Word of the Day / Misrat Em

Until Israeli society catches up with gender-neutral terminology, this phrase helps a devoted mother and committed career woman balance her obligations. A little tweak could ease the burden and include fathers as well.

In U.S. English, the term “mommy track” smacks of career derailment and often raises women’s hackles, even if they want to work more flexible hours after they have children. The Hebrew phrase “misrat em,” which combines the words for “job position” (misrah) and “mother” (em or ima), refers to a position with shorter or more flexible hours to allow women to pick up their children from school or day care, and the connotation is more similar to the neutral “flextime” than the loaded “mommy track.”

Some workplaces pay less for mom hours and some don’t; some may not offer the option or may frown upon women who take it. In the private sector, what exactly constitutes such a position varies from one workplace to another and may be subject to negotiation. A lawyer at one Tel Aviv law firm, for instance, leaves the office at 3:15 P.M. part of the week so she can be at pickup by 4 P.M., but also puts in full days that can sometimes last into the night.

Though there’s no word yet on when the terminology will expand to include “misrat av” for dads or become gender-neutral (“misrat horeh,” or “parent position,” seems like an obvious option), as of 2010 male teachers who meet certain qualifications get the same benefits they would have gotten if they were mothers. The Education Ministry came to the conclusion that dads can be parents too a mere nine years after the Be’er Sheva Regional Labor Court did, so it may yet take a while before Israeli bosses will be talking to their employees about how many hours they have to put in for their misrat horeh or -- who knows, given the Israeli penchant for borrowing words from other languages and making them all their own -- their misrat flex.