Thursday, March 5, 2009

Do we REALLY care about the working family?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how we treat families in this country. Pundit mom has a great post about a woman is in the military and she was ordered to report, but had no one to care for her kids. Her husband's job requires him to travel, so she took her kids with her when she reported and they eventually discharged her. Check it out!

But why is it so hard for moms? And why is it so tough on families? We are becoming less of a family friendly society each year. When you look at what other countries do it is amazing?
In France, you get a child support payment and can have up to 3 years off from your job. We get six weeks!! They get someone to come to their home 2x/week to help with chores (nanny subsidies). That's right! They'll even do laundry.

This is because the government fears the citizens. When they protest, the government takes that seriously. We just accept it! And why? I often wonder if it's because men have been in charge for so long. I'm not really knocking men, but they can't truly understand all that delivering a baby entails. They can't understand the pain, the guilt, the possible post partum depression that may come along with it. And just when you are starting to feel like yourself, your 6 puny weeks are up. And I consider myself lucky, I had 11 weeks total: 8 weeks b/c I had a Csection and enough time stored up to get 1 more week paid... and then I took 2 weeks unpaid. Plus I have a short term disability policy that allows me to receive 60% of my pay. Most women likely don't have that, especially low-income women.. so they get to collect whatever their state disability sets as a "reasonable" amount.

I've heard President Obama talk about wanting to make some changes to FMLA... The following is taken from

Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The FMLA covers only certain employees of employers with 50 or more employees. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will expand the FMLA to cover businesses with 25 or more employees. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will expand the FMLA to cover more purposes as well, including allowing workers to take leave for elder care needs; allowing parents up to 24 hours of leave each year to participate in their children's academic activities at school; allowing leave to be taken for purposes of caring for individuals who reside in their home for 6 months or more; and expanding FMLA to cover leave for employees to address domestic violence and sexual assault.

This is a start! And this is great. I do think the 24 hours of leave for school activity participation is very creative. But we need more. 6 paid weeks is just unacceptable. We need to demand better for our families. All the politicians claim to stand up for working families... Well, let's make them put their money/votes where their mouths are. I'm sure there are already groups advocating for this stuff... but we all need to seek them out and participate.

Please comment with your ideas! Maybe we can come up with something brilliant! I'd love a good discussion on this.


Monkey Girl said...

Ok, I caved and watched some CNN yesterday...what a mistake.

Neo-cons telling Obama to stop complaining about the mess he inherited from Bush. Saying he's been in office for six weeks, why hasn't he fixed the world?

And they were serious, it wasn't a joke.

I quickly turned the tv off, because my blood pressure was going to blow!!

I know this really isn't on topic, but I just had to tell you.

Fantastic Forrest said...

It's an interesting subject. I was astounded to read your statement about the French policies. Yet another reason for me to go live in Paris. Is it to late for me to have a third child? Hmmm...must ponder this.

The CBS story by Sheila Mac Vicar states "In a policy borne out of 100-year-old fears that a declining French population would be vulnerable to military attack, the government now subsidizes family life in France to the tune of $40 billion a year." The story also points to the greying of Europe, but says that it's not so much a problem in France, where birth rates are up.

We don't really have a problem with keeping sufficient population hereabouts. And while I totally agree with you that families need more support, I assume you're not saying that small businesses should bear the financial burden. So it's going to need to come from government, right? Maybe if they stop giving gazillions to Haliburton and the like, they'd find a few bucks to give moms. Just a thought!

Jen said...

MG - That's okay. It was a good effort for you to try to watch the news. haha.. It is crazy the stuff you here there sometimes.

FF - Yeah, I think a few businesses might try to go above and beyond to provide more for new moms and that's a great start. I was thinking most help coming from the government, but there must be a way it could be a collaborated effort. I think it would go a long way to keeping employees. I know that quite a few moms lead the employers on that they will come back after maternity leave even though they have intentions of staying home longer so they can get the health benefits and what not. If we made more of an effort to allow women to take enough time to spend with their children, then perhaps they'd stay at their jobs. I find it very difficult now to manage, I can't imagine what it will be like when he gets to school and I want to be able to participate in that stuff too.

Fantastic Forrest said...

You'd wondered about groups advocating for this type of support. I belong to a Facebook group,, that you might check out.

Take care and keep up your great efforts to speak out!

Abby Johns said...

Okay, there are two things I just HAVE to share with you.

1) Have you read any of the child-free by choice stuff? Oh boy, I sure would LOVE to hear your opinion on that. There is a Momversation on it at

2) I think one thing that us moms need to do to draw attention to the help that we need is to stop living the falacy that motherhood is pure joy with absolutely no difficulty. I am reading The Mommy Myth right now and it is definitely a book that I am already finding myself nodding to as I read. The media has created this whole deception that moms find nothing but fulfillment in their children and that there is nothing they would rather do than parent their child 24 hours a day. We need to let everyone know the daily challenges, both emotional and physical, that motherhood comes from. AND we need to let each other off the hook so that we can all feel free to openly express how we TRULY feel about motherhood from day to day. If we feel more free to put our true feelings out there then we can start to express to those in charge what we need, on a REAL level.

I love my daughter, and she ADDS to my fulfillment, but she is NOT my sole source of fulfillment in life. Some assistance from time to time would not only be appreciated, it would create the type of 'village' that is best for raising my child.

Monkey Girl said...

Thank you for being honest. When I hear Mommies saying that motherhood is the end all be's all rainbows and sunshine, I think who is raising their children and what drugs are they on.
Being a parent is the hardest job I've ever had. EVER. Yes, I get a lot of joy but I get a lot of heartache also. Mommies who are like that scare me, because what are they going to do when their 'ball of sunshine' grows up and moves out of the house? What will they do then?
You HAVE to hold onto a sense of your identity of who you were before becoming a parent. I'm so much more than just being a mom. I want my children to be the best THEY can be and completely autonomous individuals not little miniature versions of myself.
It's a lot of work, and that's putting it mildly.

Jen said...

Abby - I just stopped by that - First time I've ever been there. I don't know if I can bring myself to go to the childfree by choice blogs though.

I will say that all throughout my 20's I always said I was never having kids. Then I met my husband at age 25 and was married at 31. Once, I got married, I got the uncontrollable desire for children that I had never had before.

I've been pleasantly surprise by parenthood. I guess I always had the opinion that it was miserable and that your life would end. So, after I had my son, I've felt as it's been easier than I thought. I will say that I have had an easy baby... and he's only 2, so I know I've not had a taste of the hard stuff yet. But you are right, parenting is a job. Whether you work or not on top of that.

As far as the whole tax break, leave thing... I have mixed feelings. It's much like smokers getting a break to have a cigarette, but nonsmokers don't. I just don't think about the fact that I'm not getting a break. I felt the same way before I had children... it never would have occurred to me that I should have "nonmaternity leave"... and I never thought about tax breaks either? Maybe I'm a rare breed. But for the money it costs to have children, I would never begrudge someone the tax help. Although, I can see how people would get frustrated because you do have larger families that maybe seem to take it for granted.

Clair said...

Hi, I;m in the UK and we get 9 months off!!!! It is a pretty paltry sum of £112per week but it is often topped up by the employer (I got full pay for 12 weeks then on a sliding scale til my 9 months were up) It is fantastic getting so much time with your baby! Even better partners get 2 weeks paid leave too (same amount but most companies give full pay). Plus we have the right to ask for family friendly hours and the company has to give a good reason not to accomodate it! (like it would be unsafe!)
Its worked really well for me but it might be because i'm really lucky in my employer and have had supportive managers!
By law they have to provide you with somewhere to breatfeed/express when you do return to work AND somewhere to store milk!!

(and I dont think we have the best deal in Europe by far!)

6 weeks is not enough! Obama is a frexh mind and voice in the US and I hope he sees the importance of working mums to the country!

Anyway, rant over. At least you dont have a useless grumpy old man in charge who hasnt got a clue how to get us out of the mess he got us into. ugh

Jennifer said...

I think 6 weeks is an monstrosity myself but you are right, President Obama's intentions are a step in the right direction even though they are merely baby steps. The main problem in our country today-Our country's citizens think they only have a voice on election day. Even then, many think one voice won't make a difference. I agree this issue (plus several others) need to be brought to the forefront but until SAHM, WAHM, single-moms, married moms, single ladies and all other kinds of women STOP fighting each other, there will never be any great strides taken to truly give ALL women equal rights and better treatment in the US.

As far as where the money would come from: Here's an idea for the government-Lay off the $10,000 toilet seats and $500 rolls of toilet paper. The government should be held to no different standard than you & me. If I can't afford the diamond encrusted plunger then I don't buy it...even on credit! If the government has too much difficulty collecting certain taxes, then maybe the tax code should be re-written with realistic enforcement and management expectations. 8 years of the Take-What-I-Want-And-Pay-The-Bill-Later mentality has put the US on the verge of collapse. (Thanks George!). Creative solutions are now required to dig ourselves out of the spiraling depression so the United States can offer a deserving lifestyle to it's great citizens. Hopefully under Obama's leadership & creative spark, we'll get there!

mommapolitico said...

Hey, Jen, a great and important post, Girl.

And MG, I, too, am addicted, an acknowledged policy wonk...try watching Rachel Maddow instead of CNN. You'll get the news of the day with a slice of goofiness, and Rachel gets right to the crux of the issue most nights, but without making you want to throw things, as I am wont to do on the network feeds. i think you'll be pleasantly surprised. I am now addicted to CNBC at 6 or 8 (or both, depending on the number of interruptions from the Little Politicos...)

I am continually amazed by the lack of support for the working families in this country. I'm part of MomsRising, too, FF. Great organization fighting for all moms, all levels. I wish I'd known sooner how much I would love being a mom - we'd have had more than just Little Man and Tweenie. Hardest job in the world, but the best thing I've ever done. Period. But, hey, those nights when both kids are vomiting and you've all come down with the ain't easy...

I knew Joe Biden would do right by families. He's a good family man, and did right by his boys as a single dad. I think we're finally on the right track. Much more needs to be done, of course. Claire blew me away with her 9 months of leave info! I went into education for health insurance for my family and family-conducive hours/vacations. But it's not enough. We have to keep making our voices known, Girls.

Thanks, Jen, for getting this conversation started!

PunkyBean said...

I was lucky enough to take twelve weeks with both kids, still just not enough! I think it's Sweeden that offers one year paid for EITHER mom or dad. Someone must stay home with that baby!

Really, I have an eight month old and I'm gone at lease three or four days a month because she's sick and that of course is from being at daycare. It sucks. God forbid I get sick as well.

Jen said...

So many good comments:

Jennifer - You are totally right about us fighting each other, when we really should be using each other's experiences to draw upon and learn.

Clair - It's so important for us to hear from moms in other countries. I don't think we realize how good things are in other countries, and we in the US should demand better. After all the gov't is supposed to be working for us! I have a single mommy friend in England and I love to hear how she is supported by the govt.

MP- I feel the same way. I waited a long time to have children, in fact initially I didn't think I'd ever have any, but I wish I knew how much I would love it!

PB - Daycare is another whole issue too. It's outrageous the amount of money that it costs. Almost makes it pointless to work. That's another area that could use improvement, subsidies from the govt whatever. Or how about less of a guilt trip for calling in sick to work. ;)

PunditMom said...

First, thanks for the shout out! Second, I knew the info about France because a friend of my delivered her children there (she and her husband worked there at the time) and she was SHOCKED by the reality of American motherhood when she came back.

I wish a federal policy or law could help us, but will anything change until women are in charge of all the workplaces?