Monday, June 21, 2010

On Moms Working Outside of the Home

We have it pretty good in Canada because we get a year's paid maternity leave. Well, you actually have the choice between an extended leave at a lower benefit rate, or a shorter leave at a higher rate. I opted for the former where I received 70% of my full-time pay for the first 18 weeks and 55% for the following 25 weeks. But either way your job is protected up to a year and I'm quite sure that this applies to everyone with a little variation depending on the nature of the work you do and obviously it's a whole different ballgame if you're self-employed. For example, when a teacher at Maya's daycare got pregnant, she was able to take off early from work (before she even began to show), just because of the risk of exposure to germs which is inevitable and comes with the territory, of course, of working around kids. The same holds true for all healthcare workers and anyone holding any other type of occupation that could possibly endanger both mom and unborn child. Obviously they must receive some compensation from the time they stop working and their jobs are protected up to a year after the baby's born. In my case, mine is your regular 9-5 job in a beautiful office that looks more like a day spa than anything else with every detail so well thought out and aesthetically conscious from the custom-built white melamine paneled cubicles, the most comfy lounges furnished with flat screen TV's and leather couches, the kitchenettes on each wing, to the marble washrooms (I work for an Italian-owned General Contractor, go figure!) so even if I tried to argue that the electromagnetic waves that my computer monitor, calculator and phone emit were detrimental to my pregnancies at the time, I'm sure it would have fallen upon deaf ears - well, that would be pushing it anyways, they'd probably laugh and tell me to just suck it up and do my job (lol). So I never bothered pleading my case and so far Maya & Jaden turned out ok, whew!!! With both pregnancies I worked until about two weeks before my respective due dates. And each time I was so paranoid that my waters would break and that I'd deliver at the office and then everybody's lunch would be ruined! Could you imagine?! Thank God that never happened, but I did work for as long as I could before the baby so that I could have more time off to spend with the baby after.

Well, it's always hard to come back, and actually I spent the whole two weeks leading up to the day I started (that is June 21st, last Monday which just happens to coincide with the official start of summer, booo!!!) awash in mixed emotions, with this huge wearisome debate transpiring internally as I tried to weigh out the pros and cons of working outside of the home. But then I reminded myself that I should be thankful for the paid year off that I had enjoyed and that we're pretty fortunate here compared to the States where, what? they get 24 weeks tops mat leave??? I'm not even sure of how many of those are paid for. So I really can't complain but at the same time I can't be smug about my lot, I have family who live there...I just think it's sad and appalling, I mean we're talking about the US here! Look at France where new mom's can be assured that their jobs are protected up to a total of 318 weeks and are compensated the equivalent of 22 weeks of full-time pay according to a study on Parental Leave Policies in 21 countries by Rebecca Ray, Janet C. Gornick and John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. It doesn't surprise me because this is the same country where all business establishments close down on Sundays. I remember talking to a girl at a make-up store a few weeks back. She was speaking to me in an unmistakably thick Parisian accent which was conjuring up images in my head of her riding her bicyclette in the Plateau with a loaf of baguette tucked underarm, all of that to the strains of accordion music! To make the long story short, we got talking about what had brought her here and about her job as a make-up artist and what her schedule was like and then she told me that she only works from Thursday to Saturday and that she'll work Sundays on occasion only because she said while "you could take her out of France, you can't take France out of her." Or take Spain as another example where it's common knowledge that practically all activity halts to a standstill when it's siesta time. According to the same study, parental leave laws there support new parents by offering them job-protected leave up to 312 weeks and compensation the equivalent of 18 weeks full-time pay that they can arrange to receive spread out over so many weeks, their choice. Where am I going with this? Well, it's plain to see that in these countries, people know how to live a little it's not all about career and money, money, money only and their respective governments recognize the importance of family which truly is the basic unit of society. They realize that establishing a bond with your child from the get-go during early infancy is critical and makes for sound families which in turn contribute to the integrity of a society. In my humble opinion, six months is hardly enough time for a mom to recover physically, let alone foster that precious bond....when will the US get the drift? I don't get it, I just don't get it! But I must say that Germany has got to be the best place to get pregnant and be a mom (in this respect at least!) because check this out: Although their jobs might not be protected for as long as France or Spain, it still isn't bad as compared to Canada even. Over there, a new mom's job is safe for 170 weeks and they receive financial support up to the equivalent of 47 full-time paid weeks, isn't that awesome???

But it's still hard going back after being away for so long. Personally, what kills me is the thought of having somebody else take care of my kids which goes contrary to what nature intended. But I must admit that on the upside, the past three days have been such a welcome respite from the weighty responsibility of kid rearing which can get to be so overwhelming at times. In this day & age it's not always feasible to live off one salary only. If I were to rely entirely on Kumar financially, I think the remaining viable hair follicles on his head that I've spoken about before would die off altogether - not good. So at the end of the day, I guess you just do what you have to do taking care that the most important things like family do not get relegated to the back burner in the process.

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