It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis.

by Rachael on October 11, 2011

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month participants shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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If things had worked out the way I had wanted them to work out, it wouldn’t have taken thirteen months (fourteen cycles) for me to get pregnant. I would have had a baby already — and enough money saved so that I could take a three-month maternity leave — at least. Hell, I would have been able to take a couple weeks off before the estimated due date so that I could prepare our home for the arrival of the baby (assuming s/he didn’t come “early”). Maybe I even would have had enough saved to hire a postpartum doula for the first few weeks I was on my own with the Critter and the Gnome.

But when do things ever work out the way we want them to? As it turns out, the Gnome will be arriving next year, not this year. And, in the meantime, I’ve been either underworked or overworked, our finances are a mess, and the savings for my maternity leave are shrinking, shrinking, shrinking.

My discovery of this pregnancy initially triggered a lot of tears — not happy ones — and at least one near panic attack. Eventually, though, I started telling family and friends, “I have to remember that it’s not a baby crisis — it’s a professional crisis.”

Wrong! It’s not even a professional crisis. It’s actually a why-the-hell-don’t-we-have-paid-maternity-leave-in-this-damn-country crisis.

The Land of Family Values

“This is the land of family values, which means you’re on your own,” said the midwife at the birthing center orientation. She was actually talking specifically about health insurance (don’t even get me started), but she also could have been talking generally about the prevailing attitude in the United States: You’re on your own. Your choices? Sorry, your problem.

Which, when it comes to paid maternity leave, or the lack thereof, puts us in some pretty awesome company. As reported in the 2007 Work, Family, and Equity Index: How Does the United States Measure Up?, of 177 countries studied by the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University, only four fail to guarantee paid maternity leave: the United States, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.

No Man, Woman, or Child Is an Island

Why paid maternity leave, you may ask?

For starters, it’s considered a human right. As noted at the Work, Family and Equity Index database, “Paid maternity leave is enshrined in two widely accepted human rights protocols: the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (adopted by 155 countries), and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, adopted by 185 countries).” The United States has signed but not ratified both of these agreements. Of course.

Second, it helps families get off to a good start with a new child, helping mothers to establish breastfeeding and a secure attachment relationship with their newborn.

Third, it improves mothers’ security and prospects in terms of both employment and income.

Fourth — if it’s dollars and cents you really care about — it reduces turnover, increases job satisfaction and productivity, and so on. Consider: “U.S. businesses lose more than $300 billion annually due to employee stress as manifested by increased absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, medical, legal, and insurance expenses, and workers’ compensation payments” (from Greenberg and Avigdor, What Happy Working Mothers Know).

And finally, paid maternity leave — and other means of supporting the care of families — matters because we aren’t on our own. We are social creatures, interdependent. In fact, as Scout points out in To Kill a Mockingbird, we depend on our children! I particularly love how Katrina Alcorn puts it in her post “Herd Feelings”:

Because my children are your future.

Think about this for a moment. Who is going to be paying taxes when our generation retires? Who is going to care for our generation when we’re old and infirm? Who is going to be inventing the next generation of technology that could save us from global warming, or cure cancer, or solve the water crisis? Is it really in our best interest to say every man (and woman, and child, and parent) for themselves?

… These every-man-for-himself arguments remind me of my three-year-old son who says, “No! I can do it myself!” every time I buckle him into his car seat. He also thinks he is a triceratops.

For the record, my three-year-old son has been claiming he is a dog. But I digress.

What Can I Do?

Working Mother and the National Partnership for Women and Families are working to “make paid parental — maternity and paternity — leave universally available to U.S. workers by 2015.” Sign the petition! Sign it! Sign it! Sign it!

As for me, I’m just going to keep doing the best I can. Just as I always have done.

Or, you could just send money. How about tens and twenties?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here’s why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama October 11, 2011 at 8:28 AM

Rachael – your post is making me want to get involved to make the US step up and do more. I’ve already signed the petition – I’d love to learn more about what I can do to help! Excellent post.

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CatholicMommy October 11, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Went and signed the petition! We have been blessed with circumstances that allow me to stay home as long as I want (20+ years?), but I understand the need to advocate for those not as fortunate. Thanks for speaking out and encouraging action!

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Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com October 11, 2011 at 11:27 AM

What a wonderful quote about your children being our future; very moving and I never realised you didn’t have maternity leave; we have that over here in the UK and we still complain ! Thanks for being an advocate for change, for sharing your truth and inspiring others to take action…
Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com recently posted… A different kind of life…

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Rachael October 11, 2011 at 11:37 AM

Nor do we have mandated paid time off for holidays. As I learned yesterday, for a completely unrelated project, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not require paid vacation time. It never even occurred to me that paid vacation time would be something that a government might mandate! I need to talk to some of my historically inclined family members to understand the reasons for this particular brand of U.S. “exceptionalism” (my father, my stepmother, and one sister are history teachers, two with a focus on U.S. history).

With the GOP so focused on deficit reduction and benefits for all workers getting slashed left and right, I feel a bit hopeless about the chances of our gaining such benefits. Time for me to occupy Wall Street, perhaps? Though I don’t know that that’s the best way to get this particular message out. Plus, I have deadlines to meet.

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Katrina Alcorn October 11, 2011 at 12:18 PM

Great post, Rachel. Such an important issue. To add to your list of statistics/quotes, here are two more:
1. The birth of a child is one of the leading causes of “poverty spells” in the U.S.
2. Human Rights Watch released a report this year calling the lack of maternity leave and other family supports in the U.S. a “human right violation.”
Katrina Alcorn recently posted… Book-in-progress about engaged fathers

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Zoie @ TouchstoneZ October 11, 2011 at 6:00 PM

This is a fabulous post, Rachael. This issue of paid maternity leave is such a simple, clear issue *once you remove underlying biases and misinformation.* As if that would ever happen. I have little hope, like you mention that paid leave will ever happen unless #OccupyUterus takes off someday.

There’s such a rift in this country between those who feel our interconnectivity and those who think they’re an island. The island approach has gotten us where we are now. I’m hoping for sweeping changes. These kids out there could do it. Maybe.

You put me in mind of BlueMilk’s post: http://bluemilk.wordpress.com/2008/05/08/lets-get-something-straight-about-maternity-leave/
Zoie @ TouchstoneZ recently posted… Conscious Cash Conscious

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Lauren @ Hobo Mama October 11, 2011 at 6:15 PM

I will sign it! The lack of paid parental leave burns me. I mean, I wouldn’t qualify anyway, I assume, being self-employed, but it should be a universal right. It is incomprehensible to me that people make arguments that pregnancy, birth, and children are only “other” people’s problem — last I heard, 100% of us were babies at one point.

And, yes, don’t even get me started on health insurance. Sigh. We were truly hosed on that front.
Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted… October Carnival of Natural Parenting: New lessons from an allowance

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Rachael October 12, 2011 at 9:51 PM

Regarding “I wouldn’t qualify anyway,” I would hope that it would not be left to the companies themselves pay for any mandated paid parental leave. For one thing, small businesses would want an “out” on the mandate, and that would end up leaving out so many families. For another thing, more and more workers are (like both of us!) self-employed. Policy has got to catch up with reality. Health care shouldn’t be employer-based either, for that matter (or, um, funded by for-profit corporations, but I digress).

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Lauren @ Hobo Mama October 12, 2011 at 10:07 PM

Then I even more support it. :)

No, I totally agree with making healthcare AND parental leave not a choice for individual companies (or a burden on them if indeed they are legitimately small). I remember being shocked when my husband was laid off from his job to find out he didn’t qualify for unemployment because his company, as a nonprofit, hadn’t been required to pay the insurance in that state. It’s been disheartening to follow the healthcare reform debate, with all the fearmongering about socialism. I don’t hear that same fearmongering about taking social security benefits by, for instance, my conservative parents & in-laws who are enjoying retirement…
Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted… Wordless Wednesday: Working from home

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Deb @ Living Montessori Now October 11, 2011 at 8:58 PM

Great post, Rachael! I signed the petition. I was shocked when I lived in England while working toward my master’s degree. The maternity leave in England makes the U.S. treatment of new parents seem barbaric.
Deb @ Living Montessori Now recently posted… How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune

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Lucy @dreaming aloud October 12, 2011 at 6:22 AM

Wow that’s appaling. That is SO not right. To put it in context… In Ireland
I got free home birth (gvmt paid) , plus 10 post natal visits, plus a pay out from my private health insurance.
$5000 maternity benefit for my final child (none for first two) and six months off.
We get $4000 a year child benefit and a year’s free pre school childcare.
And 3 days paid paternity leave.
And America thinks socialism sucks!!
Our economy is seriously screwed up admittedly… but as far as I see we were just one of the first to crumble and America and western Europe won’t be far behind!
Lucy @dreaming aloud recently posted… I am officially a Kreativ Blogger

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Rachael October 12, 2011 at 9:39 PM

Well, from what I know about the economic crisis in Ireland, it doesn’t seem to have originated from funding the social safety net.

I really do want to understand why the United States is as it is. Incidentally, I’ve been editing test banks for a U.S. history textbook, and when I read the chapter about FDR and the New Deal … well, it was depressing to see the contrast between then and now.

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Patti @ Jazzy Mama October 13, 2011 at 4:19 PM

Please consider moving North!

In Canada, 50 weeks of paid maternity leave are guaranteed to everyone who was employed for 600 hours in the previous year. Adoptive parents qualify too. Your job and wage-level is guaranteed to be waiting at the end of your leave. And parents and split the 50 weeks if they want.

All mothers are also automatically entitled to a payment based on family income, number of children and ages of children. I receive $638/month to spend however I want.

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Rachael October 13, 2011 at 8:28 PM

No chance that I’ll be leaving NYC any time soon, alas!

Patti, do you know when and how Canada’s maternity leave came into being? I’m very curious about what happened in other similar-ish nations that didn’t happen here.

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Christine October 13, 2011 at 9:22 PM

yes yes yes. it is totally everyone’s concern and the ramifications of our sink-or-swim attitude toward childrearing has long range repercussions felt by everyone. i get so frustrated thinking about this. just…ugh! off to sign the petition.
Christine recently posted… Please Visit Me on BlogHer.

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Jessica November 4, 2011 at 12:27 PM

I was reading this NY Times article last night:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/04/us/experts-say-bleak-account-of-poverty-missed-the-mark.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

It’s about how we measure poverty in the US. I thought of this post of yours…the systems in our society no longer address what society actually needs. So maybe someone is counted as poor, but technically they’re not, because of food stamps and some tax credits…but what kind of life is that? Of course, life isn’t easy, but couldn’t things make more sense? Our world is so complicated and everyone is spackling together an existence as best as they can. Taking whatever jobs in whatever shifts available to tag team family child care. Jockeying to afford to live in certain towns to get access to good schools. Wouldn’t it be nice if things made more sense, if infrastructure was kept up, education was more of a priority, all that good stuff we need which lends itself to overall stability for everyone, young families included.

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