big maternity leave project reveal!
This is perhaps the single-most-important tweet of 2021. And it basically says in a fragment of a sentence what I spent several dozen sentences saying in my application to journalism school.
The underlying experience of making a piece of theatre or making a piece of journalism is the experience of creating a narrative collaboratively. In writing or making a play, the process is about a world of your own creation, a world whose rules and truths you decide together.
When writing a piece of journalism the world in question is this world, the common reality that we share. But it might be about a slice of this world you know nothing about, and be about experiences that have nothing to do with yours. Your own experience is not the yardstick by which you write the story—it is the experience of others. The empathy and imagination required to inhabit another person as an actor is quite similar to the disposition of empathy and imagination required of the reporter. A writer doesn’t necessarily need any empathy. But the act of reporting is something quite akin to acting in a scene: you listen, you make yourself available to receive what your scene partner is giving you, and you respond. You put on the page not what you think, but what you have seen.
One of the best feelings in both processes, of course, is the feeling of opening night—or pub date—when you finally share what you have made with the audience. In the theatre, the show becomes something else. In the weeks of your run, the show you made together in private becomes something public—the audience themselves contributes to the piece of art, and you spend the weeks between opening and closing creating something similar but different to what you made in private.
Pub date is similar to opening night, in that you finally share what you have written with a public, and your readers get to respond to what you have made. The publishing of a piece is the beginning of the conversation, not its end.
Although, already, when we hit publish on the maternity leave piece my team and I had been working on for months, I felt our relationship shift in that all-too-familiar key change of closing night. We were no longer quite “people who were making a thing together,” but had become “people who had made a thing together.”
These feelings of collaborative creativity, opening nights and closing nights, are some of the most familiar to me. They have marked most of the formative years of my life. And it is a joy to see familiar feelings pop up in unfamiliar places.
Keats in the Sheets
“There is no greater Sin after the 7 deadly than to flatter oneself into an idea of being a great Poet”— to Benjamin Robert Haydon, May 1817
— From the Blog—
As I bike up Sixth Avenue, I am conscious of the fact that the Gospel is quite obvious and easy. It’s very simple. It’s all been laid out in easily diagrammable sentences on papyri and then vellum and now finely recycled paper. Nothing about it has been shrouded in mystery. It’s a lamp without a bushel basket, truly. If we just took Christ seriously, if our faith were but more simple, as the hymn goes, we might actually be able to hear Christ. If we were less interested in being smart, and more interested in what he’s saying.
Read the full post here.
Keats in the Streets
“I am however young, writing at random—straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness” to George & Georgiana Keats, May 1819
—Sweet Unrest writing out in the world—
What's the State of Maternity Leave in the US Catholic Church? FemCatholic Investigates
This project has taken the better part of the past few months and it’s a joy to share. We called all 176 U.S. dioceses and confirmed 58 of their maternity leave policies. I learned so much from so many generous and helpful diocesan representatives. I was surprised at how unwilling others were to talk. We spoke to many women who had experienced really difficult post-partum parental leaves—unpaid, paid on a small percent of their salary, or fighting for the weeks that they were owed.
We learned that the bishops in the United States have not yet considered paid maternity or parental leave part of their commitment to being “pro-life,” but many of their employees consider paid parental leave an essential pro-life policy.
“The Literary world I know nothing about” to George & Georgiana Keats, Feb 1819
—Highlights from the Good Reads shelf—
Lady Parts, by Deborah Copaken
Ladyparts is essential reading. I raced through Copaken’s memoir in a matter of weeks. Which, in my persistent deadline state over the past month, was a surprise. Copaken elucidates, through her own experience, and careful data and reporting, the impossible situation of middle-class and working-class families in the United States. The game is rigged against their flourishing, particularly when it comes to healthcare. The high-wire act of providing for her family, caring for her own health, obtaining insurance, and squeezing out enough money to get the medical care she needs is the racing heartbeat of the book. It’s an infuriating and galvanizing read.
Mr. Brown’s Bylines
“Brown, who is always one’s friend in a disaster, applied a leech to the eyelid, and there is no inflammation this morning though the ball hit me on the sight.” to George & Georgiana Keats, May 1819
—Pieces from good friends, and from writers whose words have been a friend to me—
Abigail Jorgenson & Emily Martin, “‘5 Science-Backed Ways Paid Leave is Good for Women & Children's Health,” FemCatholic
Abigail and Emily supported our project with their own research. It’s an important—and quick—read.
Parents who have time to bond with their children are more likely to notice symptoms of dangerous illnesses or conditions and to seek medical care before those symptoms progress. These factors may be why increases in paid parental leave have been causally linked to decreasing rates of infant mortality. Statistically, “a 10-week increase in paid leave is predicted to reduce infant mortality rates by between 2.5% and 3.4%.
Read the full piece here.
Ruth Graham, “The Catholic Church Is Starting to Come Around to the Idea of Paid Leave” Slate
Ruth’s piece is one of three previous pieces on maternity leave in Catholic Institutions we considered our predecessors on this beat. Her short piece is a great overview of the key points: Catholic Social Teaching demands the Church sets its own working culture rather than following the cues of the world, the Church is still in the process of resetting its workplaces after so many years of being run by priests and communities of religious sisters and brothers essentially donating their services, and, the big news hook of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s 12 weeks of paid leave.
On a broader level, Catholic social teaching emphasizes that rights accrue to workers because of their essential dignity as human beings. “Workers are not simply instruments,” said Julie Rubio, a professor of Christian Ethics at St. Louis University. “They’re persons, who have to be treated as persons, with lives and responsibilities.”
Read the full essay here.
Molly Jo Rose, “Is your Catholic college pro-family?” U.S. Catholic
Molly Jo shared her piece on Twitter in response to our report. It’s a small but insightful look of maternity leave policies at another kind of Catholic institution: the university.
Bending forward slightly and gripping the lectern, I hid my labor from my students who I was sure would be thrown into a panic if they knew what was happening with my body. My husband met me outside my classroom door and we reached the hospital in time, my students none the wiser.
Read the full story here.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever
— John Keats, from Endymion