Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday privileges

Here's a question for the ages:

Should employees with children be given preference in terms of not having to work holidays?

I say yes.

And I say this as someone who will be working on Black Friday. And I worked most holidays during residency without complaining. Before I had kids, I actually offered to work holidays so that other people who had family in the area (I didn't) could be with them. After I had kids, I still worked most holidays without complaining.

The only time I ever asked for preference was when I discovered a couple of weeks before the fact that our daycare was closed for two weeks for the Christmas holidays, and there were just a couple of days when my husband couldn't get out of work, and our usual babysitter was out of town. Basically, I had no options, and my program was super nice about accommodating me, so I appreciated that.

I can see how one might argue against this. After all, just because you don't have kids, it doesn't mean you have no family. And while I agree with this, I do have a few arguments for why I think people with kids should get preference:

1) Schools and daycares are likely closed for holidays and nannies go on vacation, so finding childcare becomes a nightmare. I wouldn't want anyone to put their kids in a potentially unsafe situation just so I could have a holiday off.

2) If a person has school-age children, holidays may be the ONLY time the kids can go on a trip to see family members, since you can't pull them out of school.

3) Holidays are important to everyone, but nobody finds holidays as magical as kids, so I think it's worth it to make it special for them. And they actually probably like seeing their relatives.

Maybe if someone has a big family Christmas event every year that means the world to them and it's a thousand miles away so they have to take off several days to go... well, fine. But frankly, I don't think that many adults feel that way. Most probably appreciate having work as an excuse to get out of the Christmas events.

Personally, I don't care as much, since my husband is usually able to take off days when I can't, and my family is very willing to visit me, rather than vice versa. But I know that's not the situation for everyone.

59 comments:

  1. Agree that people who have kids should be offered the days off first-kids are only young for a few years and then it won't matter anymore anyway. As teens, kids are not so interested in being with the family for holidays so we're only talking a few years anyway. Just my opinion, I have raised my family and worked most holidays.

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  2. There is no person who "appreciates" working on a holiday.

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    1. Actually, I don't mind it that much. When I worked on Christmas last year, it was very quiet so I got through my work very quickly, and there was tons of good food around. Aside from the issues with my kids, I actually like working holidays more than regular days.

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    2. I am almost always on call for holidays, because I find holidays enormously stressful and would rather work than experience a family gathering.

      That said, NO, parents should NOT be given priority. People who think holiday celebrations are important should be given priority. Draw names, if necessary.

      FTR, my parents pulled us out of school a few times for family vacations. Disney World was much less crowded.

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    3. So nobody should be given priority? What about a single mom whose usual childcare providers are unavailable for a particular holiday. No sympathy?

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    4. To repeat: people who think holiday celebrations are important should be given priority.

      Why should parents have priority over the single surviving child of an elderly parent in poor health, residing in a distant state? Giving parents priority smacks of discrimination.

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    5. Actually, I kind of think that nobody should be given priority. For something like residency, work the schedules out months in advance so that people can plan their holidays do that everyone is treated equally. That way parents can plan for backup childcare, and children of elderly parents can plan a special visit to their ailing parents. So, the visit might not fall on the *actual* holiday. Too bad. What's important is the sentiment of the holiday and making an effort to be together at some time around it, not that it be celebrated on a particular day. This way is the most fair, and doesn't end up punishing people who don't whine.

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    6. Jenna: If I were an elderly, ailing parent, I think I'd be happy if my child visited me *anytime*, not necessarily on a specific day. I might... I'd just want to see her... what do I care if it's Dec 25 or Jan 25? But if a school/daycare is closed on a specific day, that's not negotiable. But if a colleague asked me to cover so they could visit an elderly ailing parent, I would definitely say yes.

      OMDG: You and I might have an easier time covering holidays than most parents because we have spouses who are not in medicine. But I know everyone doesn't have the same support system. I work with a single mom who really struggles in that regard. And other parents may have spouses in demanding fields where they don't get holidays off either. You're been looking for babysitters so I'm sure you know it's not the easiest thing to arrange back-up childcare. Sometimes it ends up leaving your kids in a situation you're not 100% comfortable with.

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    7. All good points, but all also mitigated by telling people 6 months in advance what the expectations are. Of course childcare plans can fall through, and parents can have to scramble, but that doesn't mean that parents should be given priority to have the day off automatically in front of other people.

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    8. I agree in theory, OMDG. But in practice, it amazes me how often my careful childcare plans have fallen apart on me at the last minute. That's why I think parents deserve extra flexibility, not just around holidays. We can complain all we want about how unfair it is, but I don't think anyone genuinely would expect a parent to leave their child in an unsafe situation.

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    9. >>But if a school/daycare is closed on a specific day, that's not negotiable.>>

      Hire a sitter. Surely, there are some childless babysitters out there, happy to work on a holiday. My friends are booking them right now for New Year's Eve.

      While I agree with OMDG in that holidays don't need to fall on a particular day, I do think some people, including some (not all) parents, place more importance on holidays. It isn't possible to attend Christmas church services on any day other than Christmas, for example.

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    10. Saying "hire a sitter" is not as easy as all that. If your usual sitter is not available, which is likely during a holiday, then you'd have to hire someone you don't know, that you're not comfortable with. It's especially scary when your children are very young and need to be watched very carefully. Yes, if it's an absolute emergency, you have to do it. But I wouldn't want to force someone to do that if it isn't for a really good reason.

      For the record, I don't know anyone who has ever said they wanted Christmas off so they could go to church. I feel like it would be more in the spirit of Christianity to allow people to be with their families though? God might understand? :)

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    11. If you feel your very young children need to be watched that carefully, why work at all? (Rhetorical. Obviously.) It's not like we don't know when the holidays fall every year, well in advance, or there's no opportunity to interview back-up sitters, also well in advance.

      Most religious people I know don't talk about their worship plans at work, and you've just demonstrated why. It's personal, which does not mean it's unimportant. If only parents would be as reticent.

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    12. I think there's a big difference between leaving your child in the hands of a daycare or a sitter that you know well or leaving them with someone you just met once b/c there's no one else available. It's a little frustrating to argue this with you, because I recognize you don't have kids and have never experienced how scary this is. Much worse than the idea of missing church once, sorry.

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    13. What's stopping any parent from meeting or even utilizing a back-up sitter or two, well in advance? In a real pinch, do you not do what every parent I know does when stuck for a sitter (or nanny, or daycare): call a friend with kids and ask for recommendations? How is it that all those parents I know are planning a mysteriously kid-free New Year's Eve? As for your freebie during residency, did your daycare suddenly change their policy, or did you neglect to ask?

      It's interesting that there's a large amount of territory between your initial argument ("potentially unsafe situation") vs. your retrenchment, which is probably closer to the truth ("you're not comfortable"). Your discomfort could be easily remedied by meeting a couple of back-up sitters, but why be considerate when you have the option of dumping on your co-workers at the last minute? Heck, there are plenty of people who aren't comfortable missing religious services, but who cares about them? Not you, obviously.

      Though you initially argued people with kids should have priority so they can travel with their kids, or to make it special to the kids, once questioned, you trotted out the single mother with no options and no backup. Again, there's a large amount of ground between that poor soul going it alone, who would have my sympathy, vs. someone who expects her co-workers to pick up the slack when her plans fall through by playing the Mom-Card or, even worse, thinks her family's happiness is more important than mine just because she has kids.

      As I mentioned earlier, I'll be working all the upcoming holidays, which is my preference. My colleagues who actually enjoy the holidays, with or without children, are appreciative. One co-worker is stuck for a sitter on Black Friday, though.

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    14. I'm confused... you just said in the first paragraph that finding childcare is super easy, then in the last paragraph said your co-worker couldn't find a sitter and is stuck. Did I misunderstand something?

      I would think this would be obvious, but it's much easier to find a sitter at night or weekends, when people with day jobs are available. Most of those sitters are not available during the day.

      I find what you're saying about church to be very interesting. Does Christianity teach that it's more important to be in church than to do a good deed for someone? Very interesting.

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    15. Also, in answer to your question about my daycare: I had just started using the daycare a few months earlier. It was our first daycare. They never mentioned it to me, and it never even occurred to me that they'd be closed for so long. My fault? Maybe. But that didn't magically provide me with a babysitter.

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    16. Even if parents plan ahead they can get stuck without childcare at the last moment. In addition, sometimes parents can (gasp!) make a mistake and forget to note that the daycare is closed on a particular day. I don't think either of those things justifies giving parents priority for getting holidays off.

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    17. >>finding childcare is super easy, then in the last paragraph said your co-worker couldn't find a sitter and is stuck. Did I misunderstand something?>>

      Yes. That was a feeble attempt at a joke, because missing out on Black Friday deals is hardly a crisis. My co-worker had planned to do her Christmas shopping but neglected to tell her husband, who planned an outing with his friends but neglected to tell her. Not related to her work situation at all.

      >>Most of those sitters are not available during the day.>>

      Many regular sitters are not working on holidays, and thus may be available for hire, in addition to those sitters you mentioned who have other full-time day jobs but aren't working the holiday. Plenty of my friends and relatives book sitters for New Year's Eve, a major holiday many people celebrate without their children.

      >>Does Christianity teach that it's more important to be in church than to do a good deed for someone?>>

      No clue. I never attend church. Maybe Christians should be required to work holidays, unless they have children? God might like that.

      >>it never even occurred to me that they'd be closed for so long. My fault? Maybe.>>

      Funny, I'd have assumed daycare would be closed during some portion of public school vacation, and asked for a schedule.

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    18. Well, either way, now you have an example of a parent who was unable to find childcare on a holiday, right?

      Regarding the daycare, the two subsequent daycares I've used were not closed during that time. Daycares tend to be open more than schools. I feel like the daycare was somewhat at fault for not telling me.

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  3. I think it depends on the job. Residency is supposed to be torture, so why would anyone want to make it easier on someone for any reason.

    More seriously, I worked most holidays until I started med school, and then I ended up with all this time off. In general I don't see the big deal at all of celebrating Christmas (or whatever) on some day other than THE day. Little kids won't know the difference. My family has always been able to accommodate this, but there aren't very many of us.

    The point you make about daycare is a good one. On the other hand, people can get REALLY whiny and entitled about these sorts of things, and their rationales can border on the absurd. Then if you accommodate them, other people get mad, and then you have to accommodate everyone, and the one who whines the least ends up getting screwed.

    So, I guess I'm not really sure what I think.

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    1. The problem is that people take advantage. There are some people with kids who constantly use them as an excuse for everything, and that breeds resentment against ALL people with kids. We should all be reasonable in what we ask for. And if you do get preference for a holiday because of your kids, you should be willing to help out someone else at another time when you do have childcare. Unfortunately, some people don't think that way... they just feel entitled.

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  4. Using your kids as an excuse to get a day off is unfair. Just because someone doesn't have their own children, doesn't mean they don't have other family/friends they desperately want to spend time with. Get off your high horse Fizzy.

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    1. I expected people to get pissed off about my opinion. For the record, I very rarely request holidays off myself, as I said.

      But for most people, you can spend time with family or friends any time. It's much more complicated when you have kids. I would respect anyone who had a more legitimate reason to have a holiday off than I do, and I think having small kids to care for IS legitimate. Do you think that you spending time with your friends during one particular day is worth forcing someone to scramble for emergency childcare?

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    2. The fact of the matter is that the decision to have kids is a personal one. Once you make that decision don't expect everyone to plan their lives around yours. People who are really concerned about having holidays off become teachers or find office government jobs. Once you go into medicine you know that is one of the sacrifices. Granted they are children but they are your children and nobody elses.
      Mind you I have 3 kids, have always worked holidays and don't think people should plan their lives around my kids

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    3. If the decision to have kids is so personal, then why should women get a maternity leave? Why should people have to cover for you just because you made such a personal decision?

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    4. you know I'll just reiterate that ones kids are ones kids and are probably the most important thing to you. For someone else it might be their goddaughter. Maybe they want the holiday off for them .Special concessions are made for sickness, maternity leave( these fall under family medical leave act/ disabilty act not family fun act etc).

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    5. So concessions *should* be made for bonding with a newborn for 12 whole weeks, yet if a woman has limited childcare options and needs just a couple of days off to make sure her kid is watched safely during a holiday, then screw her, it was her own damn choice to have a kid?

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  5. I think you hit the mark when you said "people take advantage." Those who feel that they've had others take advantage get resentful, and my be less willing to be flexible when someone else asks.

    The questions that are basically "think of the children!" are always assumed to be answered in a way that gives priority to parents. And that means others may feel they're always being asked to cover or do extra or plan around someone else's parenting.

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    1. This is exactly why I don't complain about working holidays... b/c I do have someone to watch my kids, and we generally don't do much for the holidays anyway. I think if parents only asked for this flexibility when they really *needed* it, people would be less resentful.

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  6. I don't have kids and I purposely pick up holidays (I'm a nurse) so my co-workers that do have young children can be home (Christmas is so magical for the littles!). The fact that I get paid double time and a half is definitely part of the motivation though. I agree with all of your points Fizzy and I don't even have children yet. Not really seeing a 'high horse' in your post. Having to deal with the stress of finding last minute child-care that is trustworthy and knowing your children are safe is definitely more important than going to some church service or seeing relatives that I could see at a different time. Just my opinion!

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    1. Thanks, Amy! I didn't think I was on a high horse either. I tried to do the same before I had kids, and now that I do have them, I try my best not to take advantage.

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  7. No, I don't think they should.

    My mother is a retired nurse, and she frequently worked holidays when we were kids. It wasn't a big deal at all. Holidays were magical even if mom had to come late to the family gathering at 4pm or leave early at 2pm.

    I'm now married to an emergency physician who, of course, has to work some holidays. Why should he have off automatically because he's a father? Sure, I miss having him around when he's working on a holiday, but we just shift the celebration to another time if necessary. Plus, the majority of people in his group have children. Who would work? What's the age cut-off when your children are old enough not to have it matter if you work a holiday?

    I like the way my husband's group handles holidays. They pair certain holidays together--for example, Thanksgiving and Christmas (they work 4 days surrounding each of those two holidays), Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Then, they work one and are off the other; it switches the next year and they work the opposite holiday in that pair. They are always free to try to swap with a coworker if they have a preference. Most people seem to enjoy knowing they have a stretch of time off even if the holiday isn't one that's meaningful to them. And you know well in advance what holidays you'll be expected to work.

    Maybe in a small group it could be feasible to take preferences into consideration. It would be considerate for someone who doesn't care about a holiday to volunteer to work it. But should it be forced upon them? Absolutely not.

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    1. Presumably your dad was home though, right? I mean, someone was watching you? And it sounds like your current career allows you to be home when your husband is not, which is why you're not offering accounts of what you do when both you and your husband must work a holiday.

      Ironically, my words are currently being put to the test. I asked for Dec 24th off, and a coworker of mine whose wife is also a doctor said that he discovered his daycare is closed that week and needs to take off, even though he already asked for preference for another holiday. My kids are off, but my husband can watch them, so I am trying to do the right thing and offered to come in that day. I know he's not a character and wouldn't ask if it wasn't a legitimate problem, so I feel it's my duty to do what I can.

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  8. I'm currently a medical student. So yes, right now, I have holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and Labor Day off. But there are plenty of times when one my kids is off, I need to be at school, and my husband needs to be at work. We deal with it. We ask friends and friends and babysitters for help. We pay for a daycare with excellent hours for our younger child. Summers are challenging.

    I imagine that now you're going to come back with some sort of response about how I have no idea what it's like because I haven't been through residency and I'm not an attending. I don't doubt that there are challenges ahead, and I'm sure we'll run into these situations. It's one of the reasons we choose to live near family, even though we'd both probably prefer to live somewhere else.

    I could see myself in the future volunteering to work a holiday I don't care about so that those who do can have the day off. But as I said above, that's being considerate. You asked if parents should be given special privileges with regard to holiday scheduling. That, to me, sounds different. If I didn't have children, I wouldn't be excited about always giving up holiday time with my parents and grandmother and sisters and nieces and nephews every single year just because I haven't reproduced.

    And frankly, I'm not even sure what you mean by holiday. I don't consider Black Friday or Christmas Eve, both of which you've given as examples, to be holidays that one should grant time-off privileges for. In my previous career, I worked both of those days and, had I had children at the time, I would have had to take a personal day or find alternative childcare arrangements. Sure, in medicine there may not be personal days, but that's something people know about when they choose it as a profession.

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    1. Black Friday is a holiday in my book only because daycares and schools are generally closed, so the scramble for childcare is the same. Not everyone has family nearby or the option of living near family.

      I think that it's the *right* thing to do for people who have small children that need to be cared for to get preference for holidays if they need it. Should this be forced? I guess it can't be. Up until recently, companies weren't even forced to provide health insurance to employees, which I also think is the right thing to do.

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  9. I understand your point, but I think things are never "fair" but an "equitable" schedule for all is a good goal, if you don't have kids you are still somebody's kid. I do the call schedule for our inpatient peds, med and the FP OB call schedule at our hospital so I asked everyone which of the 3 big holidays they wanted off and so everyone is working at some point but not the same person each of the holiday and so everyone gets 1-2 4 day breaks, I try to do the same for the 3 summer holidays - memorial, 4th and labor.

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    1. Even though it might not have sounded that way, I really wasn't trying to say that a person with kids should get every single holiday off and a person with no kids should be forced to work every holiday.

      What I really meant is that if the parent asked for Christmas as one of their 3 big holidays and said they really needed it due to childcare-related reasons, that should get priority if a large number of people ask for the same holiday. It might not be 100% fair, but I think it's reasonable.

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  10. I have mixed feelings about preference for the holidays but in my situation it is easy. All residents work the holidays (Christmas and new year) - choosing days in order of seniority. The attending share divide the holidays evenly and only work Christmas or New years every ~3-4years.

    I agree with Fizzy - the issue is those people that take advantage. We have one resident/mother who asks for almost every long weekend off with the excuse that her son is out of school. Another resident/bachelor that asks for every summer long weekend off because he has a camping trip or out-of-town event with friends. People should ask for those times they really need off and make reasonable accommodations. Someone keeping track is also useful.

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  11. Not in the medical field but human services. Luckily I have a few singletons that ask to work holidays for the double time pay. But I do have one 9-5er that has taken a week off at Christmas. Another person with a teenager complained .....and I did point out that she is the only one without family close by and has travel via plane to see them. The rest of us have very little if any travel. And its typically a slow week anyway and doesn't result in extra work for us.

    As the supervisor, I do have to deal with one employee that often has to take those small holidays off when day care is closed but it's not a big deal as she pulls her weight and figures out a way to help us if needed.

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  12. I think I come down somewhere in the middle- when possible, anyone with special needs ought to be considered first, if possible- whether that's small children, family far out of town, or whatever else.

    I think this is one of the benefits of diversity in work environments- if you have enough of that, it'll be easier to find someone who has no problem working Christmas (e.g. me, I'm Jewish), or Thanksgiving (a collegue of mine who's an immigrant, or another who doesn't have family), etc. As long as I get my equivalent day off at some point, I'm more than happy to work Christmas so that someone else doesn't have to. In smaller contexts, this gets harder, though.

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    1. If you're a parent though, it doesn't matter what your religion is. The Jewish kids don't get to stay at school for Christmas.

      I agree with what you said that anyone with special considerations ought to be considered first. I just happen to think that small children and questionable back-up childcare is a really strong special consideration. I think wanting to go to church is not nearly as strong.

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    2. Being a parent comes with distinct responsibilities. One of the major responsibilities of being a parent is having adequate childcare, which includes backup and backup for your backup. IF holidays are important, as parents we should be prepared for what comes. Holidays come at the same time EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR! No surprise christmases, no sneaky July 4ths. Every parent also receives a school calendar, which at the very least gives them several of months of advanced notice. Do I feel sorry for the unprepared parent? Certainly not. Would I give up my holiday for any person who WAS prepared but got into circumstances beyond their control? Yes!

      I am in healthcare in a very small workplace. This year I was scheduled to work every major holiday as well as their eves. I have a 3 year old and a husband who does get most holidays off. It works out, but we took positions that accomodate our "needs". And I spoke up regarding my situation. I will gladly work all of the holidays but requested Christmas Eve off. Our schedule will be odd, but we both received our Christmas Eve off as requested, and we'll schedule accordingly. Our family is 200 miles away and I have seniority, so my needs were accomodated.

      Each situation should be considered by someone who "keeps tabs" and makes sure that each year is relatively fair. I also think seniority should hold sway. But, no, people with kids shouldn't get special treatment for a lack of preparedness. Any very important need should be considered which should certainly include religious needs. Should we disregard someones wedding day because it involves a religious ceremony? Or tell Jewish individuals to forget about their needs?

      And last, taking your kid out of school for vacation or an event isn't the most horrible thing in the world. When did that become the way of thinking? I hear it a lot.

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    3. I know parents who have been reprimanded for trying to pull their kid out of school to take a trip, so apparently, it IS a problem.

      A coworker told me recently that he needed me to cover for him during a holiday time when I had hoped to take off because his daycare was closed and his wife (a physician) couldn't get out of work. Did I tell him it was too damn bad and he needed to find a means of childcare? Honestly, I would never ever have said that. I was able to switch my plans and I did. I took off another holiday instead, and it wasn't any great tragedy. To me, that is the compassionate thing to do. Others apparently don't feel that way.

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  13. While not a MD I dont necessarily agree as one can be an Aunt as in my case and spend alot of time (when able) with nieces or nephews who are ones in fact only option as "kids".. Just my thought.

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    1. Yes, but I'm sure your nieces and nephews would be just as happy to see you in January as they would on December 25.

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  14. OK, I didn't read any of the comments, but I remember something my dad once said to me. He is a neonatologist. "It doesn't matter what you are doing for the holidays, your time off is important. If my partner is a single guy who wants to sit in his Corvette and watch the sun go down on Christmas Eve, while I am working away trying to get home to stay up all night putting together presents from Santa, that's ok." So I kind of agree. I did not get Christmas this year, or last, but I have New Year's off with the kids so I am happy for that. Everyone deserves their turn at time off, no matter what. If you choose to help out a partner with kid/daycare issues, great. But it has to be your choice.

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    1. What I find interesting about all these comments is not ONE person has mentioned a time when both they and their spouse both had to work on a school holiday and they had to arrange for alternate "emergency" childcare because someone else wanted the day off to watch the sun go down. I know you were in a two-physician household. Did this happen to you? And if so, what did you do?

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    2. I wrote above that there are lots of days when there's a school holiday and both my husband and I have to be at work/school. We had an entire (unplanned) week last fall when our older child was off school because of Hurricane Irene. (Just because we live near family doesn't mean that said relatives are always available to watch our kids, so we have to hire babysitters and ask friends to watch our child.) No, I haven't polled my husband's coworkers to make sure that they have worthy reasons for having the day offon Presidents' Day, but it's really not for me to judge how they spend their time off, even if all they wanted to do was lie on the couch in their PJs watching a RHONY marathon.

      And just how far would you extend this privilege to parents? Maybe in my husband's group the 3-4 childless physicians should have to take all the sick call. After all, it's much harder for someone with children to come in to work at the last minute. Maybe the people with kids shouldn't have to work any weekends, either. Kids don't have school on weekends and daycares are closed. I'm sure that none of his childless coworkers are doing anything worthwhile on Saturday and Sunday that they couldn't do on a weekday. Who cares if they have spouses and friends and family who work during the week? They can postpone all socializing until they have kids of their own and can take advantage of the parental time-off privileges you would bestow upon them.

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    3. No, I think the physicians with kids shouldn't have to work at all, and should get paid as much as the ones who do work. And the physicians without kids should have to basically work all the time, around the clock. They should have Foleys hooked up so they don't have to waste time peeing, and get to sleep maybe 20-30 minutes per night. Because obviously, that's the natural extension of saying that physicians with kids might need a little extra flexibility around holidays.

      What is interesting to me, expressed through your anger, is that sometimes the least understanding people when it comes to parenting situation is other parents. We feel like if we have done something difficult, no matter how crazy and unreasonable it was, then anyone who can't do it is weak. For example, I worked for several hours while having contractions in early labor. So to me, it seems "weak" or even unfair for pregnant women to want to take off days or weeks before their due dates. Similarly, because you had to scrap together help to care for your kids in an emergency and against all odds, you made it work, you feel that everybody should be able to do it and anyone who can't is "weak". But I don't think that's the attitude we should have. I think in the case of the hurricane, I feel that either you or your husband SHOULD have been allowed to stay with your kids if humanly possible. I'm sorry you weren't given the flexibility you needed at work, but that doesn't mean we should say it's fine that things are that way, and anyone who can't cope is a bad parent and a bad physician and just a bad person in general.

      Maybe the solution involves hiring more locums for weekends or holidays in exchange for a lower salary. I have no idea. But I do know that the solution isn't to vilify two working parents who struggle to find safe childcare on a holiday or emergency.

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  15. We all have families, whether we are the parents, the children, the grandchildren, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew. I think it is only fair to rotate working holidays between all workers, regardless of their personal situation. It is up to each individual to decide how they use that holiday time off.

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  16. I was in a two physician household. It was difficult. I arranged for childcare - had an excellent sitter who even got up on snow days - her daughter drove her a half hour in so I could drive the 15 minutes to work (which ended up taking close to an hour on the icy freeways). When I had to work in a remote hospital thirty minutes away, I arranged for my childcare to spend the night and went there to stay in a hotel so I could make the 8 am frozen sections. I paid them well. As a single mom, it's even tougher at times! Wow, I'm starting to sound like I need a violin playing in the background:) Just saying that in choosing to be working parents, we need to all get good backup so we are there when necessary, and our partners can have the time off they deserve. We all deserve our time off. Great topic, Fizzy!

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    1. Wow, that is rough. And you are in pathology, which is more of a lifestyle specialty than most other fields. Just shows how hard it is in medicine to have a reasonable lifestyle...

      (To be continued...)

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  17. Fizzy, I don't think anyone is saying parents who can't arrange childcare SHOULDN'T get special consideration for time off. I think what people are disagreeing with is saying this is MORE important than other people's needs & requests for special consideration.

    In the end, we are talking about what people value - and this is subjective to a large extent. You might think it's horrible to have to leave your child with an unfamiliar sitter; someone else might feel the same away about not seeing their nephews on Christmas Day, or not being at church. We can't judge what's important to other people - and nor can workplaces arbitrate between them objectively. Ultimately, I think whoever gets a particular day off should be the person who WANTS it off the most - although not objective, that's the best measure of the day's value to that person - for whatever reason. (And if you're not happy, swaps are great!)

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    1. However, society places a priority on this and with good reason. Say there was a major disaster that expects all emergency workers to respond. A person who was supposed to go to church that day or see their nephew would have to come to work. A person who is home alone with their 3 year old child would definitely not. Legally, a small child may not be left alone, so with that in mind, we acknowledge that a parent has obligations that other people do not have.

      I would say the same thing if a person were caring for a disabled or elderly family member who couldn't be left alone. There's nothing special about parenthood, only about having the sole responsibility of caring for another human being.

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    2. Actually, our state would expect an emergency worker to respond, including physicians. our employer, and state, expects you to have appropriate emergency coverage for children in the event of a disaster.
      Regardless, I totally agree that this is a complicated issue.

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    3. I doubt anyone who was the sole provider of small children would be allowed to volunteer for a position where they MUST respond, because obviously in an extreme emergency, childcare may simply not be available. But they could still be an emergency room physician, for example.

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    4. At our institution, "essential personnel" who are scheduled to work are required to report during an emergency - be it a snowstorm, a hurricane, or anything else. This includes physicians, as well as nurses, and many other personnel. There's no difference at our institution (and i believe in our state) on the basis of being a sole provider for small children, and many couples are both considered essential personnel. I realize this is a bit different than the issue in your original post, but i don't think the emergency situation works very well as a parallel example, as described in your original reply to sally above, to justify your viewpoint (as i understand it) on the topic of holiday privileges. As i said, i think holidays are a complicated issue, without too many easy answers, and i think it is great for discussion.

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  18. I think INDIVIDUALS should help each other out as much as possible. I think INSTITUTIONS should not be in the business of determining whose priorities are more important. Parental leave makes sense from an institutional perspective because it is a way of hanging on to employees who are very expensive to replace and who will be likely to leave without it. I have a child, and when I have needed help I have gotten it. My department uses a points system for holidays and a lottery for (limited) summer vacation. And then there is bartering and working things out when people have issues. But no one gets favored status on the list because they have children (or for any reason).

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