Monday, October 20, 2014

A thought on feminism

I admit I was a little surprised when I discovered girls becoming young women around me embracing "feminism." I grew up in the early days of feminism, and hey, I thought we had won. I mean, it used to be that girls would be raised to be mothers and not to have careers, but now all girls are raised to believe they should go to school, have careers, or at least that they have to get a job and work. It used to be that if a woman did work she could be a secretary, shop girl, waitress, teacher or nurse. Now she can be pretty much anything. And while there are a lot of discussions back and forth, I believe that salary equity is ... well, it's not the problem that it was. The original feminist movement has been a resounding success.

I do believe that there is one area in which we are currently in dire need of a feminist movement, although it seems doubtful that today's feminists are likely to embrace it. In fighting for and resoundingly winning the right of all women to work outside the home, we have inadvertently created a necessity for women to work, as the economy gradually slid into place and adjusted to the new norm of the two-income family. So what about the women who want to be able to stay home and care for their children?

My mother and me.
I, as a woman, felt a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual need to stay home with my own children and care for them when they were little. Now I will admit that while I nurtured my daughters I had the occasional stray thought that here I was nurturing this most extraordinary creature, and for what, just so that she can grow up and have children and nurture them? AND cook and clean and shop for groceries? Well, of course I had to have that thought, because I was a product of the early feminist movement, but it was also because I was being myopic. I was thinking that as life was today it would always be. I've lived a long time now and I know that is not true. The time of devotion to the needs of a young child is brief. Even for me, with 15 years between the birth of my oldest child and my youngest child, that has been but a brief part of my life. I have had time for all sorts of other things. I have worked, I have gone to school, I have pursued a career. I can write a blog, and maybe one or two people will read it and be impacted for good. My children are all adults now, and I have years left in which I can write books if I want to, or just read them if I prefer. The years that were devoted to my children were not wasted. I can take all the joy and pain of mothering and pour it out and perhaps it will help someone, and more to the point, how is it that we have come to undervalue the nurturing of a soul who will also walk through this world? This is the stuff of which all we truly value is woven.

But today's young women are largely robbed of this freedom to enjoy a multipurposed life, with some of it devoted to nothing but caring for their children, because we have created a society in which most families require two incomes in order to be able to get by. I worry about my children, and my grandchildren. My youngest daughter seems bent on pursuing her crafts, and is a budding entrepreneur, selling the jewelry and accessories she makes in an online shop, and I hope that she is successful enough at this that one day when she has children she will be able to work from home. As for the rest of us, telecommuting is a word that is tossed around an awful lot, but I haven't seen a whole lot of people who have actually been able to do it.

I would like to see the feminists fight for the right of their sisters who wish to be able to raise their own small children, with more opportunities for telecommuting, job sharing, and yes, greater maternity benefits. Below is a list from the Huffington Post of maternity leave offered by various countries. The United States is woefully behind in this regard. There are no national programs requiring maternity leave at all. Some states have some programs, some don't, but as a nation we lag behind EVERYBODY.

So many people in the United States complain about having to pay taxes for assistance programs to benefit others. I'm kind of tired of hearing those complaints myself. I am more than happy to pay taxes for the purpose of assisting others. I'm all in favor of cutting out the waste in government (and since I deal with the federal government in my job I see a whole lot of that waste firsthand), but taxes should be used for the good of the people. In my native England, taxes are without a doubt high. But everybody gets free medical care. Those who need it are provided with "carers" who come to their homes, who do their shopping and cleaning and cooking and help with personal care for those who are not able to care for themselves any longer. That is so much better than here, where you have to pay $5,000+ a month to stay in an assisted care facility. I see that England also provides 52 weeks of maternity leave at 100 percent pay.

Just a thought anyway. Pregnancy, childbirth, caring for and nurturing our children, these are part of the female experience, built into our bodies and our nature. Instead of denying them, and thereby denying them also to our sisters, why not celebrate them and encourage them? Honest, it does not cause the death of brain cells or the collapse of creativity. In fact, it enhances them, and in the end gives us far more to offer, and gives our children more to offer as well.

Here's a list of maternity leave benefits around the world, courtesy of the Huff Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/22/maternity-leaves-around-the-world_n_1536120.html)

United States:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 12 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: No national program but cash benefits may be provided at the state level.
Iceland:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 3 Months 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 80
Germany:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 14 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Japan:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 14 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 67
Malta: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 14 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
New Zealand: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 14 Weeks Paid, 38 Weeks Unpaid 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Switzerland:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 14 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 80
Belgium: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 15 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 82 per cent for the first 30 days and 75 per cent for the remaining period.
Finland:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 105 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 70
Slovenia:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 105 Days 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Austria:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 16 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
France:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 16 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Latvia:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 112 Days 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Luxembourg:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 16 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Netherlands:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 16 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Spain:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 16 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Greece:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 119 Days 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 50
Australia: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 18 Weeks 
Percentage Of Wages Paid: Each parent can take up to 12 months of leave, of which 18 weeks are paid.
Lithuania:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 126 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Belarus:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 126 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Moldova:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 126 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Ukraine: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 126 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Romania: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 126 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 85
Portugal: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 120 to 150 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: Parental benefits paid at 100 per cent for the shorter duration of leave and 80 per cent for the longer option.
Estonia:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 140 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Poland:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 20 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Russia:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 140 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Italy:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 5 Months
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 80
Bulgaria: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 135 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid:90
Hungary: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 24 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 70
Ireland:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 26 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 80
Czech Republic:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 28 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 60
Slovakia:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 28 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 55
Macedonia:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 9 Months
Percentage Of Wages Paid: Not found.
Norway:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 36 to 46 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: Parental benefits paid at 100 per cent for the shorter duration of leave and 80 per cent for the longer option.
Albania:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 365 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 80 per cent prior to birth and for 150 days after and 50 per cent for the rest of the leave period.
Bosnia And Herzegovina:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 1 Year
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 82 per cent for the first 30 days and 75 per cent for the remaining period.
Canada:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 52 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 55 per cent at 17 weeks for maternity leave, and the additional 35 weeks can be taken by either parent. Wages also depend on province.
Croatia:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 1 Year
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Denmark:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 52 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
Serbia:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 52 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 100
United Kingdom:
Length Of Maternity Leave: 52 Weeks
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 90
Sweden: 
Length Of Maternity Leave: 420 Days
Percentage Of Wages Paid: 80
CORRECTION: This story previously stated New Zealand had 14 weeks maternity leave. In fact, New Zealand offers parents 14 weeks of parental leave with 100 per cent of wages paid, and a further 38 weeks of unpaid leave.