentence I've written and fly off the handle before even absorbing what I'm really saying. You seem like a reasonable person, and if you were told that a parent of a 1 and 4 year old needed Christmas off that year because her husband was traveling or some other really valid reason, but that she'd cover some holiday for you in exchange, would that really make you that angry?

      In the story I told in my other post, when I discovered my daycare was unexpectedly closed for two weeks around the holidays, I didn't think to myself, "Oh boy! This is awesome! Free holiday!" I actually cried, because I was so overwhelmed and stressed out and now here was one more thing that I had to deal with.

      Medicine and parenthood are two things that often require ALL of you, and trying to find a balance can be really rough. I am really grateful when others who are in a position to do so help to make my life easier, and I personally always try to pay them back.

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    2. But that's the thing. One Christmas you'll be covering for the parents of the 1 and 4 year old, next Easter a different coworker absolutely needs to have the day off, and same thing for the next holiday. There is always a different issue, and the childless employee ends up never getting any of the holidays off that they want.

      Delete
  31. I think when you choose a profession that is "open" on the holidays then you have to take your fair share of holiday work, kids or no kids. My sister has three kids and hasn't had a Thanksgiving with her family in 20 years. She knew that going in, hates it, but deals.

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  32. I am a full time nanny with a small child of my own. If any of my regular parents got into this predicament I would watch a child on a holiday no problem, but I wouldn't for just anyone.
    I worked every single holiday and weekend for 8 years- unless I was out of the country (out of state was never far enough- haha). Then I had a kid. So I moved to a field where I do not have to work any holidays or weekends unless I want too. If you want holidays off get a new job and stop bitching. You don't get priority b/c you have kids. You knew this when you got into the medical field. My husband is in the medical field and I tell him once a week to suck it up and deal with missing holidays and milestones and cool outings. He knew what he was getting into and so he has no right to whine about it.

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    1. I do have a job with holidays and weekends off, but thanks for the advice.

      Delete
  33. My opinion on this is that having children is a choice. Taking a job that requires holiday work is also a choice. Within any department, it is utterly unfair to ask those who did not choose to reproduce to nix their holiday plans (which are absolutely no less valid than those that include children) year after year so that those with kids can have these days off.

    I like the way we do it in my department: one year you work Thanksgiving and New Year's eve, the next you work Christmas, whether you have kids or not. Simple and fair. Those who have children have become accustomed to dealing with it.

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    1. What if someone provided you with proof that they got pregnant with an IUD in place? And their religion did not permit abortion? Could that person get help since they didn't make the choice to have a baby?

      Also:

      Say you had a husband and wife who worked in your dept, and they requested that one have the Thanksgiving and New Years off, and the other have Christmas, so they could be there for their kids? Or would that just be utterly unfair?

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    2. Hey, if you want to get all technical about choices, having sex (aka taking the risk of getting pregnant) and adhering to a religion that curtails your family planning options are choices too.


      And as long as the husband-wife scenario you mentioned met the needs of the current holiday staffing situation in the department, I certainly wouldn't care. They'd still be working their required rotating holidays as scheduled. If they couldn't get that arrangement, though, they'd have to figure out how to make it work.

      Delete
    3. Well, it bugs me when people tout having children as "a choice" when so many pregnancies are unintended, some despite significant precautions. And even if they weren't, there's a strong biological drive to want to procreate to preserve the species, and keeping the human race alive is technically more important than anything we can do career-wise.

      If you're okay with that husband-wife scenario, then why wouldn't you be okay with them each asking for that at two different workplaces? Which was all I was proposing in the first place.

      Everyone on here is getting so angry at the idea of making even the teeniest, slightest concession to help out parents trying to arrange care for their kids. I have no idea if you're a parent, but having complete responsibility for another human being is not easy and balancing that with a challenging career is incredibly stressful. Why is everyone so vehemently opposed to doing anything to ease that stress even a tiny bit?

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  34. I'll keep my opinion on the choices. "Unintended" or not, bottom line is it's still a choice. The stress of having a child while balancing a career is also something you choose to take on.


    And again, if the desires fit perfectly with the current holiday staffing needs of their respective departments, then it's a complete non-issue. Nobody else's holiday schedule is being affected due to another's reproductive choices in that case. They're still working their required rotating holidays, and nobody is being forced to make "concessions". If their position in the rotation happens to work out in their favor, hey, good for them! If not, they'll need to figure out something else. And if they want to ask someone who honestly doesn't care about holidays one bit to switch positions in the rotation, no problem, as long as they're still working the required holidays.


    And there's no anger here whatsoever. I'm enjoying the discussion!

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    1. I'm glad there's no anger. I thought this would be an interesting discussion, but certain people above are getting quite personal in their anger, one person even attacking my math ability! I don't feel any anger over the topic, but it's hard not to respond that way when people go over the line attacking me in their replies.

      So what if the woman was raped? Should she get priority then?

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    2. She decided to keep the kid. There's abortion, and there's adoption.

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    3. I was waiting for you to play the rape card. And the poster above me pretty much summed it up. But realistically, how many people do you know in your field that have had children after being raped?

      I'll be a broken record and say the same thing for the third time. I'm not so cruel and heartless as to say that I don't care about the victims of rape. But the reality is that choices are still available for these women as for what to do with the resulting child.

      Delete
    4. Well, now we're sort of outside the scope of this discussion. But I'd imagine there's a very large percentage of women who are essentially raped by their spouses or strongly pressured to have intercourse so that it is barely a choice anymore. And even if it isn't "rape", you must realize that sex is an essential component to most marriages or romantic relationships. If I told my husband I wasn't going to have sex with him anymore because I just didn't want to, I don't think I'd have a husband anymore. Calling sex a choice is pretty weird. Sex is only a choice if you decide to isolate yourself from normal human romantic relationships.

      And at the same time, having an abortion or giving up a child for adoption are probably two of the most emotionally painful things a person can do. Many are haunted by it for the rest of their lives. Expecting someone to do that so they don't "inconvenience" they people they work with is kind of ridiculous.

      Delete
    5. I agree. Rape, including that inflicted by a spouse, is definitely outside the scope of this discussion. Again, how many women do you work with that are routinely being raped by their husbands and being forced to procreate while also balancing a career? If you do know any, they need to be directed to the appropriate resources to get themselves out of the situation. That situation goes way, WAY beyond scheduling issues.

      And yes, sex is a choice. You make a decision to enter into a romantic relationship, therefore you make a decision to have sex.

      We can go round and round with the extreme examples all day. But bottom line is that reproduction and child rearing is, at the core, a choice we make as human adults. I never once said that it's easy or painless to have an abortion or give a child up for adoption, only that those are choices available to women who are not ready to deal with child rearing and the stress/hardship/etc that it entails. Nobody's expecting them to get an abortion or give the kid away solely so that they don't "inconvenience" their coworkers, that IS ridiculous. All I'm trying to get at here is the fact that if you choose to keep the kid, you cannot therefore expect others to bend over for you. It's your decision to take on the raising of the child, not theirs, and they should not be forced to give up events in their lives that are important to them, just because you made that decision. See what I mean?


      Delete
    6. I still disagree that sex and procreation is a choice. It's the very essence of what makes us human, what keeps the human race alive, more so than any kind of job. It's akin to eating, breathing, and sleeping.

      And if you truly feel that it's a choice? Then you should feel even more indebted to those of us who take on the enormous responsibility of raising a new generation of humans who will eventually make your food, build your shelter, and provide you with medical care when you're old, since you didn't want to do it.

      You're welcome :)

      Delete
    7. So let me get this straight. People without children "owe" it to people with children to bend over backwards and make concessions, because children are nothing more than an enormous, inconvenient "responsibility", and the child-rearers are doing these people a favor by sacrificing their lives to raise the little snotrags? Is that what you're getting at?

      At least in my neck of the woods (don't know about yours), folks have kids because they want to, not because they feel like they need to shoulder the dreaded responsibility so others can skip off and have a happy, child-free life.

      Delete
    8. I didn't say that children are nothing more than an inconvenient responsibility. But you have to admit that in terms of perpetuating the human race which is only, like, the point of existence, the choice to not have children is a much more selfish one. If everyone made a similar choice, we'd die out.

      Delete
    9. "If everyone made a similar choice, we'd die out."

      Fizzy, we ARE dying out (albeit slowly) because this is the 21st century, where the world is OVER populated with humans. Of course, we need some percentage of the world population to continue procreating, but we could easily argue that those who are not having kids (whether by choice or not) are arguably LESS selfish then those who do. We aren't adding to the population explosion, and I don't see how that's a bad thing. So maybe WE should get preferential treatment for our role in society.

      And no, I'm not some pinko commie who wants to impose a one child per family rule on people. I'm just saying there is more than one way to look at the have-kids versus not-have-kids situation.

      Delete
  35. Wow, is this the longest discussion you've had on a blog post? Pretty interesting. =)

    When I first read your post, I had a feeling things were going to be blown out of proportion, though feelings on both sides are understandable. I understand what you're saying. When you have little kids, from strollers to elementary school, finding childcare around the holidays will definitely be difficult. Sometimes, even when you know ahead of time, it just doesn't work. So what do you do? You can try to rely on the goodness of others but then you become dependent on other peoples' goodwill. And to be honest, not all people are willing or good. So it would be good to have some kind of way to help a struggling parent.

    That being said, there are the people who will definitely take advantage of what you propose. They'll take it as a chance to not plan or use childcare as an excuse to get a holiday off. That's not fair and I'm not sure how it can be avoided. The solution? I'm not sure there is one. We can hope people are kind and things work out in our favor but I think that your idea will do more harm than good. If you were to ask your boss for the day off because you couldn't find childcare and you had a legitimate reason (not slacking) and someone else asked and you got it and they didn't, it would definitely stir up bad feelings. Then again, if you had to go around and beg people, bribe, negotiate, trade, do whatever to get that one day off, people might not be willing to help or they might use it as leverage. Either way, not a good work environment. I like the system that one person said they had, where they alternated years of days off, so one year you worked Christmas and the other you worked Thanksgiving and New Years. I don't celebrate any of these so I wouldn't mind helping someone out but you are always wary of those taking advantage of your generosity.

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    1. You make a really good point, which is that a LOT of people take advantage. That is what I think is stirring up at least some of the anger among single people. They feel that parents force them to work every single holiday, and obviously that isn't fair. As a parent and as a person, you also have an obligation to be grateful for the flexibility you get, and not cross a line.

      This is why I'm so careful in my job about being a responsible worker and not taking advantage. Because I know that if something unexpected ever comes up (illness, etc) and I *really* need extra flexibility, people will say to me, "I know you are a hard worker and never take advantage so we will do everything we can to help you." At least, I hope so.

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  36. From what i read on the OP i feel that, all Fizzy was trying to say was about the yardstick we use to distribute holidays on the work schedule.

    I don't think she was advocating that people with kids have more dibs over the other.

    I go with Chell on this one, it has to be adjusted between the colleagues themselves so that each one gets to celebrate a day that is special to them

    We can't really use a blanket yardstick because situations and the people involved in a scenario vary greatly so it all boils down to the dynamics of the work team and mutual sacrifice.

    I don't feel that people should be given priority just because they have kids. Having kids comes with its own headaches and happy times. If someone decides to have kids then they need to bear the brunt of what ensues and not expect other single or childless colleagues to sacrifice just because .

    Happy Belated Thanksgiving to you and your family Fizzy

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    1. Happy thanksgiving to you too.

      I don't think of it as a sacrifice others should make for people with kids. I think of it more as delayed gratification. If a person with the sole responsibility of caring for another person (let's not even say parent) really needs certain holidays one year, with the agreement that this will change year to year, and they will make it up later, why can't we be flexible for them? Would you feel the same way if it was a person caring for an elderly demented parent whose caregiver was out on certain holidays?

      Delete
  37. Having just skimmed through this now, I'm going to go ahead and agree with you Fizzy, despite the fact that I seem to be in the minority. If you have kids and would like a certain holiday off, perhaps you should get first crack at one of the major holidays and one or two of the minor ones, no harm no foul. As you said, the issue is being with family and not the day itself; if daycare is closed on that day or whatnot, I personally would be ok giving you priority as long as I am allowed priority on something else. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving weekend!

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  38. As somebody who has no children and does not intend to have any and who is an atheist, I find your arguments disengenuous. Why should I be forced to work on every single holiday because of my personal circumstances? That is what it would amount to - perhaps you may not ask all the time but there are enough people with young children that I would be asked all the time. Surely you don't think it's fair that somebody never gets to celebrate a holiday?

    Also, using maternity leave as an argument does not help your case, basically you are saying "since I get one benefit, I should get more". I expect if somebody with sufficient senioroty to get an extra vacation day a year used this as justification for getting every holiday of their choice off you wouldn't be terribly sympathetic. the fact that you get maternity leave does not automatically entitle you to free daycare, free children's clothing, or priority at an amusment park, so why on earth should it mean you get priority when selecting holidays?

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    1. You wrote: "Why should I be forced to work on every single holiday because of my personal circumstances?"

      I wrote: "I wasn't trying to say that a parent should get every holiday off and a non-parent should work every holiday."

      Not sure how that can be any more clear.

      The reason I brought up maternity leave is that people were claiming it was illegal and immoral for someone to receive any sort of "benefit" just due to having kids. I was trying to show that it clearly is not.

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    2. But Fizzy, you don't seem to understand that people without children would constantly need to cover for *different* parents throughout the year. Christmas Day: "Maggie, please cover for Janet because she can't find childcare." New Year's Day: "Maggie, please cover for David because he can't find childcare." Thanksgiving: "Maggie, please cover for Desiree because she can't find childcare..."
      And I don't understand why Janet can't think, on December 26 2012, "hmm, I *may* have to work on December 25 2013. I know, I'll spend the next 12 months looking into different childcare options and find one which I can be comfortable with."

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    3. Well, if everyone gets X number of holidays off each year and X is always the same, then I think it should still work out. If only one person is allowed to have Christmas off, then you're not going to get to celebrate it much anyway.

      Delete
  39. Gee, I always thought that parents with small children would want to work holidays so that their religious fellows can have their holy days. After all, that way you could set a good example for your children about respecting the beliefs of others, and the importance of hard work and proper planning.

    Well I guess we will have to respect each other's Christmas plans equally then.

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  40. So you prefer to give preference to parents to not work on those need-someone-to-work holidays?

    Well, how will you feel if the employer then decides to NOT hire mothers because they would have to give preference to them for NOT working on those days?

    If it is wrong for an employer to use parenthood, religion, or whatever, in the hiring decision; then it should also be wrong foe the employer to use such criteria in the promotion, laying off, and Yes, giving preferential treatment to an employee for what holidays they work or do not work.

    Sorry, Mom, you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

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    1. It already exists. People already don't hire mothers simply because they're mothers and are pre-judged to be unreliable. And women earn less than men in every single state in this country. That lower salary ought to at least buy us a little flexibility.

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    2. OMG! Thank goodness you are not my doctor - you cannot say that you want it both ways.

      If you want to make the big bucks you have to do what it takes to prove to the employer that you are worth those big bucks.

      If you make too many demands on an employer you have, in fact, proven that you are "unreliable." And therefore, worth less money.

      As someone who studies medicine, how can you NOT see that?

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    3. You don't seem to be understanding what I'm saying. Physicians do NOT make the big bucks, especially those in primary care fields which are often women/mothers. Why can't those "big bucks" be traded for a more human lifestyle? Money is not everything.

      It sounds like from your "thank goodness" that it would be more important to you to have a doctor who cares only about money than about being a human being with a family outside of work.

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    4. I actually think that you are the one missing the point. I want to have kids in the future, and I also want to have a career. HOWEVER, if someone else who CHOOSES not to have kids wants to have a holiday off to do nothing, and I have kids why would I begrudge them? The time spent with your kids is no more important than someone who just wants to go out for drinks with their friends for a holiday. There will always be selfish/generous people in the world. I respect your bravery for posting this blog and your opinion, but I strongly disagree with it because I think you are only looking at it from a parents perspective. How do you think other employees (without children) would feel to be looked over for a holiday (it doesn't matter how many times, people remember) because they don't have kids? That sounds like it would be a toxic work environment. I'm all for helping people out, but it should not be a requirement, even a couple of times. I really wanted to see it from your point of view, but honestly it sounds selfish. Holidays come at the same time every year, so as a parent you should be have a plan A-Z. Sorry to be so long winded, but I hope what you get from my post is just because you may see your time with your kids as a priority, don't expect others to do the same.

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    5. Does it make it less selfish that before I had kids, I always insisted those with small children have preference in these situations? Or that now that I do have kids, since I have a husband with a flexible schedule, I always let others with good reasons preference for the holidays?

      Actually, I think insisting other people have privileges that I don't take for myself is sort of the opposite of selfish.

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    6. No, but the difference is that was your choice. I'm fairly young and without kids, and I would be extremely offended if my employer gave a co-worker preference for a holiday over me because they have kids. If I want to go home and do nothing more than get away from work for a holiday I am not going to let someone make me feel bad because they are having childcare issues. You may see that as selfish, but my "me time" takes priority over other people's kids. Your priorities as a parent are different than those without, but that doesn't make yours more important (although it's clear you feel that way).

      I'm all for helping people, but not when I am forced to do it. By suggesting that parents should be given this type of preference the message you are sending is that their personal time with their kids is more important than those without children.

      That is what I think is a selfish sentiment.

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    7. The sentiment is not that "personal time with their kids is more important than those without children" but that caring for another human being, whether a child or elderly parent, is a huge obligation and requires flexibility to prevent burnout. Failing to acknowledge and account for that is very shortsighted, and what accounts for the large number of women who cut WAY back on their hours or leave medicine entirely because they can't tolerate the lifestyle.

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    8. That's not what your blog is talking about though. You are specifically saying that you think parents should get preference for specific holidays. I think your argument isn't really a good one because you are being close-minded, and assuming that because people don't feel that way they aren't as "caring" or "humanitarian." It's obvious you aren't seeing anyone's point of view besides your own, so it's not really a debate. I can understand where you are coming from, but I don't agree with it. You, on the other hand keep going in circles about why what you're saying is right. Opinions are objective, so what you think is not any more correct than the others who are disagreeing with you. I'd like to keep reading your blog because it's interesting, but I seriously hope you can open your mind a little bit more to the way other people (not just those without kids) see the world. Have a great day!

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    9. Just because I don't agree with your point of view, that doesn't mean I can't see it. You said, "Opinions are objective, so what you think is not any more correct than the others who are disagreeing with you." Exactly. You think that you are correct and I am wrong, so how does that make you open-minded and me closed-minded? Someone once said to me, "I will only argue with you if you can open your mind enough to see that you are completely wrong and I am completely right." And they were serious!

      I have experienced being single without children, but you have not yet experienced being a mother. I see the perspective of both, believe me. The life of a physician/mother is nothing short of overwhelming, which is something that you will someday understand. Back in the old days, I had no clue how easy I had it.

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    10. I have a serious chronic disease and can't have kids. Just like I apparently can't even imagine what your life is like, I suspect you can't POSSIBLY understand what my life is like. You think it's easy to be me just because I don't have kids? Try living with a life threatening illness that severely curtails or destroys all of the hopes and dreams you had planned.

      I could probably go on permanent disability, but instead I choose to work. Is that so wrong? But guess what? I am constantly the one who has to cover for my co-workers who are parents. Even if it means I violate my physician's orders to not work a lot of overtime. Nope, no one gives a crap about the single girl, even though she is sick. After all, they have families to take care of. My health, and my right to simply have the right to occasionally have the same day off that everyone else gets, always takes a back seat to those who think that they should be given "preference" for doing the world a favor and adding to the overpopulated world.

      What about the fact that, due to my disease, there is a pretty decent chance that I will die many, many years before you or my co-workers will? Shouldn't that count when we are talking about who should get preference on the holidays? I have never played the "but, I'm really sick so I should be able to get Christmas off" card, but you know what? Maybe I should.

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    11. In med school, people with chronic serious illnesses got preference above everyone else in terms of moving exams, where/when their rotations were, and taking time off as needed. A co-resident of mine with lupus needed to take enough time off that she graduated three months late. I have absolutely no problem giving preference to someone like that.

      It's funny how when I made the statement about holidays and kids, everyone took it to mean that I *only* think kids are important. I believe that if anyone who has a *need* for flexibility, whether it be young kids or a chronic disease or an elderly relative they're caring for, they should receive it rather than being driven from the workforce. I wish that was the treatment you had received.

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    12. Even though there are laws that prohibit discrimination against people with illness or disabilities, discrimination is still the rule, not the exception. It is prolific. If your classmates received some accommodations for their medical conditions, then your example in no way reflects the real world, so I don't see the relevance of your comment.

      And if you are serious when you say "anyone with a *need* for flexibility.... should receive it" then why the hell did you publish your post in the first place?

      We ALL have a *need* for flexibility. That is the point of all of the posters who have taken strong exception to your post.

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  41. A good Christian is one who deals with their own problems like childcare without complaint or burden to others. They are your children, dear. Not mine.

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  42. You chose to have kids. You choose to celebrate the holiday. You chose a profession that requires you to work holidays. Get a backbone and deal with the consequences of your choices and stop trying to make the rest of us who made good life choices or are happy with them suffer for your decisions.

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  43. I am a nurse and I have no children. Many years ago, one of my coworkers said that all single people should be made to work holidays because it was more important for parents to be home with their children. This, of course, completely ignored the fact that even though I didn't have children, I did have a FAMILY that I wanted to be with and who wanted to be with me. Why should adults be the only people who celebrate holidays on different days? Why can't famililes with children celebrate on a different day if necessary? As to the issue of child care, it is not anyone's responsibility but the parents' to take care of their children and as someone so rightly pointed out, it's not like the holidays are secret--we know they are coming pretty far in advance so that arranagements can be made. The bottom line is that everyone deserves to have holidays off, for whatever reason they want them off, and taking turns is the only fair solution.

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  44. "I procreated, so I get special treatment. Everyone else should be forced to make sacrifices in order to make my life easier."

    Nope. Take responsibility for your life choices. Don't try to offload it onto others.

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  45. I also had kids and dealt with the consequences without whining about imagined entitlements. I work hard and think I have always provided good profession value. My personal life is none of my employer's business, and as one commentor put it, my vacation does not have more or less value than that of any other employee.
    I am sorry for the situation of others, and will help out at times, but do not expect me to rearrange my life around your children. And I will not ask for special treatment because of my situation. If holidays are such an issue for you, change jobs.

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  46. I think that parents should get the time off because they need it most. I would also kinda like everyone to pass the hat around at my work to help out parents too. Something like $5 donation from everyone so that kids can get the toys they want, because it's parents who really need the money during the holidays (for their children). Is that really too much to ask? $5? Maybe $10 from the single employees who don't have families to support?

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