Jordan Peterson on Maternity Leave

On an episode of the Dave Rubin show (available in its entirety on YouTube), Jordan Peterson gave his opinion on Maternity Leave and the importance of home/work life balance. Since the questioner did not explicitly ask about maternity leave, we’ll provide the full question in context and then address the larger question that it leads into. To be absolutely clear, it’s very difficult to summarize an issue with as much baggage as Maternity Leave in the short space here. We’ll just ask that interested readers do not assume this is fully encompassing of Jordan’s position on the issue (as it most certainly is not).

We’ll first give the questioners remarks, then Jordan Peterson’s answer. Finally we’ll put the answer in context. Jordan lightly touches on some social science research, in addition to a handful of other arguments, that we’ll clarify at the end. There’s a lot going on here but let’s get to it. 

Original Question:

Dr. Peterson, at 33 years old and living in expensive Southern California with now three young children, what is your advice on how to balance having a parent at home with our children versus pursuing dual incomes? There’s a little bit more to that, and we hit on this with the other one. But it’s another interesting one, how all of these things about personal responsibility and children, they’re so related to economics.

Jordan first got into the question by addressing home life in general and the importance of present at home early. If we were a far right wing blog, we might be tempted to title the article “Jordan DESTROYS Maternity Leave” but the truth is that it’s complicated and Jordan tackles some of that complexity with his response.

Jordan’s Response: 

Well, the one thing you want to think about with children, especially young children … This is really important. You got to get this right. When you have a baby, say, you can’t believe it and you can’t believe that you’re going to be able to figure out what to do with this thing. It’s the most complicated thing you’ve ever had, and no one has helped you figure out how to do it. So you’re stuck.

And then three months later, it’s like you can’t really imagine what life would be like without that baby. And then it’s like this goes on forever. That’s how it feels. But it doesn’t. You have little kids for four years. And if you miss it, it’s done. That’s it. So you got to know that. Lots of things in life, you don’t get to do more than once. Now, obviously, you can have more than one child.

But all I’m saying is that period between zero and four, zero and five, there’s something about it that’s really … It’s like a peak experience in life. It isn’t much of your life, because you think of it as a long time. It’s not that long, man. Four years goes by so fast, you can’t believe it. And if you miss it, it’s gone. So you miss it at your peril, and you don’t get it back, and that’s not …

I know what with your career, you miss opportunities, you fall behind. This happens to women a lot. It’s part of the reason for the pay gap. And it’s really hard on women, although no one knows what to do about it. And I would also say, “Well, you talk to each other.” Try to minimize your financial requirements to the degree that you can. See if there’s other ways that you can generate income, and come to a consensual solution and try not to torture yourself with guilt with whatever you come up with.

But do remember … Because you’ve got financial responsibilities and often, you need two incomes. And there’s no easy way of dealing with it. And for women, it often seems that no matter what they do, it’s wrong. They stay home with their kids, it’s wrong. If they go to work, it’s wrong. If they do both, it’s wrong. And I’m not being smart about that. That’s rough, man. But having said all that, I would say again, you got little kids for four years. Don’t miss it. You will regret it.”

In another Q&A segment on the same show, Jordan goes into detail about whether mothers should return to work or go on maternity leave. In this (below) we see the important psychological and economic arguments alluded to above come to the forefront.

U.S. Opinion on Maternity Leave Remains Mixed

As we noted in our article on Ben Shapiro on Maternity Leave much of America remains mixed (in varying ways) to whether paid maternity leave should be demanded of businesses both big and small. While most of the developed world has some form of paid maternity leave, to say this is necessarily the best way to proceed would be an informal logical fallacy (appeal to consensus). That said, most American’s agree that paid maternity leave would be good for families (as Peterson seems to suggest) but bad for businesses, especially small businesses that would have to bear that burden.

As always, should we become aware that Dr. Peterson has changed his opinion or should new evidence be submitted that we have either misconstrued his opinion or failed to include important statements from him, we will 1) make the correction, 2) note the correction here, 3) issue a mea culpa that attempts to explain and improve on how we missed this. 

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