A Woman's Role...

As I sat on my bed going through my Google Reader I stumbled upon an article by Lisa Belkin, a contributing columnist for New York Times Magazine. The article titled, "Palin Talk" raises issues that are on every mothers mind. In a world where women and men are supposedly "equal," is it ok for a woman to go back to work after having a child? What if that woman is in a high powered position? Or one that forces her to spend a lot of time away from home? What if the child has special needs?

As much as I loathe Sarah Palin I am thankful that her new celebrity status has brought attention to this issue.

As a highly ambitious 23-year old woman I have always assumed I would rejoin the workforce when my maternity leave ran out. However, after being bombarded by pregnant co-workers, Pro-life protests, talking heads, a visit to my OB-GYN and sitting across from a very cute baby at breakfast I have been forced to revisit the issue.

Parental Opinions

My parents have a lot of strong opinions about how to raise children. Having been raised in very traditional households with five brothers and sisters they believe the mother should stay home -at least until the children are in school. Can't afford to be a stay-at-home Mom? Only want one child? Then you shouldn't have children at all.

It probably comes as no surprise that my Mom hates Sarah Palin. I have heard her say on more then one occasion, "I don't think she's a very good mother." In fact, my Mom seems to take strong offense to Palin's supporters. I might even go so far as to say the the idea of Gov. Palin as a mother is insulting to her. This is also the woman who won't watch Family Guy because she hates Stewie.

The Government

Some may think this is an odd category to include, but the government greatly affects the choices of mother's everywhere. One of the women I work with has taken three months off to be with her newborn. This includes the maternity leave my company grants along with some of her own vacation time.

A quick search on Wikipedia finds this very generous by federal standards. In the U.S. companies are only required to give women six weeks of unpaid leave. Six weeks! They aren't even required to give mother's partial pay. Oh gee, you mean you can't fire me for keeping the human race alive? Thanks... In fact, it seems the only perks mother's enjoy in the workforce are lower pay raises and waiting considerably longer to receive promotions.

Canada gives their mothers up to 50 weeks with partial pay to share with the father. Now there's a country that cares about family values. Even Iraq has a better maternity policy than the U.S. Eight weeks off with full pay!

France allows parental leave for Mom and Dad. Mom receives a minimum of 16 weeks with full pay and has an additional two years of leave without pay if she chooses.

  • Germany - 14 weeks with full pay
  • Italy - 22 months with 80% pay
  • United Kingdom - 39 weeks with partial pay
  • And you should check out Norway!

At the end of all this, I think of what kind of Mom I want to be. I'd like to be there for my child during their most formative years, or at least until they can walk. While I don't think I want to become a full-time stay-at-home Mom it would be nice to have some options. Three months (if my company allows three months) is not a lot of time to stay at home with a newborn.

I hope I'll be able to afford to spend six months to a year with my child before going back to work full-time. It would be even better, if my employer would partially compensate me for the first six.

In this digital age it shouldn't be too much to ask for a flexible schedule once I decide to have children either. It would be tremendously freeing and relieve a lot of stress to work from home a few days a week. As long as I'm putting in the required time and getting my work done why should flex scheduling be a problem?

Now many of you will think I'm living in a dream world and maybe I am. But if you can't envision a better future, how can you possibly create one? The Secret and "vision boards" work for a reason. Just ask Oprah, and with every staunch conservative screaming about family values, it would be nice if our government started to reflect them.

I'm not sure which side of the debate I will land on when it becomes my turn to step into the baby arena, but I hope that the choices will be easier for me then it has been for so many others.


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