Maternity Leave


My blog has changed, the new url is: http://selfmademom.net.  

Check out The Juggle, a new blog by Wall Street Journal columnist Sara Schaefer Munoz.  (I’m not 100% sold on the name, but it might grow on me.) “The Juggle” aims to discuss all the issues that pertain to the modern family- stress of finding the right caregiver, trying to finish your neverending “to do” list, and managing to do your actual day job – all at the same time.

I liked what I read at first, especially about fake workplace productivity problems  (for those who care, I suffer from PCAST with a small case of my own diagnosis,”Nannyitis“).  And I’m totally glad to see another mainstream paper getting on the blogosphere bandwagon.  Guess I’ll add it to my Feeds… how will I ever “Juggle” all the stuff I have to read!?

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On November 10, Elizabeth Vargas, of ABC’s 20/20, conducted a segment on working moms trying to balance their lives.  The segment was good- it covered all the “mommy war” issues: maternity leave, stress of working and trying to make ends meet. (Did you know that Iran and North Korea have better maternity leave policies than the U.S.?) She also made the Department of Labor spokeswoman look like she worked in an alternate universe. (Dept. of Labor: women should “save up” so they can afford to take time off when they have a child. Hah!)  But there was one part I thought Vargas missed the boat on: mommy support systems, i.e. the role of “dad.”

The segment did not feature one husband, boyfriend, partner of the 3 working women profiled.  In fact, I think the word husband only came up once, when Vargas showed a photo of hers (Marc Cohn, the singer, for those who care).  Now, I totally agree that women endure the bulk of the responsibility for child care, working or not working.  But from my experience, I couldn’t be half the mom OR employee I am today without the support of my husband.  Yes, we don’t get enough maternity leave, yes, we may face the glass ceiling that dads don’t.  But without my husband to come home early when I can’t, or to give me some peace on the weekend, raising our son doesn’t work.  Parenting takes two, and while dads may not have to consider the same set of choices or decisions that moms do, it doesn’t mean that the “mommy wars” are for moms alone.

And you thought office politics were bad.  I’m in the middle of a play group coup d’etat. The play group I put my heart and soul into creating during my maternity leave is currently caught in a management overhaul. And I’m the management getting overthrown.  Apparently during one of the groups that I couldn’t attend a decision was made to switch our play dates from people’s homes to a gym class. And not just any old class, but a class that I tried the week before where my son cried at the teacher’s shrill voice (ok, he’s a bit of a wuss, but still.). The decision was made by two alpha NMFs of the group whose kids are older and more mobile. The decision was made behind the scenes. No outside consultants were engaged. Boom- one day, an innocent email went out and then play group as we knew it was over.

But why demand change now? Why rock the 3 month detailed calendar I created which had the play dates set through November? Why pay to sit at a smelly gym and watch my not-yet-crawling son cry at the teacher? NMFs I ask you- are we not engaging enough? Is the carpet on our floors not soft enough? Do we not have enough toys?

One of the other underlings in the group called me shortly after we received notice of the change in direction of our play group.  We comiserated at the loss of innocence, the new focus of our organization, the shleping we’d have to endure.  So what’d we do next? Called the gym and signed up.

Ok, it’s about time I get on this bandwagon. Lots of discussion recently about a recent Washington Post article regarding the amazing childcare provisions and maternity leave policies the French currently offer.  You can’t imagine it if you tried- childcare subsidies, tax deductions, ridiculously cheap childcare options – all to promote mothers to continue working while helping to increase France’s population.
Now, Leslie Morgan Steiner of the Washington Post blogged about it, and suggests lightly that the US start supporting better working moms and dads.
Generally, I agree with this position. But what if it made our health insurance costs go up? or even our taxes? Is it worth it? Is France really the gold standard here?

I’m not sure, but hell, we could all use a few more weeks off with le bebe.