Parents of the U.S.: Julie Makutonin
I’m so excited to share with you a new initiative for the The Breeding Ground in 2017. It’s called called Parents of the U.S., and its goal is to create awareness of the need to change workplace policies, laws, and values by interviewing diverse parents about their lives and work-life integration.
Even more exciting, we’re launching it today! And to kick-off the series, I’m absolutely thrilled to introduce you to Julie Makutonin — a brilliant engineer, dedicated wife and mama, fantastic friend, and great supporter of The Breeding Ground. So without further ado, here’s Julie:
Personal stats: Mom of two sweet and spunky California boys. Married to husband, Jacob, for 10 years.
Corner of the world: San Jose, California.
On work-life integration: “Balancing career and a young family is an ongoing challenge for my husband and me. With the support of my manager, I have recently taken on a part time role to make it work.”
My parental leave experience: “I had my first child at 29, feeling comfortable in my career, relationship, and living situation. Though my husband and I were ready both emotionally and financially, it was an intense and uncertain first few months. We were and are lucky to be parents in California, where maternity leave (filed under “disability”) and family bonding time (only six weeks needed to bond with your child, evidently!) are paid. The first two weeks, which my husband took off, were emotionally hectic and physically draining. This hairless, sleepy person who had joined our home gave absolutely zero f$&@s about our need to sleep, eat, or attempt to maintain any recognizable level of hygiene. I was recovering from a rough delivery (cue inflatable donut cushion) and, as someone for whom eight uninterrupted hours of sleep is table stakes for human function, was living in a haze from which I have only partially emerged after five years and another child. Having my partner there, though also sleep deprived and similarly crazed, was invaluable to my emotional health, to his ability to bond with our new son, and to our transition from outdoorsy, active folk to homebound, glassy-eyed new parents.”
A stigma surrounding paternity leave: “As I’ve become a working parent, I’ve noticed a nagging cultural rhetoric related to working fathers. You know, those guys who contribute with every paycheck into the California paid leave program but often use only some, if any, of the six weeks available to them. And what this means is that even when family-friendly policies are in place, dads face a very real stigma. There are subtle (and not so subtle) psychological, cultural, and social barriers for men since, as a society, we have long considered the ability for a dad to “provide” to mean financially and not in the many other ways parents provide care for their kids.”
On the pursuit of happiness: “The topic of the happiest countries recently came up in conversation with my husband. The top of the list is, and has been, made up of countries offering generous maternity and paternity leave among other social benefits. In the United States, California is one of only a few states to offer any parental paid leave. And while I’m grateful that it exists, our program falls short. There are exceptions around who qualifies, and the wage replacement rate is capped at an amount that makes it difficult to manage in one of the most expensive states with some of the highest housing prices.”
Men and women as equals: “Yes, women are the ones who give birth to babies, and, of those who are able, some elect to breastfeed for some period of time. Other than that, there is functionally no difference in the level and quality of care each parent provides. Personally, I don’t subscribe to the so-called mommy instinct if it means that mothers are somehow innately more capable than fathers to care for a baby or child. We parents all learn the same way: through trial and error, and through spending a lot of time with our kids. Even now, my husband is the clear winner in our four-year-old’s Emotional Olympics, while I struggle to make sense of how to reason with a child who has the vocabulary and negotiation skills of a ten-year-old but melts down into a blonde puddle when ice cream is not a choice for dinner."
“Why are we still so far from the seemingly logical concept of supporting families by making it financially feasible, and socially acceptable, for working fathers to be equal partners in parenting from the very beginning?”
Thanks so much for sharing, Julie!
Join the discussion on our Facebook page, and like us while you're there! Oh, and if you know of someone who’d like to be interviewed (including yourself!), please shoot us an email at Hello@TheBreedingGround.org.