Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Days of our Lives" episode raises a good question about "family leave" policy

This week, on the Corday NBC Soap “Days of our Lives” Lexie (Renee Jones) has a hearing at the Salem Hospital as to whether she can keep her job as chief of staff.

The reason that the episode is important is that her performance has slipped because of extensive time she has to spend a home to care for her son, Theo, whom she and Abe have found to be autistic.

The head of the review board first sounds very harsh. The chairman says something like this: Family problems can never be allowed to interfere with the performance of a professional job. The episode ought to stimulate debate about family leave (which right now allows only for unpaid leave), because when it is taken, often other employees have to take up the slack.

There is another “moral” problem. Any family “takes a chance” when it has a child, with the possibility that special needs may occur. Should that family be solely responsible, or should other share the sacrifice (as in the workplace). This point can have a profound impact on the debate about family policy, particularly as birth rates in some populations fall partly because of the extreme cost and “risk” of raising children.

In one “Dr. Phil” episode a few months ago, a man had married a women with three disabled children and was overwhelmed by the experience. He had thought he could become a “white knight.”

As Days unfolds, the board votes to let Lexie stay, but she resigns anyway to stay at home with Theo, unaware that Abe has lost his job with the Salem police deparment.

Earlier, Lexie had been fired for altering patient records when she was being blackmailed. “Days” repeatedly takes blood loyalty and patriarchal behavior to its extremes.

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