Moms in Paradise

A list of government benefits offered to parents with young children in European countries, France in particular:

* Monthly childcare subsidies
* Summer camps for children that cost as little at $1.50 a day
* Tax deductions based on the number of children in the family
* Lengthy paid maternity and paternity leaves
* 4-8 weeks of annual paid vacations
* Laws guaranteeing moms part-time jobs
* Less guilt, frustration and stress for moms combining work and motherhood

Sounds like paradise compared to what moms face in the U.S. Here's what we get:

* 48 to 72 hours of hospital care when we give birth
* Six weeks of paid disability leave and our same job back -- if our company has 50 or more employees and we've worked there for a year or more
* Ostensible legal protection in the case of gender or pregnancy-related discrimination at work -- as long as we can prove it
* Scarce, incredibly expensive childcare with wait lists up to a year (if we can get our babies in at all)
* Hostile stares when we breastfeed in public and employers who suggest we pump in the bathroom (if we have time to pump at all at work)
* Childless co-workers who accuse us of slacking off when our kids have a doctor's appointment or special needs
* A culture that repeatedly reminds moms we are so lucky to have so many choices

But according to a recent article about France in The Washington Post, As Europe Grows Grayer, France Devises a Baby Boom, European countries have extremely practical reasons to be wildly supportive of moms. Couples are simply not replacing themselves. France, whose pro-mom policies are the envy of Europe, has the second-highest fertitliy rate in Europe, but at 1.99 it's still less than the 2.0 needed to ensure a stable population.

The U.S. does not need to give moms incentives to have babies. We are having plenty on our own, thank you very much. The U.S. fertility rate is 2.01 children per woman and we have 300 million people in this country to prove it.

So the question remains: Would the U.S. be better off if we supported working moms -- and dads -- with just a few more government-supported, mom-friendly policies such as France offers?

Naturally, I think so. What's good for parents usually turns out to be good for kids, who undeniably represent our country's future. Plus, if we continue to make working motherhood so challenging, women may someday choose to have fewer children, forcing the U.S. to face zero population growth and the graying demographic trends troubling European countries.

What do you think?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 25, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
Previous: Mommy, Do We Have A Job Today? | Next: Defining the "Daddy Wars"


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Leslie points out that working moms in the US get much less support than their European counterparts, yet have more children. At face value this suggests that European govts should REDUCE their support of working moms to increase population!

Of course, I don't support that. There is something else going on here.

Part of it is immigration differences. Most of the difference between the population growth in the US and the decline in Japan and European countries is that the US lets more immigrants in. European countries could do the same if they are serious about decreasing the average age of their populations.

Posted by: weak argument | October 25, 2006 6:50 AM

This is an incomplete discussion. What other government benefits does France provide to its citizens? What are the average incomes? Maybe $1.50 per day for camp in France is not as cheap as it seems. How much is housing, food, gasoline, home heating/cooling costs, etc?

Posted by: mj | October 25, 2006 7:03 AM

zero population growth is MUCH better for the environment and the increasing strain we are placing on it. that being said, i'd love to have the benefits that women in france have. It makes balance seem a lot more achievable - especially for those of us in lower income brackets.

Posted by: ishmael | October 25, 2006 7:04 AM

I forgot - What kind of taxes do French citizens pay in order to be able to support these policies?

Posted by: mj | October 25, 2006 7:05 AM

Most of that 2.01 birth rate in the US is coming from first and second generation immigrants, who are still following the traditions of the country they came from.

As the children of those immigrants reach adulthood, they are taking the attitude of those already here and having fewer children as well. Anecdotally, I know of only a handful of women who've had 2 or more children; most seem to have had 1 or at most two and stop at that point.

Posted by: John | October 25, 2006 7:07 AM

There is a mistake on the US list - maternity is leave unpaid! In accordance with the Family Medical Leave Act (http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/):

Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

-for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
-for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
-to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
-to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Thus, US policies are even less generous than we may think they are. Even though some private companies do offer paid maternity leave, parents who work for the Federal Government can only apply for unpaid leave. Which leads me to question whether the French benefits listed are provided to French "government" employess or to all employees in accordance with "government" regulations.

Posted by: tvk | October 25, 2006 7:15 AM

The benefits listed for women in European countries are significant and appear attractive. I can't help but wonder though if women are afforded the same opportunities as they are here in the work place when it comes to career progression and equal pay. If the employers assume that a woman will be on maternity leave for a year will they promote her or give her the same responsiblities as the men who will be there all the time. In addition, what if dad wants to stay home instead of mom - is that allowed? We have seen here that many dads are happily the primary care givers for their children.

Posted by: Silver Spring | October 25, 2006 7:21 AM

Not everything is the government's responsibility people!

Unemployment in France? Economy in France?

Riots a few years ago b/c of lack of opportunity for youths?

This is an incomplete discussion.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 7:21 AM

Not everything is the government's responsibility people!

Unemployment in France? Economy in France?

Riots a few years ago b/c of lack of opportunity for youths?

This is an incomplete discussion.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 7:21 AM

All those benefits sound great, until you have to pay for them. What works for european countries may not work here. You simply can't compare us to the French or any other nation on earth by any meaningful economic or social measure. In order to get those benefits, you'll have to force others to pay the cost, and the cost is enormous. The simple solution to getting those benefits is to move to France. The worst way to get those benefits is to turn the United States INTO France.

Posted by: Common Sense | October 25, 2006 7:21 AM

Weren't the young people rioting in France because they couldn't find jobs and the government wanted to put some whacked out policy into effect saying that employers could fire them at will with out repercussions?

I'm not sure if that is exactly correct or not, but if it is, that seems like they have a very skewed sense of who is important and who is not. I also agree with the other posters asking about the cost of living and salaries over in France.

On the issue of finding quality day care here, I found day care when I was about 8 months pregnant in the suburbs of Virginia. It was a Child Time and was quit nice. I think that if you live in the city you probably would have to find childcare there, but if you live in the suburbs you can find quality care there as well, often without a 1 year waiting list. This has just been my experience and it was three years ago.

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 7:23 AM

It would be great for some parents, but not all, to have France's policies, but I definitely wouldn't want to pay the associated higher taxes. The phrase 'zero sum game' comes to mind. We can either have those super child-friendly policies or support the elderly with more pharmaceuticals...etc.

This blog is going to degenerate quickly to policitical statements. I just feel it. Anything related to closely held values such as this is going to be politicized. As I read in the newspaper just this morning..."hard to separate opinion from values at the dining room table"...or the blog

Posted by: dotted | October 25, 2006 7:25 AM

Actually there are tax deductions for each additional dependent in the US. That is irrelevant if the dependent is your elderly parent who you take care of 70% of their needs or a child under the age of 18-21. But France is a totally different system. By the way, gas is a lot more expensive in almost every European country and Canada. Americans have no idea how good we have it when it comes to energy prices! But the French live at a much lower standard of living then the US. The US has a 63% home ownership rate. Although that is always really a troubling statistic. Because in actuality the bank owns the majority of the homes if they have a mortgage. So the actual home ownership rate is way lower. Even with that said, in countries like France and Germany, it is a real luxury to own your own home. Most rent. I think for the majority of Americans, they love low taxes more choice. Although the choices are much more limited. The American culture has auch a disgusting desire to consume. And I throughly admit I am part of it. But it is our deep desire to consume that has kept our economy afloat. So the only real benefit for a mass amount of social programs, would do is enable the poor to move more towards the middle class (good thing) and move the middle to upper middle into a more consumer driven culture (do we really need any more stuff?) and make the rich even more rich (disgusting IMHO). So what we really need is just benefits to help the lower sector and a little to ease the middle class. And yes, the French were rioting because of discriminatory labor laws. The French solution is to offer these benefits and keep the young unemployed. Yes a lot of unemployed disinfranchised youths are a real benefit to society. Think a little more Leslie. There are no free lunches out there.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 25, 2006 7:40 AM

As other posters have said, there is a price to pay, either with money or with quality of life, for these generous child care incentives.

But let's look at the bigger picture. Should we be comparing the US with France? Or would China be a more reasonable comparison? Both countries have a lower birth rate than we do. But China is our competitor in the world market, whereas France is not. Which economy do we envy? I would be very interested to see what policies are in place for mothers in China. Maybe we would see that we have it pretty good.

Lastly, the highest birth rates are in developing countries, whereas developed countries have the lowest. This trend affects all economies and needs to be examined. Okay, speech over!

Posted by: Meesh | October 25, 2006 7:41 AM

I would be interested to know where Leslie got her fact:
* Six weeks of paid disability leave and our same job back -- if our company has 50 or more employees and we've worked there for a year or more

As tvk pointed out, it simply isn't true. I worked for the Federal government during the births of both my kids and they don't even give their OWN employees ONE DAY of paid disability leave to have kids--nevermind make other employers pay new moms. 12 weeks unpaid if you have worked for a year and the place has more than 50 employees, end of story.

Posted by: Fact check | October 25, 2006 7:43 AM

"I can't help but wonder though if women are afforded the same opportunities as they are here in the work place when it comes to career progression and equal pay."

Bingo. I'd much rather have fewer state-mandated "benefits" and more career opportunities.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 25, 2006 7:48 AM

I have heard many people lament about how great it is in Europe, so I have given some thought to these issues, did some research, and talked to friends who have lived in Europe.
Monthly childcare subsidies, Summer camps for children that cost as little at $1.50 a day -
I am OK with the current system of allowing daycare expenses to be paid with tax-free money, and would like to see that benefit raise from a $5000 per family tax shelter to perhaps $5000 per child. Since working moms pay more taxes in the long run if they work, it does not really 'cost' that much. I also have no problem with childcare vouchers that are for the poor or for those 'welfare-to-work' programs. But, in the end, childcare is still going to be expensive and I don't think it is reasonable for the government to subsidize it to the extent that it costs $1.50/day for most families.
Tax deductions based on the number of children in the family
I can't agree with this at all so long as we have positive population growth.
Lengthy paid maternity and paternity leaves, 4-8 weeks of annual paid vacations
It would be nice to be able to have 8 weeks of paid leave, similar to what most jobs pay if you have major surgery. I work for the federal government, and was relatively new when I had my second child. I had to 'borrow' 3 weeks of leave, take 2 unpaid, and use 3 weeks of accrued leave to be home for 8 weeks, and it took me 18 months to return to a 'zero' balance for sick leave. That was rough.
Who wouldn't want 4-8 weeks of annual paid vacation? But, I don't know that we need a law mandating it.
Laws guaranteeing moms part-time jobs
NO WAY. Seriously. Do an internet search, and you can find tons of reports of women in France who want to work full-time, but can only get part time work. Because benefits are not tied to full time employment, it is economically beneficial in France for companies to have lots of part time employees, and gender discrimination against woman who want to work full time is a big problem.
Less guilt, frustration and stress for moms combining work and motherhood
That is our culture. It sucks, but there is no solution.
48 to 72 hours of hospital care when we give birth
Call me crazy, but for a routine childbirth this is totally sufficient. Hospital stays are shorter now for ALL types of surgeries, not just childbirth. You may be safer at home too, there is less chance of infection. Furthermore, who wants to pay more for health insurance than we already do?
Ostensible legal protection in the case of gender or pregnancy-related discrimination at work -- as long as we can prove it
Yes, this is a problem, but OF COURSE you have to be able to prove it if you make a case against someone.
Hostile stares when we breastfeed in public and employers who suggest we pump in the bathroom (if we have time to pump at all at work)
I breastfed two children and rarely had a negative encounter with anyone. Honestly, I think that some woman expect people to applaud because they are breastfeeding and take anything less than that as criticism. And, really, who cares if someone doesn't like it, just ignore them. The breastfeeding at work thing is a problem though, that I am hoping improves as more mothers work and more bosses are either working mothers or men with working wives.
Childless co-workers who accuse us of slacking off when our kids have a doctor's appointment or special needs
I have not had this problem. If I am honestly doing my work and 'carrying my own weight' then I don't care what others think. Those types of people tend to think that they are working more than everyone else, so who really cares. That said, I have run in to some parents who never can seem to work a full week and use their kids as an excuse for their own shortcoming when it comes to planning ahead and being organized.
A culture that repeatedly reminds moms we are so lucky to have so many choices
We ARE relatively lucky.

Posted by: wls | October 25, 2006 8:02 AM

If the grass is greener in France, why don't you just pack up and move there. Take your spawn with you.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 25, 2006 8:08 AM

Moms in Paradise to me means one thing - equal benefits for moms and dads. I'm not sure we need all of the things France has. I think I'd settle for 2-3 months paid parental leave for both parents, so after being pregnant for 9 months and then giving birth, moms aren't saddled with having to do all of the care, night feedings, etc. because their husbands had to immediately go back to work. If the first three months are the hardest, it would make sense that care can be split evenly between 2 people instead of shouldered by one.

Posted by: The original just a thought | October 25, 2006 8:14 AM

"the government wanted to put some whacked out policy into effect saying that employers could fire them at will with out repercussions?"

Scarry, that "whacked out policy" is in place in every advanced economy, including our own.
It ensures that
a)you are productive once you have a job (those who can't be fired have no incentive to produce)
b) employers aren't afraid to hire you (so you wouldn't have the throngs of unemployed kids)
c) firms can actually compete, which in the end is better for society (means firms can actually execute strategies, which means more profit, which means more jobs)

French employement law has a long history of being mocked by economists and policy makers in good standing everywhere.

Posted by: Help Wanted | October 25, 2006 8:19 AM

If the grass is greener in France, why don't you just pack up and move there. Take your spawn with you.

This is why we don't like you.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 8:26 AM

I actually thought it was a funny comment.

Posted by: to 8:26 | October 25, 2006 8:28 AM

actually my company has disability pay for 6 - 12 weeks after birth (don't know exactly). the pay is 100% for x weeks where x = years you've worked, and 70% thereafter.

for me, that'll be at least seven weeks when i have a kid.

however, that does affect your raises in that, the weeks you're out are turned into a fraction (40/52) and your raise is multiplied by that. if you're out for 12 weeks, your raise is only 75% of what you would get otherwise (and affects you forever). good managers in the company compensate for this, but this is discrimination to me (though it applies to anyone who uses disability).

Posted by: kate | October 25, 2006 8:33 AM

Count me as one of those parents who has had one child and will probably have only one child. Between daycare/education costs, housing costs, hours required for a "career", etc., I just don't see how it makes a whole lot of sense for me (I didn't say for everyone) to have more than one offspring, especially in the D.C. area. Things like guaranteed vacation, longer maternity leave, etc., would be great. And I was under the impression that daycare was subsidized for the truly needy in this country, but I could be wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 8:36 AM

"If the grass is greener in France, why don't you just pack up and move there. Take your spawn with you.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 25, 2006 08:08 AM "

Thank God you are chidless, we don't need another moron.

Posted by: Manny | October 25, 2006 8:37 AM

I know the discussion has gotten hung up on France, but the U.S. package of parental benefits lags every other developed nation (save Australia). I happen to believe that the best thing for America is a creative, happy, committed workforce, and the lack of any government support makes that more difficult.

Posted by: Brian Reid | October 25, 2006 8:39 AM

"Childless co-workers who accuse us of slacking off when our kids have a doctor's appointment or special needs."

Really? If you cannot complete the tasks for which you are responsible, regardless of the reason, you ARE slacking off. You choose to have kids, I have not. I should not have to finish your work so you can go. Have a hundred kids - that's you absolute right - but you must be able to take care of them. That includes a job which you can complete. I'm not saying flexible hours, good benefits, etc aren't in order. But if you can't meet ALL of your responsibilities (both at home and at work), it's time to switch jobs.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 8:39 AM

A few years ago I was in Sweden for a conference, and I was chatting with a pregnant woman who lived there. Some of the "benefits" they have aren't really choices. For example, they get great amount of time off for when they have a baby (say, a year or even longer), and it's frowned upon if you don't take it. She said that she doesn't think women are given the same advancement advantages over there that American women are, and it is especially bad once you have babies. Even with the advantages, the real opportunity to make choices is somewhat truncated.

Posted by: akmitc | October 25, 2006 8:39 AM

It really isn't a zero-sum game, as commenters tend to think, between state mandated benefits on the one hand and career opportunities and standard of living on the other. I am an American living in Norway. I am entitled to 10.5 months leave at full pay or 12.5 months leave at 80% pay. My partner (we live together but aren't married) MUST take one month of paid paternity leave; on top of that, he can take some of my leave, so that for example he can take 2 months and I can take 10.5 months. We can take the leave simultaneously, or one then the other. Then there is state subsized daycare for when the parents go back to work. In terms of career opportunities: there is a significantly higher percentage of Norwegian women in the labor market versus the US (over 70% of Norwegian women work) -- because they aren't forced into the same "career or family" choice that many American women must face. Furthermore, there is significantly greater representation of women among the higher political, academic, and business ranks, because of longstanding affirmative action-type policies intended to increase female representation in positions of power. The cabinet of the Norwegian government is half women. In terms of tax: I lived in Virginia before I moved to Norway, and when you add up federal and state tax, plus property tax, it turns out that I am paying minimally (like, 1% of my income) more in tax now than I was then. Of course, the VAT that Norway has makes goods more expensive, but that is compensated by greater income: I make 2/3rds more doing nearly the same job in Norway as I was doing in DC. Salaries in western European countries, with the exception of the UK, are higher across the board than in the US (except for CEOs), for this very reason. And in terms of real estate, well, in Norway the home ownership rate is extremely high because people get tax breaks and there are subsidized saving plans to encourage young people (under 33) to invest in real estate. Not to mention that not having to pay for health insurance and medical bills (in a country with universal health care) drives the cost of living down substantially -- yes, you're paying for them in taxes, but not in monthly paycheck deductions and big fees for seeing specialists outside your HMO, etc. So really, it is not a zero-sum game, it is just a different way of organizing social life. Norway can't really be compared to the US because it is extremely small (4.5 million people) and has incredible oil wealth. All the same, it shows the limitations of these generalizations that all state subsidies come at the expense of women's career progression, or involving crippling taxation, or prevent dynamic economies or lead to massive unemployment, etc (again with Norway, unemployment is lower and growth is higher than in the US, although it's a bit confusing because they calculate labor statistics differently). I daresay that most of the people writing these things have never lived in the country in question. Having lived in both the US and Norway, I am in a good position to judge, and that's why we have decided to raise our kids in a system that values families in substantive ways, not just as something to give lip service to in campaigns.

Posted by: KJ | October 25, 2006 8:44 AM

For KJ in Norway: Are you still an American citizen?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 8:48 AM

Manny,

Do we really "need" another vindictive unforgiving person who invokes God's thanks to mock others and focus on being mean spirited instead of turning to productive conversation?

Posted by: Move on | October 25, 2006 8:52 AM

Yep. And just sent in my absentee ballot on Monday! But I work for a Norwegian company, pay Norwegian taxes (and would be liable for US taxes if I earned a bit more, nice little bit of double taxation there), and have permanent residency status. I am not able to vote in Norwegian elections.

Posted by: KJ | October 25, 2006 8:52 AM

I have a friend who at one point was applying for a job in France and she painted quite a different picture. Yes, maybe all those benefits are in place, BUT there is discrimination when it comes to hiring women. She was flat out asked if she planned to have any children, how many, etc. Some companies simply will not hire women with children or those who are planning to. It still is quite the "old boys club" there.

Posted by: Missicat | October 25, 2006 8:54 AM

John,
I think the number of children families choose to have is a regional thing. Here in the midwest, I know more families with 3+ kids than with just one.

Personally, I think that individuals have a lot more opportunity in the US than in France where the heavy taxation locks people in the class they were born to, and that is probably the reason people in the US have larger families-- they are more optimistic about the future.

Leslie,
I think the low birthrates in Europe indicate a serious problem about their culture or economy-- saying the US should copy their remedies for a problem we DON'T HAVE makes no sense. Unless of course, you're an affluent working parent who doesn't want to pay for your own childcare, and is grasping at straws for an excuse to make taxpayers (who are on average poorer than you) pay instead.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 25, 2006 8:54 AM

These benefits provided by European counties looks great! What do childless people get?

Posted by: Shaw | October 25, 2006 8:57 AM

Manny,

Do we really "need" another vindictive unforgiving person who invokes God's thanks to mock others and focus on being mean spirited instead of turning to productive conversation?

She deserves it

Posted by: whatever | October 25, 2006 8:58 AM

Did anyone see Oprah on Monday? It was on moms all over the world and they highlighted a mother from Norway that backs up most, if not all of what KJ said.

Also, 99% of women breastfeed and it is against the law to spank your children. Also, you have to apply to the gov't to name your kid. To make sure it's a Norwegian name...........

Posted by: Lou | October 25, 2006 8:59 AM

I think I am the last remaining fan of France in the US. This is a country where I have spent most of my youth and which has a quality of life that I admire. But before somebody tells me to move to France and "take my spawn with me" I will state categorically that this system will not work in the US. France is traditionally a statist state -- public sector is larger in France than even in some newly capitalistic economies. French people have always looked to the gov't there to guarantee and provide certain quality of life benefits and they don't mind paying taxes for it because they see their taxes at work. And somehow these programs work in France and don't become "gov't waste". While in the US gov't really can't get it right when it comes to quality of life matters. Just look at the level of corruption in medicare and medicaid, workers compensation. Or let's take No Child Left Behind -- good intentions which have translated into teaching our children not the love of learning and independent, analytical, and creative thinking, but how to pass a standardized test. Therefore, I agree with posters above who said that gov't can't be responsible for everthing -- I would just add that in the US it can't and shouldn't.

Posted by: a francophile | October 25, 2006 9:02 AM

More anecdotes, if they are helpful...

We had a friend who was searching for a job in Germany for over two years. Being a married female lawyer was very difficult for her-- in Germany, if you get married (as opposed to just living together, which is more common) it is a signal that you are traditional and will probably have a kid in the next few years. It is a huge risk for a firm to hire a woman, and they often don't (or, if they must hire women, avoid the married ones).

In another anecdote, we had visitors from Denmark this summer who also live in a cohousing neighborhood (cohousing is very popular over there and about 1/3 of people live in cohousing there). They were shocked that my husband was a SAHD and said that houses were so expensive that both spouses really had to work-- there wasn't much choice. In many middle-class areas the average home price (for a much smaller home) was over $1 million.

Posted by: Neighbor | October 25, 2006 9:02 AM

Yeah, the naming thing that Lou mentions is a bit outdated -- it used to be that "non-Norwegian" names were forbidden! The actress Liv Ullmann's kid was actually affected by that rule. Now that there are many more non-western immigrants in Norway, that has pretty much stopped. But there is a procedure related to the birth certificate, and names deemed unsuitable (like profanity, trademarked names, etc) are refused. Crazy. The Norwegians aren't the most heterogenous people in the world . . .

Posted by: KJ | October 25, 2006 9:04 AM

All working parents of dependents in the US get a tax credit for each child. this was made available with the "Contract with America". remember that campaign? It's not much, but if a couple has 4 kids, the amount becomes substancial enough to pay for a car repair, and maybe a tank of gas to boot.

Those tax credits are due to be eliminated as the national debt continues to increase. It looks like the parents of this country who are working and struggling to raise the next generation are about to get squeezed for their fare share in the near future.

As far as subsidizing child care institutions with tax money, I'm against it in favor of putting the resources directly into the pockets of the parents who are ultimately in charge of their own kids. I think it would be unfair to the stay at homers who raise their kids on their own resources also to have to subsidize those who decide to raise their kids through tax-enhanced institutions.

Elections are right around the corner. Who should I vote for?

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 25, 2006 9:05 AM

Childless by Choice -- I wish I could find some redeeming qualities in your postings, but cannot. Are you planning to live in a bubble for the rest of your life? SO sad...

Posted by: CA Mom | October 25, 2006 9:08 AM

Childless by choice is a bitter woman who has probably wasted half her life on a boyfriend who has a wife and children. She probably has waited for him to leave his wife, but he never has. She comes here to say hateful things to people who she envies for having what she cannot. I feel sorry for her.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 9:16 AM

Some readers raised good questions about equality of pay, political empowerement, education attainment, etc. among women around the world. Well, after a quick search, I was able to find a 2005 report by the World Economic Forum entitled "Measuring the Global Gender Gap." Report confirms that France is doing better than the US, even though it is #13 on the list (Sweden is #1, and the US is #17). China, is #33 (not surprising for a developing economy). Here is a link to the full report: http://www.weforum.org/pdf/Global_Competitiveness_Reports/Reports/gender_gap.pdf

Posted by: tvk | October 25, 2006 9:22 AM

Yes, working parents do have to take more time for kids being sick, etc. But that doesn't mean that they "slack off". It means they have to be more efficient and perhaps make the time up in order to get the job done. I think if the parent "slacked off" they wouldn't be able to keep their job.

Posted by: LibrarianMom | October 25, 2006 9:22 AM

Fo4,

Obviously, I agree with you in opposing tax-subsidized child-care (with an exception for lower income brackets), but I'm not sure higher income parents should get much of anything from the government. Hokey as it sounds children are our "investment in the future", but on the other hand, my grandparents already paid to raise their own kids, why should they have to shell out to pay for mine? There are only so many resources, and I'm not at all sure throwing money at kids in the higher income brackets is the best use we can find for our limited funds.

Besides, I expect that the more money the government gives us to raise our kids, the more say they'll expect in how we raise them. Mandatory mental illness screening, anyone?
http://www.aapsonline.org/confiden/mhspaul.htm

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 25, 2006 9:24 AM

I'm half German and spent all my life traveling back and forth between Germany and the US. Culturally I'm more American than German, but I think I have a good sense of the differences between the cultures. The reason European policies would be difficult to duplicate in the US is that Americans simply do not have the same sense of social responsibility that Europeans have. Call it the nanny state or whatever, but many Europeans simply believe that it is worth the price of high taxes to ensure that everyone has healthcare, job protection, maternity leave, etc. Europeans grumble about taxes, too, and the systems in Germany and France do have their problems-- but they wouldn't trade it for ours. Simply put, Europeans lack the inherent mistrust of government that we in the US have and have no problem with the government taking steps to ensure certain basic standards. Europeans place general quality of life as the highest priority, above the potential for any one individual to succeed economically.

Here we have a different outlook on life-- first and foremost, this people here do not trust the government and view it as generally incompetent. Moreover, the American dream is rooted in the belief that, given the opportunity, any body can strike it rich. Sociologists have found that exploiting this myth is why many poor people vote against their interests: many poor (and middle class) people believe they will be rich eventually and when they are, they would rather have lower taxes than social services. We place economic interests as the highest priority-- this country votes its pocket book.

There is something to be admired in both systems. Europeans admire Americans' can-do spirit, optimism, and entrepeneurship. If you have the gumption to start your own business and work your tail off, there truly is more opportunity for you in the US. Europeans (IMHO) can be admired for their attention to quality of life and social equity-- they see that there is more to life than work, that there is value in ensuring some basic "floor" of benefits in society. If you ever find yourself in need of a safety net, Europe is the place to be. Personally, I think both systems could benefit from taking a few lessons from the other and finding some middle ground-- less bureacracy and stagnation in Europe, more social-mindedness in the US.

Posted by: JKR | October 25, 2006 9:25 AM

My take on childless by choice is rather simple. I believe she reads the 'submit' button as 'bait' button. One does have the choice to not be baited...or be 'bait.'

cut bait or fish....I prefer to fish

Posted by: dotted | October 25, 2006 9:26 AM

Yes, and Norway was #2 on the World Economic Forum Report: http://www.weforum.org/pdf/Global_Competitiveness_Reports/Reports/gender_gap.pdf

It was followed by Iceland (3), Denmark (4), Finland (5), New Zealand (6) and Canada (7).

Posted by: tvk | October 25, 2006 9:28 AM

* 48 to 72 hours of hospital care when we give birth

Do we need more? for a normal, vaginal birth? Are you willing to pay the increased insurance costs if we go back to a "wow, a mom who just had a baby is an invalid - she needs to stay in the hospital for a week and just lie there while her baby is cared for down the hall in the nursery" 50's birth mentality?

* Six weeks of paid disability leave and our same job back -- if our company has 50 or more employees and we've worked there for a year or more

Substituting "12 weeks of unpaid family leave" for "6 weeks of paid disability leave" - I shudder at what it would cost the American public if we actually had paid leaves. If you want to live in a socialist country and get the "benefits" they have, then move to a socialist country.

* Ostensible legal protection in the case of gender or pregnancy-related discrimination at work -- as long as we can prove it

"Innocent until proven guilty." Thank God we have that protection in this country.

* Scarce, incredibly expensive childcare with wait lists up to a year (if we can get our babies in at all)

We've talked about this before - I suggest exploring other options...perhaps living in less expensive areas, looking into family home daycare....where I live, wait lists don't exist and childcare, while costly, is affordable for the middle class (which is, I believe, who you're really talking about.)

* Hostile stares when we breastfeed in public and employers who suggest we pump in the bathroom (if we have time to pump at all at work)

I've nursed in public hundreds of times and have never encountered hostile stares. I worked in the forest products industry, a predominantly blue collar, male world - and I was treated with dignity regarding breastfeeding. Either this argument is completely exaggerated and overused, or it's yet again a regional thing.

* Childless co-workers who accuse us of slacking off when our kids have a doctor's appointment or special needs

Ditto what the other poster said about "if you're not slacking off, you won't be accused of slacking off."

* A culture that repeatedly reminds moms we are so lucky to have so many choices

Because we DO.

Posted by: momof4 | October 25, 2006 9:28 AM

I think what is SO sad is that posters like CA Mom, Manny, and whatever, would rather follow a gang mentality of piling on CbC (a very popular thing to do here), than ADD to the productive conversation. Your declarations of empathy for her "sad" life and conjecture about her "probable" motives mask your own need for acceptance. I don't doubt that you feel neither sad nor sorry for her, but rather wish to elevate your own feelings about yourself.

I also think French benefits would bankrupt this country (not that we aren't close already).

Posted by: Schauden-something | October 25, 2006 9:28 AM

Considering the report about the dearth of decent schools that came out yesterday (at least in DC) perhaps some of the government money should be earmarked for improvements there rather than child care. Isn't that where the future is? If we can start with a good education then down the road there will be better paying jobs ergo affordability to choose between decent child care and staying home? I know it is a long long term idea but dont' we need to plan for the future in addition to taking care of right now?

Posted by: Silver Spring | October 25, 2006 9:28 AM

I have to say that as attractive as the benefits sound - it can't work for the US because we have a different mentality than the French and it will be almost impossible to convince taxpayers to pay for these benefits - look at the state of Social Security!
One thing that would really be nice for the government to do that won't cost the government a thing and won't make US businesses less competitive globally is to mandate a higher minimum leave for all workers - the average 2 weeks a year is just inhumane. Nowhere else in the world is the average vacation 2 weeks! Mandating longer vacation and parental leave for both parents would really alleviate some of the stress felt by working parents.
One last point - although the US does not have a problem with replacing the population we do have a problem when women with great potential feel they have no choice but to drop out of the workforce once they have kids (I don't buy the whole - it's her choice crap). If there were better part time alternatives I believe many women would not completely drop out of the work force. How to make more part-time alternatives available - I really have no idea. It's not really something you can regulate. It would be awesome if someone could come up with a solution to that dilemma.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 25, 2006 9:28 AM

Sorry, found two typos after the fact: strike the "this" in "this people here" and strike the work "exploiting" before "this myth".

Posted by: JKR | October 25, 2006 9:29 AM

I am not even commenting today because I know my sarcastic nature will get the best of me. With all it's flaws I love this country.

I have to question why this topic is being posted now. This board has discussed other countries and their family benefits many times - is the election cycle in play here?

Posted by: cmac | October 25, 2006 9:31 AM

"* Monthly childcare subsidies"
We have dependent care reimbursement accounts which reduce our taxes when we set aside money for child care.

"* Summer camps for children that cost as little at $1.50 a day"
We have many many city-run summer programs /day camps that are FREE.

"* Tax deductions based on the number of children in the family"
We have that too. Check the box for number of dependents.

"* Lengthy paid maternity and paternity leaves"
Many large companies are already offering 2 wks paid. I recall Leslie quoted some article about 50 best companies for working women and they had very nice benefits too.

"* 4-8 weeks of annual paid vacations"
This is not a special perk afforded to working parents. All workers in France get this. Different issue.

"* Laws guaranteeing moms part-time jobs"
Sounds like a communist country. Would you want a law in the US guaranteeing moms part-time jobs? Or anyone part-time jobs? Think about it.

"* Less guilt, frustration and stress for moms combining work and motherhood "
I bet that is as common a wish for parents in France as it is in the US.

Leslie's points are extremely one-sided. She does not point out the true cost of all these "benefits". Do you know what the unemployment rate is in France? Know how lousy the economy is? Read about the riots because people can't find jobs? You can't have something for free. I bet if you surveyed 1000 people worldwide, a large majority would prefer to work in the US rather than France.

Posted by: Tex | October 25, 2006 9:32 AM

I am a huge francophile but I agree with JKR -- Americans have a different view of what the state should do for them. I agree with Silver Spring we need to do something about our education system and make sure no child is left behind (for real, not just the tag line), particularly in the preschool/prekindergarten area. My cousin's kindergartener benefited from a year of intensive tutoring in a public pre-K program...

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 25, 2006 9:36 AM

I think you're talking apples and oranges here. Yes, when you make a list, it sure looks like France would be an awesome place to be a working mother. But as many of the posters have pointed out, other issues are at play, including cost of living and other economic issues, as well as different cultural attitudes about motherhood. And certainly there's the issue of whether zero population growth isn't such a bad idea. In any case, as parents we seem to love to point out how hard it is for us -- we juggle work, parenting, housecleaning, yardwork, and god forbid, some kind of private time -- and as a result we jump up and down whenever we perceive that someone has it easier. That said, I certainly think Leslie is dead-on when it comes to the childcare issue. It's ridiculously expensive and hard to come by, and I can't imagine what it would be like for a low-income family. Maternity leave is often a joke, too, and I know too many mothers who go back after three or four weeks simply because they can't afford not to. We should strive to have better benefits, definitely. But we must remember that many, many people are worse off than we are.

Posted by: writing mommy | October 25, 2006 9:37 AM

"I would be interested to know where Leslie got her fact:
* Six weeks of paid disability leave and our same job back -- if our company has 50 or more employees and we've worked there for a year or more

As tvk pointed out, it simply isn't true. I worked for the Federal government during the births of both my kids and they don't even give their OWN employees ONE DAY of paid disability leave to have kids--nevermind make other employers pay new moms. 12 weeks unpaid if you have worked for a year and the place has more than 50 employees, end of story.


Posted by: Fact check | October 25, 2006 07:43 AM"

I don't know when you had your child, but mine is 18 months old, and I know that Federal govt employees get 6 weeks of paid leave (if we want it). After the birth, you must take any sick leave you have (I had 3 weeks saved up) and then you are able to take advanced sick leave after that (I then took 3 weeks advanced sick leave.) You then of course have to "pay it back." I was in negative sick leave until just about a month ago. Since we earn 4 hours a pay period, it takes a while to build back up, but we are allowed to have 6 weeks of paid leave this way. If you had no sick leave saved up, you could only take 6 weeks of advanced sick leave (considered disability). So, actually on this point, LESLIE IS CORRECT.

Posted by: A Federal Employee With a Fact Check | October 25, 2006 9:39 AM

Silver Spring - I agree. It's hard for me to stomach spending more money on things like childcare subsidies for the middle/upper class or paid maternity leaves when our public schools are in such dire need of funding. My older kids (7th & 9th grades) often have over 40 kids in their classes. My first grader has a nice sized class this year - around 25 - but other classes in the building are over 30. We have cut the extras so far back that there's nowhere else to cut. Vocational education is all but non-existent, so the kids who don't go to college have nothing that's meaningful to them when they graduate high school except a piece of paper. It's sad.

Posted by: momof4 | October 25, 2006 9:40 AM

So now you're a nanny-teat Socialist, Leslie, huh? He he he, just kidding.

Let's face it though, those Frankies sure do have it good, what with everyone vacationing for a month in August while we tote our work with us to the beach and home at night and fear for our job security to omnipresent India whether we have babes in arms or not.

I tell ya, I love America, but we've got none too few challenges facing us, and the example cited in today's blog gets to the core of it. Ancient Chinese philosophy says that as goes the family, so goes the culture. If that's true, we've got our work cut out for us.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | October 25, 2006 9:41 AM

I am surprised by all the defensive and defeatist comments. Why, instead of calling the data bs and dismissing it as "can't work here", aren't we looking more closely at what we think COULD work here? Given the comments, I guess it shouldn't be surprising that the government here won't implement more family-friendly policies - if the people I most expect to favor and push for those policies (parents) AREN'T, then why the hell should anyone else??
(Yes, this is a generalization - some of the posters have made thoughtful comments about what they personally would like to see and how it might be possible, and I have appreciated those)

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 25, 2006 9:42 AM

I really believe that folks who insist we can't pay for better social programs really haven't researched and thought hard about the structure of our present government. Conservatives want smaller government, Dems want right-sized government that is very responsive to the needs of the people. Both things are valid. They are not mutually exclusive.

Our government is wasteful and we cannot fix it as individuals. Truth is, we've tried electing businesspeople, egghead academics, ideologs, and pretty-boy empty suits to our lead executive branch. Constitutionally speaking (not by singularly religious or economic measures), the eggheads have always been the best Presidents, and it ain't even close.

Long story short (too late) stop wringing your hands about wanting better social programs and vote with your head, for the smartest person you can find. They'll fix things, because the law says they have to, and academics take their guiding principals (public policy & law) seriously.

Posted by: Re-work the economy | October 25, 2006 9:42 AM

Wasn't it figured out at some point that Americans take less vacation than anyone else? I think I have take four days off this year. *sigh* I think the month of a vacation a year would be a good thing :-)

Posted by: Missicat | October 25, 2006 9:43 AM

Regarding how great France is, I will just quote the words of General George S. Patton:

"I'd rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me."

Posted by: Quote | October 25, 2006 9:44 AM

Hey.

Taking your sick time and then your vacation after having a child does NOT constitute paid leave for birth.

You are taking leave that you accrued for general reasons and you happen to be using that all at once to support the birth.

But that is NOT paid leave for the birth itself.

Posted by: Wait a minute | October 25, 2006 9:46 AM

Missicat - but there's a difference between how much vacation you take and how much you're entitled to. I doubt your company is only giving you 4 days of paid vacation a year...? (Not trying to be argumentative :o) My husband builds up his vacation too - as did I when I worked - and then realizes "sheesh, I've only taken a week this year when we went camping! What is wrong with me??") Maybe Europeans just have it figured out...not necessarily their governement benefits, but their societal norms regarding relaxation and recreaation?

Posted by: momof4 | October 25, 2006 9:46 AM

Unemployment rate in FRance around 10%.
Unemployment rate in the US around 5%.

Yeah, let's all get those wonderful French benefits in the USA!!

Posted by: WorkersParadise | October 25, 2006 9:49 AM

Mom of 4 - I agree, it is the attitude in this country about taking time off that is so different. How many of you know government workers who are face with "use it or lose it" at the end of the year?? That is SAD!

Posted by: Missicat | October 25, 2006 9:50 AM

France also has a huge welfare system.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 9:51 AM

the only time I ever had use or lose leave was before I had children. they are now teenagers and I still don't have use or lose leave at the end of the year ;).

I also make sure I take vacation every year. The rest is used up on school visits, volunteering, home with sick kids, etc.

Posted by: fedworker | October 25, 2006 9:58 AM

"Hey.

Taking your sick time and then your vacation after having a child does NOT constitute paid leave for birth.

You are taking leave that you accrued for general reasons and you happen to be using that all at once to support the birth.

But that is NOT paid leave for the birth itself.

Posted by: Wait a minute | October 25, 2006 09:46 AM"

O.k. I will go over it again. Let's refresh our memories. Leslie said, "* Six weeks of paid disability leave and our same job back -- if our company has 50 or more employees and we've worked there for a year or more"

I said that as a federal employee, you can take six weeks of ADVANCED SICK LEAVE (you must use up any remaining sick leave you have first.) Advanced sick leave is NOT vacation (annual) leave. You then go into negative sick leave and "pay it back," but at least you are paid and don't have to go on LWOP (leave without pay) if you have no other leave saved up.

Obviously, I think this system sucks, and I think we should have actual paid maternity leaves (in addition to any sick and annual leave saved up). But, I thought it was important to let everyone know that Leslie was correct on this point and people purporting to be federal employees and saying we only get 12 weeks unpaid, simply isn't "the facts."

Posted by: Federal Employee (again) | October 25, 2006 10:06 AM

"Regarding how great France is, I will just quote the words of General George S. Patton:

"I'd rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me."

You bet. Wouldn't even be a France if not for our grandparents bailing them out not once but twice.

Posted by: history lesson | October 25, 2006 10:06 AM

Having children is a basic, normal part of life. You have to choose NOT to have children, by buying and using birth control, or abstaining from adult sexual behavior. Otherwise, almost everyone will have children, because that is the natural progression of human development.

So I don't agree with the argument "you chose to have children, so suck it up." Having children is a basic human right. (Note: I am not trying to suggest that homosexuals or asexuals or others are not "normal" or "natural"; I am just saying that having children is the typical progression for the average adult.)

Posted by: anon | October 25, 2006 10:09 AM

I'd like to make a point about birth rates and developing/developed nations. It seems to be a trend that the more developed a nation is (and the longer it's been that way) the lower the birth rate.
My little theory is that people in developing nations see every child as a potential breadwinner for the family. In a developed nation, children cost a huge amount of money to become breadwinners late in life who probably won't help support the original family. There isn't really a cost off-set, just an emotional one so fewer children is cheaper with still some emotional support.
My next leap in theory is that the more supportive a government becomes and the more plush life becomes, more people decide they only need one, or no children for support. The government will help you through retirement and health issues and you just don't really need a next generation anymore.
It works out resource wise. If the developed world reproduced the way everyone else does, we already would have run out of ipods and fuel.
(CIA factbook is a great place to compare birth rates of different countries. Actually, it's a great site in general.)

Posted by: Running | October 25, 2006 10:12 AM

I have to go with WorkersParadise.
The best thing for a woman and her family is a healthy labor market that creates jobs, opportunities and drives wages up.

Let me decide how I want to spend my money, and create an economy that generates good jobs so I have plenty of money to decide with.

The best antidote for workplace discrimination is a labor shortage. A robust job market takes care of that.

Posted by: RoseG | October 25, 2006 10:13 AM

We could be doing things a lot cheaper than we are, and put that extra money towards helping parents and children.

For example, healthy pregnant mothers could give birth more naturally with a midwife, rather than the high surgical birth rate and hospital care. Childbirth is not a medical emergency in most cases.

Obviously, eliminate a lot of the bureaucracy in the school system and government.

More support for breastfeeding (not promotion -- actual support and help), which has been proven time and time again to save families money, save the health care system money, and save the government money.

Posted by: anon | October 25, 2006 10:15 AM

how about one month paid maternity AND paternity leave that employers are required to provide and employees are required to take? Then two months of unpaid leave that employers are reqquired to provide to both parents, but the parents do not have to take it.

This would help reduce the expectation of employers that women are a burden to hire compared to men. If both sexes are required to take some time off, then the employer has to be prepared that any of its employees could take a month off, maybe even three. How many new parents are able to function well at work anyway? May as well recognize that they will be exhausted and need time to bond with child.

Posted by: capitol hill mom | October 25, 2006 10:17 AM

My points --

1 -- Want more choices on how to care for your kids? Advocate lower taxes.
2 -- The economic drag of these social services in Europe means that your child has a nice basket of services while young and no job when he/she grows up.
3 -- You will see Europe begin to dismantle these social services as its nations become multiethnic and the dominant groups feel less of a tribal commitment to help mothers, the poor, and the jobless and more suspicion that they are being taken advantage of by free riders.

Posted by: mediaskeptic | October 25, 2006 10:19 AM

Just looking at another side: everyone has parents. Not everyone has children. If we give guaranteed time off for childbirth are we going to do the same for the caregivers of our increasingly elderly population to enable them provide compassionate care for their parents?

Posted by: Devil's Advocate | October 25, 2006 10:21 AM

I'm sure I will get criticized for this ..but it seems to me that a lot of SAHM are living in "paradise." They get to stay home, shop constantly, go on play dates, run "errands" to Target, Kohl's, etc... and once Jr. is old enough, ship him off to school and take the rest of the day off.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 10:23 AM

would it be easier if we substituted "France" with "Australia" or "Canada" or "Ireland" to remove the anti-French stigma from these posts?

Posted by: a francophile | October 25, 2006 10:24 AM

So basically people from other countries will come in and outnumber the natives and then say screw you, we already took your country who cares if you have anything to eat or not.

Sounds lovely, can't wait until it happens here.

Posted by: to mediaskeptic | October 25, 2006 10:24 AM

France's economy is in shambles and unemployment rate is extremely high. The gov't has subsidized many things that seem great on the outside but tear the country apart. Look to the riots of early this year. Heaven for bid that the gov't took away job security for the adults just out of college. Now they actually have to work to keep their jobs. France has a history of offering these great benefits but also has a many huge problems related to them.

Posted by: anonymous | October 25, 2006 10:26 AM

France's economy is in shambles and unemployment rate is extremely high. The gov't has subsidized many things that seem great on the outside but tear the country apart. Look to the riots of early this year. Heaven for bid that the gov't took away job security for the adults just out of college. Now they actually have to work to keep their jobs. France has a history of offering these great benefits but also has many huge problems related to them.

Posted by: anonymous | October 25, 2006 10:26 AM

Capitol Mom,

I suspect your plan would lead to a lot of families having both parents fired as soon as their employers found out about the pregnancy. Sure they could sue, but that costs money and they have a new baby and no income.

I still don't know why any baby needs two fulltime caregivers, especially at the age where all they do is eat, sleep and poop. What's the ratio in daycare? 6:1?

What exactly would the parents be doing during a three month parental leave?

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 25, 2006 10:29 AM

Anonymous: SAHM's are in all pay grades. I know upper middle class SAHM's that have very comfortable lives and lower income SAHM's that don't have 2 nickels to rub together at the end of the pay period. It's all relative.

Posted by: CMAC | October 25, 2006 10:31 AM

While I agree that Europe is far more enlightened when it comes to understanding quality of life issues, I want to address one item on Leslie's list;

"* Childless co-workers who accuse us of slacking off when our kids have a doctor's appointment or special needs"

I am a childless co-worker, who actually loves kids and has spent ample time with them. Most of us understand that when there are actual special needs or doctor's appointments, well, you can't avoid that. It's life, and honestly, those toddler years pass by and the doctor's appointments thin out after the little one's immune system bulks up.

What bothers the childless colleagues the most about this is that when a child is sick, the world is supposed to stop, no matter how pedestrian the illness. They *have* to go to the doctor, so the deadline *has* to be pushed back or you *have* to do their work for them because they simply *cannot*.

But when an adult family member of a childless employee is sick - like, say, when your 30-something brother with two children under 2 collapses from a brain tumor (eventually and thankfully determined to be benign) - these same co-workers seem to cut us no slack whatsoever. After all, it's not a *child* or anything (and certainly not *their* child).

I admit I was a little distracted and actually taking personal phone calls (a rare event), but I had talked to my boss and we set up a priority list with items for me to take care of before I was taking some unpaid leave to help with post-operative care. A general e-mail was sent out to my co-workers, explaining I had a family medical emergency, and detailing my schedule for the next two weeks and which projects were put on temporary hold.

During this time while I was wrapping things up, I was on a small project with an arbitrary deadline. The in-house client was very understanding and was okay with the schedule/deadline being pushed back until my family had established the scope of the problem. (In other words - he wasn't pressuring anybody, something confirmed to me later by my boss.) On this project was a co-worker within the same department (but under a different manager). After the e-mail went out, she swung by my office with not ONE word of sympathy, and said she was going to complain to her boss that I was pushing my work onto her, and that she "needed me to take my mind off it because [your brother is] not here right now and I won't do this for you before you go." I thanked her for her sympathy in my time of trouble and shut my office door in her face.

The kicker? The child of this insensitive twit came down with frequent ear infections - it had to be every six weeks. I had asked her about it once - there was nothing unusually wrong with her son, he was just one of those kids that was prone to ear infections. But EVERY time she got the call from her nanny, she dropped whatever she was doing to make the doctor's appointment and run home. No matter what was going on, and even though her husband actually worked closer to both their home and the doctor's office than she, and he apparently did offer to take up "sick child" duty. She actually told me once it was her job to run home to her child when this happened...and then told me it was my job to pick up her slack in the next breath. Unfortunately, since we were touted as a "family friendly organization", I actually had to pick up her slack, since HR didn't want to look unsympathetic to parents.

Now if I had dared said "take your mind off your son because I need you to do this" during one of these more regular and less life-threatening episodes? I probably would have been written up by HR for being insensitive to her motherly needs. But hey - I guess it's totally okay to tell a little sister that her big brother's brain tumor isn't something to get worked up about.

Childless does not mean we lack family or a personal life. When we have emergencies, don't give us the hostile glares because now you may have to pick up some of the slack for us. Because bad things can happen to anyone's family at anytime - we don't necessarily feel it less because we didn't give birth to that family member.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 25, 2006 10:33 AM

So basically people from other countries will come in and outnumber the natives and then say screw you, we already took your country who cares if you have anything to eat or not.

Sounds lovely, can't wait until it happens here.


What are you saying? The non natives already out number the natives. The only natives to America are the native American Indians. We already stole their homeland.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 10:34 AM

Actually, Federal Employee, by law we are guaranteed our current job status after 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This is what FMLA is about. Your federal government employer opted to provide you up to 6 weeks paid leave. That was their option, not the law. My company, which is not government, only provides 3 weeks of paid leave, which is accrued sick leave, floating holidays, and vacation time. Whatever they didn't take for those 3 weeks is still yours to use for the remainder of the calendar year. (We also have a "use or lose it" policy.)

Posted by: mth1031 | October 25, 2006 10:36 AM

"Wouldn't even be a France if not for our grandparents bailing them out not once but twice."

Might not be a U.S.A if not for the big fat loan the Frenchies floated us during the Revolutionary War. Ever hear of LaFayette?
It's dullards like you who are an embarassment!


Posted by: June | October 25, 2006 10:40 AM

Again, where do all these childless people work? Because I have never seen a childless person, single person, or person with adult children have any problems taking sick leave. They seem to have leisurely sick appointments, golf games or whatever. My boss takes leave to get a hair cut. Who cares? He is entitled to it. It is his leave. Also not every job throws work at the next guy who leaves suddenly. It is not like there are still customers standing in line asking for a hamburger. Almost all our projects are team projects. And the work gets done when it gets done. Deadlines are generally met and everyone has unexpected emergencies. BTW, FMLA does include family members besides children. And for your dependent care accts, you can take money out for elderly parents as well. As long as they are your dependent defined by the IRS.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 25, 2006 10:40 AM

Chasmosaur,

That's horrible, I would have told my manager. People should help each other whether you need to go for a child, a brother, or even your cat. Im glad your brother is okay.

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 10:41 AM

*Wouldn't even be a France if not for our grandparents bailing them out not once but twice.*

What does this have to do with anything at all?

There wouldn't be West Coast if not for the Louisiana Purchase.

Boy, did that advance the discussion...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 10:45 AM

Having children is a CHOICE; not a REQUIREMENT. As such, why is it that a childless person should bear the same burden (i.e. taxes to provide for childcare subsidies, etc.) as someone who CHOOSES to have 1, 2, 3 or more kids? Also, as far as getting the cold shoulder for "slacking"...it is not a childless person's responsibility to do your work on a regular basis just because you CHOSE to have children and they did NOT. That's not to say that being helpful, cooperative and part of team doesn't come into play, but it cannot be lop-sided. And for those of you who feel you cannot use your earned vacation time...get a new job. In my 25+ year career, I have NEVER left earned vacation time on the table. It is a benefit I have earned and insist on using, and have never suffered any repurcussions for it.

Posted by: Anotherperspective | October 25, 2006 10:46 AM

The problem with the French riots was not because they were demanding job performance of their workers. IT was because they were only demanding them from a certain sector of their population; ie younger workers. Think of it this way, what if we said only people who were born in the Month of December get job security. Sorry for the rest of you folks, we can fire you at will, no FMLA for you, no protections from discriminations. Carry that argument over to race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or age. It becomes obvious what the French did was unfair. Thus their people rioted. It would be a totally different situation, if across the board, France eliminated job protections for all classes of workers.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 25, 2006 10:50 AM

True, the revolutionary war was won with assistance from France, Spain and the Dutch (Netherlands). However, they were not as concerned about helping colonists win independence as they were concerned about Britain becoming an increasing global power. But that is way off topic....

Posted by: ToJune | October 25, 2006 10:51 AM

If you think being in Paradise means working in France, I suggest you should go to church more often.

Posted by: WorkerParadise | October 25, 2006 10:54 AM

"Childless by Choice -- I wish I could find some redeeming qualities in your postings, but cannot. Are you planning to live in a bubble for the rest of your life? SO sad..."

Childless by Choice often makes good points, and her contributions to the blog are thought-provoking. Unfortunately, she enjoys pi**ing people off; maybe she just likes that kind of attention, so she says things in crass ways to touch off angry responses.

But she's not functioning in a vacuum -- and that's why people here should be taking her seriously and responding to her ideas rather than her cant. The people on this blog are smart enough to cut through her crap; they question is whether they're willing to.

Posted by: pittypat | October 25, 2006 10:54 AM

Dotted: You're right re the "bait" button. I got sucked in. Silly me. Guess I was just trying to "elevate my feelings about myself" by picking on CbC.

Posted by: CA Mom | October 25, 2006 10:55 AM

Why do we keep going back to this again and again. You have to pay taxes whether you choose to have children or not because you CHOOSE to live in this country. If you don't like it, try to find a country that does not force you to pay for things you don't use. We all pay for things we don't use. Honey, it is for the good of society. Having an ill educated society is bad for every one. I pay for roads that I don't travel on, books I don't read in the public library, public parks I don't visit, fire safety even if it never occurs to my property. Life isn't fair. Being an adult member of a country takes on certain responsibilities. One of them is taxes. And also life isn't fair. Whoever told you it was, was definitely lying to you.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 25, 2006 10:56 AM

CAmom are you serious?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 10:56 AM

"However, they were not as concerned about helping colonists win independence as they were concerned about Britain becoming an increasing global power."

I read recently (not in that Marie Antoinette biography that Sofia Coppola used for her movie) that Marie, in a totally uncharacteristic flash of clarity, asked Louis XVI, "Uh, I understand you're worried about the Brits, but are you sure that encouraging this sort of rebellion against a monarch is a wise idea?" Louis was all, "Yeah, yeah, it's fine."

Posted by: Lizzie | October 25, 2006 10:57 AM

I was reading Leslie's post and stopped after 6 weeks of paid leave and laughed(ok, snorted derisively). (Seriously, some people get paid maternity leave? Where?) Then I finished the post.
It's soooo easy to point out all the flaws of the European countries and quietly feel like we may get shafted on the work-life balance, but at least we're not a bunch of commies taxing ourselves to death. (USA! USA!)
I don't know why suggesting that MAYBE other people might do something better has to be such a threat to our national identity. Maybe instead devolving into ridiculous school yard arguements like "we saved their asses in WWII, so shut up." We could actually LEARN from the examples of other countries. Maybe we could actually look at the tax structure and budgets in this country honestly (instead of OH NOES! THE TAX AND SPEND LIBERALS WILL RUIN US ALL!) and find that maybe we have the money we need to make everyone's live in America a little better.
I find it odd that we'll go a trillion dollars in debt to murder a several hundred thousand iraqis and have thousands of US personnel maimed and killed, and find millions of dollars in pork projects for districts all over the united states, but we can't figure out how to ease the collective burden of all our citizens just a little bit more.
In the US we're all just a little too eager to help ourselves and not willing enough to help each other.

Posted by: MadisonWIMom | October 25, 2006 10:58 AM

***Having children is a CHOICE; not a REQUIREMENT. As such, why is it that a childless person should bear the same burden (i.e. taxes to provide for childcare subsidies, etc.) as someone who CHOOSES to have 1, 2, 3 or more kids? ****

Look, arguments like these just don't make logistical sense. One cannot regulate either tax code (gov't income) or government services to the needs of every individual.

Suppose I use less street light than you. Should I pay less? What if I have more stop signs in my neighborhood, but you have traffic lights? Should I bear the cost of that electricity and maintenance? Suppose you live near an intersection with lots of accidents. Do you want to pay more because the cops are there more frequently?

Like it or not, a Government program provides regulation and services all the way up to the borders of the jurisdiction. And in order to provide that regulation the government can't constantly flex either the tax code or the services provided based upon daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly usage patterns. To seek to do so would raise the costs of the services provided and the costs of administering them.

So in order for you to pay less taxes (based on usage) you would have to pay more taxes (to find out who is using what). The current system is "less broken" than what you are suggesting.

Posted by: Stop it | October 25, 2006 11:03 AM

Leslie,

You forget that France is a socialist country, and has been in an economic recession for approximately 30 years. Their economy is in the TOILET and unemployment is sky-high - note the recent youth protests this past summer - ... so why do you want to repeat their failed policies here? Because of their worker-friendly policies, companies are shutting down in France and moving overseas so they do not have to accomodate - again, please look at the unemployment statistics. Sorry to sound harsh, but please learn about the intricacies of what you are talking before you talk about it ... you will sound much smarter, and much less like a parrot :)

Posted by: Lessssssslieeeeeeeeeeee .... | October 25, 2006 11:04 AM

"What's the ratio in daycare? 6:1?"

For infants it is 3:1-- and these are trained professionals. For a new parent caring for a newborn is an overwhelming experience.

"What exactly would the parents be doing during a three month parental leave?"

Recovering from childbirth, getting the hang of nursing, getting the child on a sleep schedule (or adjusting their own sleep schedule to accomodate the child's), babyproofing the house, introducing the family and the community to the new member, and, most importantly, falling in love. It isn't always instantaneous. Sometimes it needs a bit of time, and when it does, it can only be to the benefit of the entire society.

The thing is, what is the point of progressing, of evolving as a society if we don't permit ourselves to every once in awhile slow down and enjoy life? Just one month-- maybe more if the new parents want/need it.

By making it mandatory, it shows new parents that society really does suspport them and wants them to develop those important bonds with their kids. And as I said before, new parents are really too blurry-eyed (and even heart-sick during absence) to be of much value to the employer, so if I were an employer I would do it anyway.

Would it make it a better sell to you all if the leave was "forwarded sick leave" that the employee would eventually "pay back"?

Posted by: Capitol mom | October 25, 2006 11:06 AM

We have French relatives so I've heard all that, but you have to have socialist tendencies to appreciate all the government "benefits' (and the taxes you pay to subsidize them). There is an expectation with them that the government takes care of these things, that most Americans wouldn't normally have. One thing I noticed in the article in the Post a week agor or so is that the French kids were spending long hours in after school day care and school, longer than the norm here. I also find that many of these which country has the best policy discussions just focus on the baby years and not too much on the school years. I'd put my arrangement up against any French mom's anytime -- I work 32 hours a week but with flexible hours, I am home when they get home from school. I have absolutely no leave left to show for it, but that's OK by me - my choice, my cost.

Posted by: Fairfax | October 25, 2006 11:15 AM

To scarry -

Thanks. I ended up quitting a few months after everything was resolved with my brother (I had TWO managers - one had been an angel, the other bad mouthed about me constantly during this time frame and I could barely bring myself to deal with her civilly after everything was said and done). And at the time, I had bigger issues to deal with than complaining to my boss about this woman.

She was just one of those employees that mysteriously gets away with murder and everyone wonders what she's got on senior management ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 25, 2006 11:18 AM

Chasmosaur

ahhh, I know the feeling. It is funny how managers can make all the difference in the world.

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 11:21 AM

Why don't we look at a country that's not in economic shambles (high unemployment, low growth rate of the GDP), doesn't have a history of institutionalized racism, and is culturally closer to the US?

Like, say, Canada?

I'm a pro-small government type myself (not a Republican), so I'm wary of social welfare programs to begin with, but if we want to study government safety nets with the thought of implementing them here, we should be looking at countries that are similar to ours, and also successful economically and culturally. Canada fits the bill better than France and most other western European nations - lower unemployment, ethnic diversity that rivals ours (a BIG factor, in my mind, that a lot of pro-European-style socialism white Americans don't think to consider - as a person of Indian descent, I know I'd feel a lot more comfortable in Canada than in France), decent healthcare (though it does have its issues), good schools, etc. It's right there. Just ask them how they manage.

Posted by: I am le tired! | October 25, 2006 11:22 AM

Before I was married and had kids I chafed at having to pay property tax to fund schools. "I don't have kids, why should I pay for someone else's?".

Now that I have kids, I understand that children are *literally* our future. Instead of looking at myself all the time, I'm beginning to look at societal needs more. One day someone else's kid will be fixing my car, paving the roads, excising my cancer, inventing the next cool thing, putting out house fires, and keeping the streets safe.

The point is, it benefits *everyone* that children are raised right, educated and well cared for. As a society we all do a little wherever we can to help the children, whether they be our own or someone else's.
It is a sacrifice worth making.

Posted by: Tex | October 25, 2006 11:24 AM

Translation: you want to double my taxes. Right? ;)

Posted by: To Tex | October 25, 2006 11:28 AM

No wonder the Unemployment levels in Europe are so high! And those that work get to hand over more than they keep to pay for those who don't!

No thank you!!!

Posted by: Rufus | October 25, 2006 11:28 AM

BIG factor, in my mind, that a lot of pro-European-style socialism white Americans don't think to consider - as a person of Indian descent, I know I'd feel a lot more comfortable in Canada than in France), decent healthcare (though it does have its issues), good schools, etc. It's right there. Just ask them how they manage.

why does it always have to go back to the white issue. I think that some people would feel better if there were no white people left. Is that what you want?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 11:29 AM

"why does it always have to go back to the white issue. I think that some people would feel better if there were no white people left. Is that what you want?"

*hugs troll* Now you've got colored-person cooties.

Posted by: I am le tired! | October 25, 2006 11:32 AM

Leslie

How does the French government offer, "Less guilt, frustration and stress for moms combining work and motherhood"?

Posted by: d | October 25, 2006 11:34 AM

*hugs troll* Now you've got colored-person cooties.

That's really dumb, the person didn't say anything about you or your race. Why are they a troll.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 11:37 AM

'however, that does affect your raises in that, the weeks you're out are turned into a fraction (40/52) and your raise is multiplied by that. if you're out for 12 weeks, your raise is only 75% of what you would get otherwise (and affects you forever). good managers in the company compensate for this, but this is discrimination to me (though it applies to anyone who uses disability).'

Seriously, not trying to be snarky, why in the world would you think it is discriminatory to get 75% raise if you were off approximately 25% of the year?

Posted by: xyz | October 25, 2006 11:38 AM

F...ing move to France then!

Posted by: Deb | October 25, 2006 11:42 AM

It's not just France, people.

The USA routinely comes up dead last among industrialized countries in terms of maternal leave policies, health care, public education, infant mortality, and otehr measures of social welfare and stability. Pick any European country, or Canada or Japan, and you're likely to find better maternity leave, broader health coverage, etc.

As I said before, the Euros could learn a thing or two for us-- and many Germans, French, etc. will tell you their systems are too bureacratic. But it's not like we have nothing to learn from them. Unfortunately, it sounds like many posters on this site resent having to participate in society at all-- would you all rather be living off the grid in Montana than paying taxes?

The Republicans have been extremely successful over the last 30 years of convincing people (including Democrats!) that the simplistic model of a perfect free market with low or no taxes creates the best outcomes for everyone through a robust economy. Again and again people try to argue that the best way to deal with social ills is to "let the market handle it". But the market is simply notalways equipped to handle whatever "it" is-- a market is not some arbiter of moral good. It's just a mechanism to enable a certain quantity of something to be supplied to those who demand it at a certain price. Fundamentally markets are amoral. Move past the first semester of microeconomics and you quickly learn that no market in the world functions perfectly-- there are asymmetries of information, barriers to entry, externalities, lack of perfect mobility, etc. that muck things up in the real world. (That's how things like labor discrimination, environmental destruction, and exploitative practices can persist even in a relatively free market like the US has.) People, societies, and, yes, the governments they elect have to figure out what mix of regulation and legal structures they want to balance the realities of imperfect markets with the overall social outcomes they want based on the values they feel are important.

Sorry for the econ rant, but I get so sick of the market triumphalism pushed by Bush and the Repubs (and swallowed whole by many people). Arguing that markets need a bit of regulation, that perhaps employers should adhere to certain standards, that the government is responsible for providing some of the social goods the free market can't or won't supply does not make you a communist-- it makes you a realist!

Posted by: JKR | October 25, 2006 11:45 AM

Chasmosaur: I think everyone has a couple of stories like that. But it is so much easier to see the stain on the carpet than the rest of the unstained carpet.


Do you think it is sometimes easier to be poor and have kids and be able to have a sahp than middle class? An aquaintance I know lives with her boyfriend. They are both in their early 20's. They have 2 kids. He is a SAHP and she works outside the home. They have medical coverage through medicaid and get other state assistance (food stamps, reduced fees for gas and electric, etc.). He also gets a disability check from the state each month (it is a complete crock, I might add. I think it was because he was in rehab for drugs). The kicker: they were able to buy a house!

Posted by: a couple of things | October 25, 2006 11:47 AM

Hooray JKR! I second everything (s)he said.

Posted by: MadisonWIMom | October 25, 2006 11:50 AM

Capitol Hill Mom,

I agree that caring for a newborn is hard, I just don't think it is SO hard, in the grand scheme of things, to require a government program mandating that all newborns have 2 parents home for a month. For families with special needs, there is the FMLA.

My husband isn't at his best when we have a newborn at home, but he does still manage to make valuable contributions. We prefer to spread out the time he takes off, so he takes off Weds of every week for quite a while after the baby is born-- it gives us all a chance to catch up on sleep during the week, without burning through quite as much leave. I vastly prefer allowing families and employers to figure out what works best for each individual case over legislating a "one-size-fits-none" solution.

FWIW, I think that requiring parents to go in the hole with sick leave is even worse-- what do they do when their 5 year old gets the stomach flu the week they go back to work?

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 25, 2006 11:57 AM

To JKR: I agree with much of what you said - even as a libertarian, I agree that the market needs some protections, and the invisible hand maybe should be a tad visible. But I'd just like to point out that what the modern GOP is selling as the free market bears no resemblance to an actual free market - they might call it that, but they like to shell out huge amounts of welfare in the form of tax breaks, tarriffs, and subsidies to big business.

But anyway, I mostly agree with you :)

Posted by: I am le tired! | October 25, 2006 11:58 AM

Le tired

Your post was offensive. Everything doesn't come down to race you know. Also trying to turn it around on the poster calling them a troll and making out like they had a problem with "colored people," didn't know that was okay to say in this day and age, is itself a defense mechanism for someone who has race issues themselves. I would say that you are the one who wouldn't want hugs from a white person.

Posted by: le bias | October 25, 2006 11:59 AM

You can measure the freedom a nation has be how difficult or easy it is to leave it you want to.

I encourage everyone who thinks European-style socialism is better than American freedom to exercise their American freedom one last time by leaving!

Posted by: Rufus | October 25, 2006 12:00 PM

I can't believe I'm actually responding to this...

"I'm sure I will get criticized for this ..but it seems to me that a lot of SAHM are living in "paradise." They get to stay home, shop constantly, go on play dates, run "errands" to Target, Kohl's, etc... and once Jr. is old enough, ship him off to school and take the rest of the day off."

You're right - I do live in paradise. But not because of the reasons you list.

I stay home part of the day and clean house, do volunteer work on my computer, play with, read to, and homepreschool my 4 year old.

I shop at the grocery store once a week. I occasionally - maybe once every other week - shop elsewhere (usually Goodwill) for things my family needs.

Errands are done at the bank, post office, etc. Not at stores - that is "shopping."

I accompany 2 of my 3 school aged children to and from school each day. They are in 3 different schools. I spend time each day volunteering for each of the schools in various capacities. When my youngest is in school full time, I plan on working part-time or expanding my volunteer work to benefit the community as a whole.

My paradise? Being free to choose to do all of those things. Watching my daughters' soccer practices and swim practices. Going out for coffee, on nature walks, and to the library with my 4 year old son. Watching him learn to swim and taking a creative art class with him. Picking my high school aged son up after school and having real conversations with him.

Yes, it's paradise. But not the negatively-charged paradise that you describe.


Posted by: momof4 | October 25, 2006 12:02 PM

To anonymous at 10:23...

Ok, I'll criticize the SAHMs in paradise comment. Have you ever gone to Target with three small children? Do you think that is fun? Going to Target alone would be great, but trying to find a shopping cart to safely haul all the kids and then buying exciting things likes diapers and cough medicine isn't exactly my idea of paradise. But, it needs to get done and I would rather do it during the day than waste family time at night or on the weekend. Going to the park and pushing a swing is nice, but not something I would do if given a couple of free hours.

I love my children and I am extremely thankful that I can be at home with them right now. I am not going to say that my life is really hard, because compared to many, many others, it is not. My life, though, is NOT paradise. Dealing with little ones can be absolutely infuriating one minute and then a joy the next.

Posted by: 1+2mom | October 25, 2006 12:03 PM

To a couple of things:

I don't focus on the stain :) Like I said earlier in the post - Life happens. My overall point (though I admit, obscured in my rambling post) is that some parents can also send hostile glares when a child-free colleague "drops" work on them because of family emergency. I think it's just human nature to feel put upon when your workload increases. Kinda selfish, but true. We all can't be saints all the time.

I don't know if it's easier to be poor and have kids than have a SAHP, but it might be more cost effective. After my brother and his wife got married and had their kids they ran the numbers - they actually would have had had a larger net income if they hadn't gotten married!

I don't remember the details, but even though my sister in law is a SAHM, if they were unmarried but still parents, she would have qualified for welfare and my brother would have paid child support. The taxes on that setup gave them a significantly larger tax return!

There's something so wrong with that...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 25, 2006 12:04 PM

To momof4

My brain is turning to mush just reading about your day...

Posted by: DZ | October 25, 2006 12:12 PM

Besides tax rates, there is another enormous problem with the labor laws in France. Business Week just featured a fascinating article a few weeks back about the fact that it is almost impossible to start or grow a business in France. By law, an owner can be fined significant amounts if one of the government's inspectors finds an employee working >35 hours a week. From the article, it sounds like these "labor inspectors" are about as ubiquitous as parking police in College Park!

The result is that there are very, very few entrepreneurs in France and most people work for large, government agencies.

While great benefits and normal working hours is exactly what some people need for balance - and I think that those people are doing the right thing for choosing that kind of employer here in the States -
to MANDATE those things seems *almost* like a low-grade form of communism.

While they have their drawbacks, I embrace our captitalistic entrepreneurial culture. I wouldn't like to see that mandated out of our culture for the sake of someone else's definition of balance.

Check out the article if you can - it was REALLY interesting.

Posted by: another angle | October 25, 2006 12:17 PM

To people who say if you don't think things are perfect then leave....

You can't possibly believe that, can you? You're really just trolling, no? Because otherwise your position is just sad. And if taken literally would result in nobody being left here, because nobody thinks they have it absolutely perfectly.

Or, is there some litmus test? Do you only get to stay if you want things changed to "the way they used to be in the good old days"? And should only people that are like you and believe as you do get to make only changes that benefit people in your specific situation?

I can't believe I'm stooping to respond to such idiocy.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 12:22 PM

"Weren't the young people rioting in France because they couldn't find jobs and the government wanted to put some whacked out policy into effect saying that employers could fire them at will with out repercussions?"

Part of it was that most employees in France have long-term job contracts (which make employers less willing to give job applicants a chance and landlords, banks, etc. more willing to give employees a chance). The government wanted to let employers hire people under age 26 with short-term contracts instead. Thus, young adults would be far better able to find jobs and far less able to rent apartments or open bank accounts. The real problem in this situation seems to be the attitude of too many landlords, banks, etc. in France - if they were more like landlords, banks, etc. in the U.S. then those short-term job contracts wouldn't be such a problem!

"But there is a procedure related to the birth certificate, and names deemed unsuitable (like profanity, trademarked names, etc) are refused. Crazy. The Norwegians aren't the most heterogenous people in the world . . ."

Malaysia is more heterogenous than Norway and you still can't name your kid "Hitler," "smelly dog," or "007" there:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5229060.stm

"My little theory is that people in developing nations see every child as a potential breadwinner for the family."

...and/or every son as a potential breadwinner for the family while seeing every daughter as potential household help for her husband's family instead?

Posted by: Maria | October 25, 2006 12:25 PM

There is no doubt that the U.S. government can develop more family-friendly policies. I would love that.

However, I think it is misleading and disingenious to say that another country like France has an superior system. You need to look at the whole picture, and not just highlight the attractive features.

For example, when we lived in France for a short while, our ex-pat friends complained bitterly about the inflexible labor laws that even applied to household employees. One friend in particular, wanted desperately to fire the nanny (and the nanny had the mutual feeling for her), but the friend practically had to prove that she was "economically unable to support" the household employee in order to do that. There are several things to like about another system, like France's, such as the numerious national holidays and month-long vacations, and short workdays, etc. But as some of the bloggers suggested, you need to look at the whole picture.

Posted by: Working Mom | October 25, 2006 12:26 PM

"To momof4

My brain is turning to mush just reading about your day..."

That is unbelievably rude.

Posted by: wow! | October 25, 2006 12:28 PM

JKR, I tend to agree with you. This discussion is increasingly turning into a "why (only) the USA is such a great country" rant rather than possibly looking at ways in which our country could further progess--which usually begins by examining where our policies are lacking.

Posted by: momtobe | October 25, 2006 12:30 PM

Chasmosaur,

That's too bad you had such an unsupportive work environment, good thing you left...

However, I have to say this is not the case everywhere. I recall more than once having stepped in for childless co-workers so that they can go take care of a family emergency or personal illness. That is the norm where I work. This is the right thing to do, and also I know that someday I will need the favor returned when I have to rush off to take care of my child. Its all give and take and too bad for those who turn their noses up when someone has to take care of personal business, no matter what the reason.

Posted by: MDmom | October 25, 2006 12:40 PM

Chasmosaur,

That's too bad you had such an unsupportive work environment, good thing you left...

However, I have to say this is not the case everywhere. I recall more than once having stepped in for childless co-workers so that they can go take care of a family emergency or personal illness. That is the norm where I work. This is the right thing to do, and also I know that someday I will need the favor returned when I have to rush off to take care of my child. Its all give and take and too bad for those who turn their noses up when someone has to take care of personal business, no matter what the reason.

Posted by: MDmom | October 25, 2006 12:41 PM

wow - It bothers me not in the least - I love my *balanced* life and know that my brain is far from mush.

Although perhaps if I really did spend my days at Target, it would be.

Posted by: momof4 | October 25, 2006 12:42 PM

Leslie's been pretty beat up already for this topic, and I'm proud of the arguments I've seen listed. People seem to get it that there is no free lunch...which is pretty surprising when you think of it, since so many of them repeatedly vote for the politicians that cynically promise one.

People tend get the leaders that they deserve.

So on a lighter topic, I thought I'd see what is the current level of humor amongst our readers. Those who have followed the Man Laws commercials will be familiar with the following. I'd like to think that Fof4 will enjoy this, along with a few others.

The Man Laws
=============
1: Under no circumstances may two men share an umbrella.

2: It is OK for a man to cry ONLY under the following circumstances
(a) When a heroic dog dies to save its master.
(b) The moment Angelina Jolie starts unbuttoning her blouse.
(c) After wrecking your boss's car.
(d) One hour, 12 minutes, 37 seconds into "The Crying Game".
(e) When she is using her teeth.

3: Any Man who brings a camera to a bachelor party may be legally killed and eaten by his buddies.

4: Unless he murdered someone in your family, you must bail a friend out of jail within 12 hours.

5: If you've known a guy for more than 24 hours, his sister is off limits forever unless you actually marry her.

6: Moaning about the brand of free beer in a buddy's fridge is forbidden. However complain at will if the temperature is unsuitable.

7: No man shall ever be required to buy a birthday present for another man. In fact, even remembering your buddy's birthday is strictly optional. At that point, you must celebrate at a strip bar of the birthday boy's choice.

8: On a road trip, the strongest bladder determines pit stops, not the weakest.

9: When stumbling upon other guys watching a sporting event, you may ask the score of the game in progress, but you may never ask whose playing.

10: You may flatulate in front of a woman only after you have brought her to climax. If you trap her head under the covers for the purpose of flatulent entertainment, she's officially your girlfriend.

11: It is permissible to drink a fruity alcohol drink only when you're sunning on a tropical beach... and it's delivered by a topless model and only when it's free.

12: Only in situations of moral and/or physical peril are you allowed to kick another guy in the nuts.

13: Unless you're in prison, never fight naked.

14: Friends don't let friends wear Speedos. Ever. Issue closed.

15: If a man's fly is down, that's his problem, you didn't see anything.

16: Women who claim they "love to watch sports" must be treated as spies until they demonstrate knowledge of the game and the ability to drink as much as the other sports watchers.

17: A man in the company of a hot, suggestively dressed woman must remain sober enough to fight.

18: Never hesitate to reach for the last beer or the last slice of pizza, but not both, that's just greedy.

19: If you compliment a guy on his six-pack, you'd better be talking about his choice of beer.

20: Never join your girlfriend or wife in discussing a friend of yours, except if she's withholding sex pending your response.

21: Phrases that may NOT be uttered to another man while lifting weights
(a) Yeah, Baby, Push it!
(b) C'mon, give me one more! Harder!
(c) Another set and we can hit the showers!

22: Never talk to a man in a bathroom unless you are on equal footing:
i.e., both urinating, both waiting in line, etc. For all other situations, an almost imperceptible nod is all the conversation you need.

23: Never allow a telephone conversation with a woman to go on longer than you are able to have sex with her. Keep a stopwatch by the phone. Hang up if necessary.

24: The morning after you and a girl who was formerly "just a friend" have carnal, drunken monkey sex, the fact that you're feeling weird and guilty is no reason for you not to nail each other again before the discussion about what a big mistake it was occurs.

25: It is acceptable for you to drive her car. It is not acceptable for her to drive yours.

26: Thou shalt not buy a car in the colors of brown, pink, lime green, orange or sky blue.

27: The girl who replies to the question "What do you want for
Christmas?" with "If you loved me, you'd know what I want!" gets an Xbox. End of story.

28: There is no reason for guys to watch Ice Skating or Men's Gymnastics. Ever.

29: We've all heard about people having guts or balls. But do you really know the difference between them? In an effort to keep you informed, the definition of each is listed below.

"GUTS" is arriving home late after a night out with the guys, being assaulted by your wife with a broom, and having the guts to say, "are you still cleaning or are you flying somewhere?"

"BALLS" is coming home late after a night out with the guys smelling of perfume and beer, lipstick on your collar, slapping your wife on the ass and having the balls to say, "You're next!"

We hope this clears up any confusion.

The International Council of Manhood, Ltd.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 25, 2006 12:42 PM

Texas Dad of 2

Your "Man Laws" are derivative and mediocre; very poor writing.

Posted by: George | October 25, 2006 12:50 PM

BALLS" is coming home late after a night out with the guys smelling of perfume and beer, lipstick on your collar, slapping your wife on the ass and having the balls to say, "You're next!"

Oh my God, this is the best one. I am laughing so hard. I know other people won't find it funny, but it is. Unless it really happens.

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 12:51 PM

I once worked for the US Senate and a Swedish woman's family contacted us. She had been detained by INS and accused of trying to come to the US to live off OUR welfare benefits! What a hoot. I agree with earlier posts, forget France. Of industrialized nations, our social benefits are pretty dismal. In fact, I spent a month fighting with my HR department over my maternity leave benfits when I had my last child. While it shouldn't surprise me given my work with the federal government, but you would think people who work in Human Resouces would KNOW labor law. Getting back to social benefits, I just finished reading an article about the working un-insured. It boggles my mind that a family of three making $50,000 cannot afford health insurance. IMO, that is just plain immoral. As a mother, SAHM or WOH, not having healthing insurance to help care for my children would make me sick. But advocating universal healthcare coverage is "communistic." Cost of living and taxes ARE huge in Scandinavia, Europe, Japan. And yes, they do complain about it. But most of the Europeans and Asians I know (admittedly a small sample) are very happy to be tourists, despite the bureaucracy and taxation. And yes, I would be happy to move and take my spawn with me but I CHOOSE to stay close to family and friends and ADVOCATE for change.

Posted by: LM in WI | October 25, 2006 1:09 PM

I read recently (not in that Marie Antoinette biography that Sofia Coppola used for her movie) that Marie, in a totally uncharacteristic flash of clarity, asked Louis XVI, "Uh, I understand you're worried about the Brits, but are you sure that encouraging this sort of rebellion against a monarch is a wise idea?" Louis was all, "Yeah, yeah, it's fine."

Posted by: Lizzie | October 25, 2006 10:57 AM

Lizzie, I think that's in the novel Abundance, which recently came out and is is a first-person narrative of MA's life. I remember that being quoted in a revie.

Posted by: Megan | October 25, 2006 1:09 PM

From one Texas dad to another (Texas Dad of 2):

You got GUTS and BALLS to post that on this blog!

Enjoyed it.

Posted by: Tex | October 25, 2006 1:09 PM

Tx dad of 2 - I can't believe there aren't more women on this forum crying about how sexist your manhood laws are.

BTW - the following is hilarious:
16: Women who claim they "love to watch sports" must be treated as spies until they demonstrate knowledge of the game and the ability to drink as much as the other sports watchers.

Posted by: cmac | October 25, 2006 1:14 PM

I can't believe there aren't more women on this forum crying about how sexist your manhood laws are.

That's probably because they're not so much sexist as dumb.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 1:17 PM

"You bet. Wouldn't even be a France if not for our grandparents bailing them out not once but twice."

Yeah, but there wouldn't be a U.S. if the French hadn't come to help during the Revolutionary War.

So maybe we're even. :>)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 1:17 PM

I'm late to the discussion but I was directed here by someone on the Achenblog. I'll just address a couple of points that people made at the beginning of the discussion, which were not really challenged.

1. Income. Someone said they are lower in France.

They are not. Unless you're in the Forbes 400, that is.

The United States has an enormous amount of wealth in just a few hands. The combined net worth of the 400 richest Americans is 1 trillion. But frankly, how does that make the other 300 million Americans better off?

Well, a recent OECD study shows that when the GDP is adjusted for income inequality, the French are about 11% wealthier than Americans. In other words, take away the very rich, and the remaining Americans have a lower standard of living than the French.

Here is the study:

http://economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=5504103

To make it simpler, I'll talk about unemployment in another comment.

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 1:18 PM

Is Texas dad of 2 the same boorish guy who is an engineer, past PTA president , HOA president, blah, blah, blah?

Posted by: Elaine | October 25, 2006 1:21 PM

"I can't believe there aren't more women on this forum crying about how sexist your manhood laws are."

Perhaps because we realize they are a JOKE?


Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 1:22 PM

Tx Dad o' 2:

A little derivative, but good for a mid-day laugh anyway.

I sorta picture Ballsy guy looking like Sawyer on Lost.

Posted by: MadisonWIMom | October 25, 2006 1:23 PM

2. Unemployment:

Unemployment in France is at 9%. That doesn't look great compared to the US, where it's around 5%. However, it's my contention that we are comparing apples and oranges, and that the 2 unemployment situations are in fact pretty similar.

Here is what I base my contention on:

1. Rate of incarceration: There are 2.2 million Americans in jail. That's 738 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents. In France it is 9 times fewer (80). There is also a huge administration to cater to them. Some studies have shown that if the U.S. were to have France's rate of incarceration, its unemployment rate would go up by 2%.

2. Long-term unemployment: In the U.S., people who have not asked for a job in the last 4 weeks are not counted. If they were, it would add 400,000 unemployed to the U.S. rolls. In France, they are counted.

3. The day-care situation: In France, it is free for children as young as 2-year old, and it is heavily subsidized for younger children. That allows mothers to work. But if they don't find a job, they are counted on the unemployment rolls.

In the U.S. on the other hand, because day-care is sometimes so expensive that a full-time job brings little more than the ability to pay for it, many mothers (or fathers, sometimes) decide to stop working for several years, until their kids are old enough to go to free school. Sometimes it is a life-style choice only, but often it is as much of an economic choice. Those mothers are not counted on the unemployment rolls, of course.

And here is a number to back that up, especially points #1 and #3: 86.7% of French males age 25 to 54 are employed. In the U.S., that number is lower, at 86.3%!

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/36/30/35024561.pdf

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 1:23 PM

"I don't know why suggesting that MAYBE other people might do something better has to be such a threat to our national identity."

I applaud that. Yes, why not learn from the others indeed? why the insecurity?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 1:23 PM

Thanks for the information, superfrenchie!

Posted by: Megan | October 25, 2006 1:27 PM

Wow, I didn't realize that France was such a great place to live. Leslie says their moms live in paradise, working parents are given so much help, healthcare is great, .... I really need to think about moving my entire family there.

Oh wait, I'm of African descent... too bad.
:(

Posted by: To superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 1:33 PM

I read the article from superfrenchie. Thanks by the way. But neither measure really looks at whole lifestyle choices. Like people in the US tend to own cars. But the rate of car ownership is much lower in Europe. Also the home ownership rate is also much lower. If you actually read the whole article, it says neither adjustment can end US economic superiority. So in short, we still get ahead but it is in the hands of a few people. A lot of people think they will make it big one day. I guess that is the hope and dream that keeps us going.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 25, 2006 1:34 PM

To superfrenchie

Also consider, if the U.S. could lower its rate of incarceration, it could probably greatly reduce the Court system.

Posted by: George | October 25, 2006 1:37 PM


France is so great that we can send a Texan with one testicle over there to ride a bicycle and beat them for 7yrs straight.

Posted by: Tex | October 25, 2006 1:38 PM

"...'colored people,' didn't know that was okay to say in this day and age..."

Ok, I'm a regular poster to this blog, but I'm going anonymous with the following question 'cause at least some of you folks will almost certainly find it offensive, even though it's not intended to be.

Here's the question: Why is the term "people of color" acceptable when the term "colored people" is not? Grammatically, they are the same thing. A "person of wealth" is a "wealthy person." A "person of intellect" is an "intellectual person." A "person of ability" is an "able person." A "person of morals" is a "moral person." So, by logical extension, a "person of color" is a "colored person."

I realize that there is very bad history that makes the phrase "colored people" extremely offensive, and I absolutely concur in unofficially banning its use. But why, then, have so many minorities in this country chosen to accept a term that is the grammatical equivalent of "colored people" to be the politically correct replacement?

I have wondered about this for a very long time.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 1:38 PM

The eye of the beholder, isn't it? Those of you who are home full time with babies and toddlers know full well that it can be tiring, mind numbing and depressing just as it can be joyful, fulfilling, and exhilarating. In my neighborhood of about 200 houses, I would say out of those there is only ONE (o.k.--that I know of) that fits the description of the spoiled, pampered SAHM (one kid, a nanny, and money to spend at the spa). The rest either work part time, have no nanny, or work full time. This is a new neighborhood, too, less than five years old. Those who work full time can appreciate the joys of talking on the phone, using the bathroom and concentrating on the project at hand uninterrupted. And the other point--you get to speak to adults! BTDT. Always greener grass.

Posted by: Living in Paradise | October 25, 2006 1:38 PM

It's far cheaper to import workers, wink wink nod nod, than to grow them. Economic efficiency demands that we bring in geographic bachelors of working age in reasonably good health, pay them under the table starvation wages, and cut benefits, in order to ensure globalization and maximum shareholder value. Their net export of $100 billion a year does not affect our corporate bottom line negatively. In contrast, it provides opportunity for our foreign assets.

Investing in American children is a bad investment. Outsourcing our future is good business.

Posted by: LetsImportThem | October 25, 2006 1:40 PM

I lived in France for 4 years and now live elsewhere in Europe. Here is what I observed about the childcare situation in France. The state does indeed provide childcare at very reasonable costs to families. In and of itself, I thought that admirable, though given tax rates not a real luxury. However, look deeper and you find ratios of child to caregiver that, in my opinion, just wouldn't fly with a lot of American parents. Ditto the summer programs. Again, it's a great option, but I happened to be in a park in Paris when one of child was simply left behind by the staff. Perhaps this was a one-off incident but it sure made me think twice about using the program. In the end, we opted for private preschool for our child. Other general observations. Very few women in Paris breastfeed their children. The French healthcare system pays for six (if I recall correctly) sessions for new moms to visit a massage therapist to get their tummies back in shape after pregnancy. That, of course, is done to keep the French male happy. In a nutshell, France and the US are very different places, with completely different outlooks on everything from child rearing to taxation to the government's role in the life of the citizen. That the US would benefit from some type of state childcare and preschool system seems indisputable (though on this forum I suppose it would be) but the standards Americans would expect would probably make it prohibitively expensive.

Posted by: USMominEurope | October 25, 2006 1:41 PM

Here I sit. My cheeks a flexin'. Trying to make another Texan. Yeah, a one-balled Texan on doping drugs can win seven years straight. Texas State Motto: If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'.

Posted by: MyCheeksaFlexin | October 25, 2006 1:43 PM

history lesson, "quoting" Patton: //"I'd rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me."//

This is a bogus quote! Someone needs a history lesson...

http://www.rotten.com/library/culture/american-francophobia/

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 1:44 PM

There is no evidence Lance Armstrong was doping during any of his Tour De France rides.

If you have "proof" please provide it.

Posted by: CMAC | October 25, 2006 1:46 PM

Someone anonymous, to me: //Oh wait, I'm of African descent... too bad.//

Why would that be a problem? Do you have first-hand experience that it would be? Or are you just working from stereotypes?

Here is what Spencer Boyer, a young black American who has lived in both France and the US, had to say about it in an International Herald Tribune column:

The first thing he noticed while living in France was the absence of prejudice towards him:

"Americans had warned me that the French didn't welcome people of color and constantly harassed Arabs and Africans. But I soon learned that being an African American in France is wonderful. I was generally treated better than I would have been back in the States. "

Boyer continues:

"Seldom did I encounter prejudice. Usually I was made to feel special [...] For the most part, Europeans exempted me from their stereotype of America as the arrogant and ignorant bully on the world stage. In other words, I was treated even better than my fellow whites - because I was black."

Puzzled about the difference between the image and the reality, Boyer recalls some history, and then makes the link between that history and the apparent lack of prejudice:

"Throughout the 20th century, legions of black American artists, writers, and jazz musicians escaped racism at home by fleeing to Europe. Paris, in particular, has been a second home for black intellectuals such as Richard Wright and James Baldwin.

I have inherited that legacy. Europeans associate me with the aspects of America they embrace, especially African American art and music, and the historical struggle for freedom and civil rights - exotic, but not threatening. It never seemed to matter that I personally was not artsy or hip. I was "ethnic," but I wasn't an immigrant with a culture and customs that were so different as to be feared. I was Christian, not Muslim. Different, but not too different."

And this to Boyer is the difference between America, where prejudice is a matter of skin color, and France, where it is about culture:

"France doesn't have a race problem. It has a problem embracing the culture and customs of its immigrants and their children."

Boyer concludes by offering a solution:

"Europeans have to learn to understand and appreciate - and, ultimately, embrace - the cultural riches of their immigrants, just as they have embraced mine. And in doing so, they may even discover that some of those riches are as much European as they are African or Arab."

I couldn't agree more.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/12/12/opinion/edboyer.php

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 1:51 PM

To the anonymous regular: it's "people first" language, kind of like "person with disabilities" instead of "disabled person." It's a small change, but the argument is that it's enough of a change to make people think differently about the individual/group being discussed.

Posted by: I am le tired! | October 25, 2006 1:53 PM

tex: //France is so great that we can send a Texan with one testicle over there to ride a bicycle and beat them for 7yrs straight.//

Indeed. Of course it'd be a lot easier if we'd close it to every other nationality but the French, call the winner World Champion and rename the race the World Series of Cycling...

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 1:58 PM

Read up on the recent riots in France and you will know what I mean... re: of African descent.

I'd rather continue to take my chances here in the USA.... being of African descent. I know it is not perfect, but it is one of the best places to be.

Posted by: To superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 2:00 PM

why does it always have to go back to the white issue. I think that some people would feel better if there were no white people left. Is that what you want?"

*hugs troll* Now you've got colored-person cooties.

Posted by: I am le tired! | October 25, 2006 11:32 AM


Your the one who said it to begin with!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 2:02 PM

To Texas Dad of 2:

That is about the funniest writing I've read on this blog. I've taken the liberty of printing them out for my husband. He'll love them too.

True life is funny.

Posted by: dotted | October 25, 2006 2:03 PM

Elaine,

I'm sorry that you find engineers, PTA presidents and "HOA," whatever that is so boring. Perhaps you should enlighten us with your exciting life and let us know how the other half lives.

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 2:04 PM

If everyone moves to france, then the terrorists win.

Posted by: Dubya | October 25, 2006 2:06 PM

Texas Dad, I would like to modify the "No two men should ever share an umbrella" rule to:

Any man who holds an umbrella is a sissy! Unless, of course, he's holding it for a woman.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 25, 2006 2:11 PM

USmominEurope: //Very few women in Paris breastfeed their children.//

50% of women do. Lowest rate in Europe, but not exactly "very few."

//The French healthcare system pays for six (if I recall correctly) sessions for new moms to visit a massage therapist to get their tummies back in shape after pregnancy. That, of course, is done to keep the French male happy.//

Are you saying that women wouldn't take it if males were out of the picture?

I mean, to suggest that only males were responsible for that law, and that it is forced on women is frankly nonsense!

//In a nutshell, France and the US are very different places, with completely different outlooks on everything from child rearing to taxation to the government's role in the life of the citizen.//

Agree with that!

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 2:13 PM

Baseball is represented by players from many different countries - Japan, Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, to name a few.

Don't quite understand what superfrenchie is getting at.

Posted by: Tex | October 25, 2006 2:13 PM

"Your the one who said it to begin with!"

Yeah, because I wasn't being sarcastic at all . . . passing along cooties . . . over the internet . . .

Posted by: I am le tired! | October 25, 2006 2:13 PM

"BIG factor, in my mind, that a lot of pro-European-style socialism white Americans don't think to consider"

oh le tired I guess putting people in front of the color only applies if they are people of color. White people, white Americans, blah blah blah is okay.

God, I can't believe that people like you exist, so out to scream racism that you can't see you are a racist yourself
.

Posted by: le bias | October 25, 2006 2:13 PM

Scarry

I said he was a "boorish guy" for bragging about certain things in his life that weren't really germane to the topic, but that he just HAD to tell us.

There is a difference between boorish and boring, but don't tell us, you've never heard of it due to your deprived childhood, etc.

Posted by: Elaine | October 25, 2006 2:22 PM

"visit a massage therapist to get their tummies back in shape after pregnancy . . "

What? There is a massage technique that will get my tummy back in shape? Is there a massage therapist in DC who can do this?

Posted by: mummy-tummy | October 25, 2006 2:24 PM

Elaine,

I think you are just being rude and now are trying to back peddle. You still didn't answer my question: Why are you so interesting or better yet, why so mean spirited?

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 2:25 PM

"Baseball is represented by players from many different countries - Japan, Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, to name a few.

Don't quite understand what superfrenchie is getting at."

What superfrenchie is getting at -- and quite rightly -- is that the "World Series" of baseball is open only to teams from one of the two U.S. leagues. Players of many nationalities may play on these teams, but the teams represent U.S. cities, not other nations. (And, yes, we include a few Canadian teams, but they're playing for their cities, not for Canada -- at least not officially.)

If the World Series were truly that, it would be like the World Cup in soccer (football) -- with teams fielded from many countries. As it is, the World Series of baseball isn't even a North American series, as there are no Mexican teams.

That's what superfrenchie was getting at.

Posted by: pittypat | October 25, 2006 2:25 PM

Megan, it wasn't from "Abundance," although the author probably did enough research to draw the anecdote from whatever source I looked at and immediately forgot the name of.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 25, 2006 2:28 PM

Sign me up for that massage too! Maybe it will work on the rest of my body...

Posted by: Missichat | October 25, 2006 2:28 PM

"oh le tired I guess putting people in front of the color only applies if they are people of color. White people, white Americans, blah blah blah is okay."

So you're saying we should refer to whites as "people of no color"?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 2:29 PM

Tex: Frenchie's point is that baseball considers itself to have a "world" series when only U.S. teams play in the competition. It's a pretty common stab at the insularity of US sports (some of which pretend the rest of the world doesn't matter).

In France, it is acceptable for the man to have a relationship on the side, oui? Although I do not think the government subsidizes these affairs yet.

What I have never understood in this country is that if the marketplace is supposed to respond to supply and demand, why does that not seem to apply to childcare? It seems like the demand is there. Are there pretty high barriers to starting private childcare centers? I'm all in favor of more consistent and longer maternity/paternity leave. When next I write my state senator (whomever he is after the election), I'll be sure to put in a good word.

Posted by: marc | October 25, 2006 2:29 PM

As an American of whiteness, I'd just like to write that I wholeheartedly support cootie exchanges.

Posted by: Blanche | October 25, 2006 2:30 PM

I thought whites were people of no rhythm...

Isn't white the combination of all colors?

This blog should be retitled "Unbalanced".

Posted by: marc | October 25, 2006 2:32 PM

Marc- the post had an article this spring about the difficulty of finding space to house preschool programs. That's at least one barrier to entry that I know of.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 25, 2006 2:33 PM

marc: //In France, it is acceptable for the man to have a relationship on the side, oui?//

No. But I would say that the discovery of such relationship by the woman, if and when such discovery occurs, may not lead to the high drama and automatic end of relationship that it might lead to here. Not acceptable, but not necessarily the end of the world either.

//Although I do not think the government subsidizes these affairs yet.//

No, but that's a great idea! (big smile)

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 2:34 PM

Here is the article on preschool space

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/25/AR2006042501677.html

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 25, 2006 2:35 PM

Blanche --

Is that your real name, or were you making a pun?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 2:36 PM

Main Entry: boor•ish
Pronunciation: 'bur-ish
Function: adjective
: resembling or befitting a boor (as in crude insensitivity)
- boor•ish•ly adverb
- boor•ish•ness noun
synonyms BOORISH, CHURLISH, LOUTISH, CLOWNISH mean uncouth in manners or appearance. BOORISH implies rudeness of manner due to insensitiveness to others' feelings and unwillingness to be agreeable . CHURLISH suggests surliness, unresponsiveness, and ungraciousness . LOUTISH implies bodily awkwardness together with stupidity . CLOWNISH suggests ill-bred awkwardness, ignorance or stupidity, ungainliness, and often a propensity for absurd antics .

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 2:41 PM

I work for a very progressive company that allows me to work part time, that employs a ton of women, but I feel we still don't have a very progressive maternity leave policy. When I had my son, I had to use all of my sick days, 2 weeks vacation and sign up for short term disability just to get 3 months off. Then I took one month unpaid so I could be home for 4 months with my son. I love my job and work, but really felt cheated with my maternity leave. Thanks for bringing up this topic. I'm going to blog about it! http://interioroffice.wordpress.com

Posted by: Sara | October 25, 2006 2:41 PM

How To Shower Like a Woman

Take off clothing and place it in sectioned laundry hamper according to lights and darks.

Walk to bathroom wearing a dressing gown. If you see husband or boyfriend along the way, cover up any exposed areas.

Look at your womanly physique in the mirror - make mental note to do more sit-ups/leg-lifts, etc.

Get in the shower. Use face cloth, arm cloth, leg cloth, long loofah, wide loofah and pumice stone.

Wash your hair once with cucumber and sage shampoo with 43 added vitamins.

Wash your hair again to make sure it's clean. Condition your hair with grapefruit mint conditioner enhanced.

Wash your face with crushed apricot facial scrub for 10 minutes until red.

Wash entire rest of body with ginger nut and jaffa cake body wash.

Rinse conditioner off hair.

Shave underarms and legs. Turn off shower. Squeegee all wet surfaces in shower. Spray mold spots with Tilex. Get out of shower.

Dry with towel the size of a small country. Wrap hair in super absorbent towel.

Return to bedroom wearing a dressing gown and towel on head. If you see husband or boyfriend along the way, cover up any exposed areas.


How To Shower Like a Man


Take off clothes while sitting on the edge of the bed and leave them in a pile.

Walk naked to the bathroom.

If you see wife or girlfriend along the way, shake wiener at her making the 'woo-woo' sound.

Look at your manly physique in the mirror.

Admire the size of your wiener and scratch your ass.

Get in the shower.

Wash your face. Wash your armpits.

Blow your nose in your hands and let the water rinse them off.

Fart and laugh at how loud it sounds in the shower.

Spend majority of time washing privates and surrounding area.

Wash your butt, leaving those coarse butt hairs stuck on the soap.

Wash your hair. Make a Shampoo Mohawk.

Pee.

Rinse off and get out of shower. Partially dry off. Fail to notice water on floor because curtain was hanging out of tub the whole time.

Admire wiener size in mirror again. Leave shower curtain open, wet mat on floor, light and fan on.

Return to bedroom with towel around waist.

If you pass wife or girlfriend, pull off towel, shake wiener at her and make the 'woo-woo' sound again.

Throw wet towel on bed.


Posted by: for texas dad of 2 | October 25, 2006 2:43 PM

Yes, my name is Blanche Whitey de Blanc. I don't pun when it comes to cootie exchange.

Posted by: Blanche | October 25, 2006 2:44 PM

Elaine,

After reading the entry for boorish that someone was nice enough to look up for me, I must apologize to you. You obviously meant it as a compliment, so let me say it back to you. You are boorish! Have a great day! :)

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 2:47 PM

Elaine,

After reading the entry for boorish that someone was nice enough to look up for me, I must apologize to you. You obviously meant it as a compliment, so let me say it back to you. You are boorish! Have a great day! :)

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 2:48 PM

Please people! Spill the beans on the massage as physical therapy! Form my point-of-view, any country where you can find someone who will get you into shape through massage qualifies as paradise!

PS-- the only reason I suggested the mandatory maternity and paternity leave was to alleviate concerns about sexism. i think extending leave only to moms leads to unfair treatment of all women. And all women "have" to take some time off for childbirth and recovery, I think it is only fair to require the mother's partner to also "have" to take time off. How about one week mandatory parental leave? Can we all get on board for that?

Posted by: capitol Hill mom | October 25, 2006 2:48 PM

marc: //It's a pretty common stab at the insularity of US sports (some of which pretend the rest of the world doesn't matter).//

Let's take this example: this summer, the World Basketball Championship was held. Spain won, Greece finished second, the US finished third.

But who is the world champion? The Miami Heat of course:

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/basketball/14864931.htm

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 2:50 PM

Q: Why at Euro-Disney is there an all out ban on fireworks?

A: Every time fireworks start going off, the French try to surrender.

Posted by: Joke | October 25, 2006 2:50 PM

Agreed that US sports need to change with the times. Back 10,20yrs ago the NBA champions could rightly crown themselves World Champions because no other team in the world could beat them. Same for MLB 10,20yrs ago. Same for NFL except that it applies even today - no other teams in the world can beat the NFL champions.

Today the rest of the world is getting better at baseball and basketball. Perhaps the NBA should crown its champions just "NBA Champions" and MLB should likewise call its champs "MLB Champions".

Posted by: Tex | October 25, 2006 2:54 PM

joke, that would be funny if it did not come from an American, whose own country has been running from almost every place they've been in the last 40 years. Ever heard of Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, Falluja and the rest of Iraq pretty soon?

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 2:56 PM

"And all women "have" to take some time off for childbirth and recovery, I think it is only fair to require the mother's partner to also "have" to take time off. How about one week mandatory parental leave? Can we all get on board for that? "

I can't. The reason that insurance companies grant disability benefits to women after the birth of a child is to *recover from childbirth.* Last I checked, childbirth doesn't physically disable a man in any way.

If a particular company wants to have paid maternity and paternity leave for their employees, all the power to them. But I don't want to pay more taxes so dad can stay home and learn to change diapers.


Posted by: momof4 | October 25, 2006 2:57 PM

Ooops, I forgot: you won convincingly in Grenada!

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 2:58 PM

joke, that would be funny if it did not come from an American, whose own country has been running from almost every place they've been in the last 40 years. Ever heard of Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, Falluja and the rest of Iraq pretty soon?

We have the power to wipe all of those countries off the map if we wanted to.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 3:01 PM

capitol, the paid (p)maternity leave policy in France also applies to dads. Although it is shorter (1 or 2 weeks, if I recall).

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:01 PM

anon: //We have the power to wipe all of those countries off the map if we wanted to.//

Sure. So does France.

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:04 PM

Europe is trying to restructure itself into an "United Countries." While there are many admirable programs in these countries, why are we trying to think that socialism strained from multiple failed monarchies is a model? I, for one, could give you a huge list of why you do not want managed health care. I hope the freedoms that we are hold in this country will never be governed by those in power who make law based on popularity vs. principle.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 3:05 PM

Hey, while there's so much harping on France's Socialist economy and high unemployment rate, I wonder if its worth it to factor in the US's towering, dwarfing, gigantified DEFICIT, which is made up of our massive collective debt, among other things. Or how about our government's deficit spending? Is an economy in the terlet because everyone is sharing the _relative_wealth, or is it in the terlet because its surviving on the delusion of wealth?

Oh how the mighty fall, and every empire has fallen before us. Might we consider getting our own house in order before deflecting our microscope to Europe's ills?

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | October 25, 2006 3:11 PM

Elaine you really got scarry good. She called you out about being rude and in turn you act ruder. Well at least someone answered your post today. They are usually so BORING that people of no color and people of color don't bother.

Posted by: I like dad of 2 | October 25, 2006 3:12 PM

superfrenchie://joke, that would be funny if it did not come from an American, whose own country has been running from almost every place they've been in the last 40 years. Ever heard of Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, Falluja and the rest of Iraq pretty soon?//


good thing the boys didn't run from the battle of Normandy, eh? over 6000 casualties on that day alone. American blood shed for the French to liberate France.

Posted by: Joke | October 25, 2006 3:12 PM

I'm thinking it would have been a much better idea for Leslie to have framed the question as "are we as a nation willing to pay for benefits that would make working parents' lives easier" as opposed to the whole "they have it better in France" topic that is leading to this country bashing

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 25, 2006 3:17 PM

Yes, I've heard of Vietnam. Don't you remember the French ran it to the ground then cut and run from the communist North?
(ie. surrender). It was the US that went in, and the US that took in thousands of refugees who are now enjoying a better life here.

Lebanon? Yes, the French ran that to the ground too. The US had to get Marines in there to restore order.

Sensing a pattern here.....

Posted by: To superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:18 PM

joke: //good thing the boys didn't run from the battle of Normandy, eh? over 6000 casualties on that day alone. American blood shed for the French to liberate France.//

Indeed. And we're all very grateful for it. Me first.

But I don't think that it means that the 4 millions Frenchies who died in WW1 and the 600,000 who died in WW2 deserve that you spit on their tombs with those stupid jokes. None of them died with their hands up, mind you!

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:19 PM

"None of them died with their hands up, mind you!"

How the hell do you know? Were you there?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 3:22 PM

"I don't want to pay more taxes so dad can stay home and learn to change diapers."

I would be wiling to pay those taxes because it will force companies to see both sexes as likely to take parental leave at some point-- not just women. It is worth it for our society treat men and women equally. And you wouldn't necessaryly have to pay taxes to support this. As I said before, it can be taken from sick leave or even from forwarded sick leave. I doubt a man is going to be less likely to procreate because it will require him to take a week off of work, but if that's the type of guy we are talkng about, then I think society would be better off we instituted regulations that made him less likely to have a kid!

Posted by: capitol hill mom | October 25, 2006 3:26 PM

Anon: //Lebanon? Yes, the French ran that to the ground too. The US had to get Marines in there to restore order.//

Check your history books:

October 23, 1983: Hezbollah detonates a bomb on the Drakkar building in Beyrouth.

58 French soldiers died. 15 were injured.

The same day, the marine barracks in Beirut were also attacked. 241 Americans lost their lives.

And what happened next?

The French launched an air strike in the Beqaa Valley against Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions. The Americans did not retaliate and left 5 months later.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Beirut_barracks_bombing

PS: I did not come by to discuss sport or world history. I would prefer to leave that for some other discussion. But I also don't mind responding when I see some absurdities being written.

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:27 PM

sorry for all the typos in last post-- I'm just so excited about the idea of getting in shape through massage that I can barely contain myself! Is this some sort of special french massage or will any massage do the trick (or is that "treat"?)

Posted by: capitol hill mom | October 25, 2006 3:29 PM

Elaine, I am presumably your "boorish engineer" guy, "blah blah blah"...so do feel free to skip over my posts in the future. Should save you some time, hopefully, for more worthwhile pursuits.

Though not in an effort to correct you, I do foolishly feel the need to address one thing you said that I found mind-boggling:

"...things in his life that weren't really germane to the topic, but that he just HAD to tell us"

Actually, I shared more personal stuff than was probably wise during the topic you refer to, trying to use my "personal" circumstances to make a point about what our kids notice despite our conceit and cleverness (a point I recall failing rather dismally at that day, alas.) That many people here share intimate details to try and explain themselves and their thinking better didn't exactly start with me. Not does it seem invalid or even unusual.

Now, I grant that being a native Texan means that some types of bragging are a genetic hazard. :~) If however, Elaine, you think my discussion that day was an attempt to brag, you must presume you lead a very unhappy existence indeed. There is very little about my life about which I would brag, except my career choice. I do take pride in trying to help our species get off this single (admittedly pretty) rock. Not that I've had too much notable success at it, mind you.

I'm pleased to see that some of you found a few smiles from the Man Law posting (I was not the author, BTW), and I take Fof4's rewrite suggestion for the umbrella one as an excellent idea.

Thanks, scarry, for trying! You are as sweet as always. No since trying to engage those whose minds are pre-determined though. I almost thought to offer more words towards Elaine than I did, but isn't a bitter spirit and lack of sense of humor truly it's own (far worse) punishment?

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 25, 2006 3:30 PM

superfrenchie,

Welcome to the blog. Not as nice as sky reports, eh?

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 3:30 PM

Good god, is this what we've turned into as a civilization?
We eschew civil, honest, careful dialogue in favor of the debate style that has more in common with an elementary school playground (just substitute "you hate america" for "you're a poopyhead")coupled with a nuclear warhead p*ssing match.
We should all be ashamed of what we've become as a society.

Posted by: MadisonWIMom | October 25, 2006 3:33 PM

Anon: //How the hell do you know? Were you there?//

Granddad in the Resistance. Several other family members who died. I did research the family history.

Again, thanks for not spitting on anybody's tomb.

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:35 PM

Out of curiosity, where did you get the 50% statistic for Parisian women who breastfeed? And do you know the duration of their breastfeeding?

Posted by: To superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:37 PM

This is esp. for CbC, but for others as well.

You may choose not to have childrena nd that's just fine. However, there will come a time in your life, when you will need support, and if you have raised them well and they are healthy, your children will be the first ones to support you. That esp. refers to when, as most of us will, we get elderly and can no longer do as much for ourselves. If you do not have children, another person's child will be the one to help you. The cubemate to your left may have twns who will set up a medical practice with a specialty in your illness. The cubemate in front of you, may have a child who massages you and flips you over to prevent bedsores when you can no longer flip yourself. The co-worker in the floor below you may have a child who processes the paperwork you need to get some kind of care or a place to live. We cannot continue to exist without children. Parents should not, and I believe most do not, put the burden of their work on others. I have a lot of pride in the work I do. If I need to leave early, or take a day off, for kid issues, I structure my time the best way I can. In my line of work, I use a laptop. I frequently take it home during the winter because bad weather may force the schools to close and I may think it's to dangerous to take the kids somewhere else for care. Also, my children are prone to more illness in the winter, so I make sure my assignments are on track in case I need a day off. I use the laptop as necessary to fulfill my work obligations. I usually partner with other parents, not childless co-workers, to pick up any "slack" I might create by being out with a child. I also do the same for them.

Posted by: Just a Thought | October 25, 2006 3:37 PM

Texas dad of 2 - now you've made me curious. What exactly do you do for a living?

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 25, 2006 3:37 PM

scarry: it's OK. I've seen worse :)

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:37 PM

Chill. This is typical for the blog.
Lots of meanness.
One day its France-bashing, another day its breastfeeding in public, racism, choosing to stay at home, what toys I pick for my kids, you name it.

I have said before that Leslie ought to filter and approve every single message prior to posting, otherwise this blog will continue to be the cesspool it always is.

Sometimes I wonder why Leslie or the Post continues to sponsor this blog.

Posted by: To MadisonWIMom | October 25, 2006 3:38 PM

Texas dad of 2,

Anytime, I don't find you boorish at all, since I am married to someone just like you! Who by the way thought that the ramblings about balls and guts were pretty funny! He's safe as long as he doesn't try any of it on the Irish girl he married. :)


As for Elaine, well what can I say she obviously doesn't like people like you or me. Oh well, that's okay more barbeque, ball jokes, and simple living for the two of us.

Posted by: scarry | October 25, 2006 3:40 PM

To the poster of "How To Shower Like a Woman/Man", that has always been a classic. I almost died LOL when I first saw that joke.

Keep up the good work... :~)

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 25, 2006 3:40 PM

To MadisonWIMom said "Sometimes I wonder why Leslie or the Post continues to sponsor this blog."

Do you think it matters to online advertisers whether we are nice to each other on the blog? Nope! All they care about is the number of clicks that the blog has on a daily basis and you have to admit based on the number of postings we get, this is a very popular blog.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 25, 2006 3:41 PM

Anon: //Out of curiosity, where did you get the 50% statistic for Parisian women who breastfeed?//

http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=25&story_id=33886

// And do you know the duration of their breastfeeding?//

No.

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:42 PM


fabworkingmom://Do you think it matters to online advertisers whether we are nice to each other on the blog? Nope! All they care about is the number of clicks that the blog has on a daily basis and you have to admit based on the number of postings we get, this is a very popular blog.//

Ah! I see now. Today it's Verizon Wireless. And over 200 comments.

Journalism at its best, I see.

I'm starting to wonder if they're planting mean people in order to incite more posts. On a slow day with a boring topic, you need controversy to spice up the comments, right?

I should give Leslie and the Post credit. Bravo!

Posted by: To fabworkingmom | October 25, 2006 3:48 PM

Correction to my 3:42pm: Actually, I heard the other day on the French news that it was fairly short on average. But I don't remember the exact length.

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:50 PM

I did my part today in jacking up the number of comments.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 3:50 PM

I did my part today in jacking up the number of comments.

237 comments already!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 3:51 PM

I did my part today in jacking up the number of comments.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 3:52 PM

I did my part today in jacking up the number of comments.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 3:53 PM

i agree that a debate on whether or not the government should subsidize or in some way push for more family friendly policies or should it come from the businesses themselves would have been a better framing of the debate.

let me throw this out & see what people think. now that more women than men are getting college degrees do you think that businesses will change their culture to become more family friendly? will women themselves make the changes as they work their way up the chain of command? will the men who get their degrees be more willing to ask for family friendly policies? would it be better if businesses adopted family friendly policies first & then government codified? should they be codified at all or allowed to change?

Posted by: quark | October 25, 2006 3:53 PM

Jeez, people, get a life and stop getting so riled up over inconsequential entertainment. I believe the word is Schadenfreude, and I am really quite happy with my station in life -- I believe you're jealous of me for my freedom and independence, and I'm not financially dependent on some man.

Marc and Superfrenchie: Don't go advocating extra-marital affairs or this bunch of rabid dogs will go ripping out your entrails. Notice all their venom is spewed at me and not at my lover who technically is the one cheating on a spouse, not me. It takes two to...... uhhhh, tango and he's the one who comes knocking on my door. I obviously can't go to his house, although he did invite me a couple times while The Wife was travelling on business. She's a lawyer so obviously she doesn't deserve respect if respect has to be earned. BTW, if Christie Brinkley's husband can wander, how faithful do you think YOUR husband is?

Finally, Just a Thought --- Do you actually believe your children will be supporting you in your old age? Ha! They'll choose your nursing home and spend your money on the monthly bills. Just be careful whose name you put on your checking account to sign the checks. If I get to the point where I need a nursing home, I'll just put a bullet through my head and leave my money to charity. When my 94-year-old aunt was in a nursing home for the last year of her life, the CNA's there could hardly speak English. They weren't angels of mercy, they were merely doing a job for $5,600 a month.

Finally, I have two uncles who were in France during the Liberation and two cousins who landed at Normandy. One was severely injured and disabled for life. The other was killed and is buried in France.

I'll duck for cover now so you can hit me with your best shot.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 25, 2006 3:56 PM

Childless: //Finally, I have two uncles who were in France during the Liberation and two cousins who landed at Normandy. One was severely injured and disabled for life. The other was killed and is buried in France.//

Respect and gratitude. Heartfelt thanks to them.

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 3:59 PM

Chilless, you be right. My kids is robbin me blind.

I have a few cuzins ended up in Norman Oklhahoma too.

Take care of you man!

Posted by: Mom of 14 | October 25, 2006 4:02 PM

quark, I for one wish there were more family-friendly policies. when my baby was born, i volunteered to switch to part-time so i (a dad) could do childcare. hewlett-packard's answer was: NO. so we did the best we could.

the truth is, we are competing in a global economy. in the high-tech sector, my job can get easily outsourced to india. i am in no position to bargain. i am thankful for a job so i can support my wife and 3 kids. my employer has his way with me. i bend over and take it like one of Foley's pageboys.

if there's a growing movement pressing for change and flexibility, i'm all for it. but i also fear that the cost of doing business will rise, and companies will rather lay you off and outsource to india rather than keep you on the roll.


Posted by: Tex | October 25, 2006 4:03 PM

// And do you know the duration of their breastfeeding?//

I was curious too and took a very quick look. I saw one study that gave an average of 2-3 months; most of the other studies I saw didn't indicate duration or whether it was exclusive.

Posted by: Megan | October 25, 2006 4:03 PM

"She's a lawyer so obviously she doesn't deserve respect if respect has to be earned."

just wonderin'. she may or may not have earned respect by her behavior and character, but what does her career choice have to do with whether or not you or anyone else should respect her?

the gratuitous insult undermines your otherwise interesting post.

Posted by: anon | October 25, 2006 4:03 PM

ok, ok, superfrenchie, you win.
I SURRENDER! :) :) :)

Posted by: Joke | October 25, 2006 4:12 PM

"Like people in the US tend to own cars. But the rate of car ownership is much lower in Europe."

Also, doesn't a higher percentage of people in Europe than in the U.S. live within range of mass transit (and thus not need cars as much)?

"//The French healthcare system pays for six (if I recall correctly) sessions for new moms to visit a massage therapist to get their tummies back in shape after pregnancy. That, of course, is done to keep the French male happy.//

"Are you saying that women wouldn't take it if males were out of the picture?"

Or that no married women would try to stay sexy to their spouses if the government didn't chip in for it?

"If the World Series were truly that, it would be like the World Cup in soccer (football) -- with teams fielded from many countries."

Speaking of the soccer/football World Cup, don't forget that America won it in 1991 and 1999. At this rate, the U.S. team will win in 2007. :)

Posted by: Maria | October 25, 2006 4:27 PM

If I get to the point where I need a nursing home, I'll just put a bullet through my head and leave my money to charity.

Do it now and be assured that at least you will have done some good in life.

Posted by: to childless by choice | October 25, 2006 4:32 PM

France has some major structural problems that go with those "friendly" policies, as well--which are neatly summed up by the unemployment rate in France--around 9%. For young workers (those rioting banlieue kids), the unemployment rate is closer to 40%.

There's a dark side to all this French pro-natalism. Government support for ( mostly white) French mothers is yet another attempt to reverse France's long-term fertility slide which began in the 17th century. Then, as now, the concern was there wouldn't be enough Frenchmen to ensure French economic, political, and military dominance of the continent.

The days of the levee en masse are over, though, so military might isn't in the frame. France just needs workers. Unfortunately, the French are trying to be both beggars AND choosers: they need new workers to tax (and thus support their booming pensioner population), but refuse to integrate the workers that are arriving (immigrants, many from North Africa).

So while the government motherhood subsidies may play out well here on a blog read by (mostly white) harried professionals, it's important to remember the underlying racial fear and loathing that make these measures seem necessary to French policymakers. It's not about supporting mommies; it's a fear of a Black France.

Posted by: ouij | October 25, 2006 4:32 PM

Whoa wait a minute here Fabworkingmom -- I didn't write that comment - that was directed to me.

And to the person who addressed me -- Yes I read this blog everyday and I know what the level of civility is here. Some people are good humored, intelligent, and fun. Some have chips the size of Mt. Everest on their shoulder and some people are the eternal complainers.
I still enjoy reading the blog and the comments, I just wish society as a whole hadn't turned into a giant mud-slinging fest.

Posted by: MadisonWiMom | October 25, 2006 4:34 PM

And we think your slimy "lover" (fornicator would be a better word) is scum too.

Posted by: To CBC | October 25, 2006 4:35 PM

ouij: //but refuse to integrate the workers that are arriving (immigrants, many from North Africa).//

Not to say that we're doing a wonderful job of integrating them in the first place, but I think the blame, if blame is to be placed, should go both ways. 'Cause it's not like immigrants themselves are trying all they can to integrate and we're just turning them down...

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 4:48 PM

Ouij: //France has some major structural problems that go with those "friendly" policies, as well--which are neatly summed up by the unemployment rate in France--around 9%//

Read my 1:23pm. It's really much closer than that.

And re the "dark side to all this French pro-natalism," part of the reason there is so much immigration to France is precisely to get all those free benefits. Immigrants get most of the package whether or not they're legal.

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 4:54 PM

Wish I had tuned in earlier - I guess I shouldn't tell you all about the 12 weeks paid my husband gets if we have a kid - hope it applies to adoption because that is the only way we are having kids (by choice, not that it matters. . .).

Also - all breastfeeding and pumping should be done in private - yes - employers need to offer more places for this. And women should not be made to feel badly if they choose not to breastfeed.

Texas dad of 2 - that was very funny - even being a woman I found it funny - wish every one had a sense of humor.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 5:51 PM

Comparing the French System to "Paradise" is just too much for me. Having high taxes to support social programs like these doesn't make much sense to me. I have to ask - Why don't more socially responsible people write checks to the treasury to cover these programs? It's the same reason that those socially responsible people mind their tax deductions so they don't pay more than they have to. Economic considerations trump political considerations. Everyone here can be free with other people's money, but when it comes to our own, we have better things to spend it on. Before we indulge in the hypocracy of asking others to subsidize our childcare and other utopian ideas through higher taxes, maybe it's time to think about what actually makes economic sense, and recognize that slowing down the economy in order to have government subsidized child care isn't a sensible idea. We should pay less attention to what other people pay in taxes, and make fewer demands on others. Better childcare is a wonderful goal, but getting it through higher taxes isn't a sensible way to reach it. It isn't working in europe, and I doubt it will work here.

Posted by: Common Sense | October 25, 2006 5:54 PM

The U.S. doesn't need to stimulate population growth -- it is overpopulated as it is. Any as many militant natalists as there are breeding in the states, if they banded together, I'm sure they would make a powerful lobby.

Posted by: childless | October 25, 2006 6:05 PM

ABC had a series of specials on caring for the elderly a few months ago - guess what demographic was providing the most parental care - SINGLE women. Perhaps on average we are the more selfless group - worrying about the needs of our parents before our own...

Or perhaps kindness/generosity/responsibility/intelligence just aren't correlated with parenthood. I have noticed any miraculous (or disastrous) changes in peoples personalities when they have kids.

Posted by: to Just a Thought | October 25, 2006 6:17 PM

If you really want to have a logical conversation, don't pose the question as do we give benefits or do we not give benefits. What kind of choice is that? Of course we should give benefits. Your posing of the question makes it out to be a costless decision -- which of course it is not. Do you want benefits, and if so, how much in additional taxes are you willing to pay for those benefits? Who pays? Who benefits? Now that is a conversation worth having, not some inane cake or no cake question.

Posted by: Colorado Kool Aid | October 25, 2006 6:19 PM

Yes and what is the tax rate in France
50%?
What about some personal responsibility
Don't have kids you can't afford and expect the rest of society to pay for them
Having a child is NOT an entitlement!!!!

Posted by: Happy Single | October 25, 2006 6:20 PM

This would have been more informative if Leslie compared apples with apples. She gives examples of benefits in France, and gives restrictions in the U.S. Also, Federal law mandates 48 hours after a vaginal delivery, or 96 hours after a cesarean section (not 72 as is inferred in the article). The discussion would have ben much more instructive into the differences in benefits if there was a side by side comparison.

Posted by: Thomas A. Raskauskas | October 25, 2006 6:38 PM

http://b4.boards2go.com/boards/board.cgi?user=childfreethinker


here is a good blog for you.

Posted by: to childless by choice | October 25, 2006 6:54 PM

fabwmom: I work in the space program.

scarry: Absolutely. More BBQ for us

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 25, 2006 6:56 PM

I have a thought that hasn't been mentioned yet. There has been talk of increased taxes to provide programs for child-care and parental leave. But what about salary/pay? How many would be willing to accept lesser pay to work for a company that provided better family benefits?
This could benefit all employees. The money saved in salaries could be used to hire additional workers so that those who are not out on family leave (children, parents, siblings, etc) would be able to handle the additional work without working 60-80 hour weeks.
I believe that there is quite a bit of mis-directed blame regarding this issue. There are more than enough employees who are willing to work so many excessive hours that the employers come to expect it as normal. As employees, if we would state from the beginning that we will not work unreasonable hours, that may be the start of a change in the work culture. How many people who are looking for family benefits now started out working the excessive hours to make a name for themselves?
I know that there are many driven, workaholic types. But I believe that we all want to have a life outside of work that includes time for ourselves, our hobbies and interests, vacations, and our families - whatever shape family we may have.

Posted by: mj | October 25, 2006 6:59 PM

Sorry that it takes so long for me to get to answer many times. Frequently I am catching up from way behind.

I'm amazed that so many of you can achieve running dialogs here. By the time I type up something and post it, much water has passed under the bridge, or work calls, etc.

So forgive my delays...I actually typed from home this evening.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 25, 2006 7:00 PM

CNN $$$
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/10/30/8391806/index.htm?cnn=yes
has nailed a few of the complaints on this blog on the head!

Posted by: $$$ | October 25, 2006 7:45 PM

Regarding the tax situation in both countries:

First of all, in spite of what the French bashers such as Steve Pearlstein in the Wapo or the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal would have you believe, France has a lower corporate tax rate than the US.

Yes, lower.

39.3% in the US, and 35% in France.

http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/1466.html

For personal taxes, it is higher in France, but not that much. Around 30% as an average in France, and around 20% in the US.

But...

What the French have to pay in taxes, most Americans have to pay for it in some other way.

For example: the French pay for their medical care through taxes. It's mandatory, and about 7% of income. In the US, it's not mandatory. So you can pay 0%. Those who choose to do that here can consider themselves winners (until you get sick). But those of you who do subscribe a health insurance, you do have to pay for it. What's the difference?

I tell you the difference. Because the French system of insurance gets everybody to contribute it's cheaper. By a lot!

Extend the same reasoning to education, retirement, day care, etc... If you choose not to save for college, and not to retire, then indeed the French system is more expensive. But if you do put money into a 401K and pay for college tuition for your kids, you're doing exactly the same thing the French are doing. Except it's less expensive in France!

One more thing: the French live 2 years longer than Americans. We must be doing something right!

Posted by: superfrenchie | October 25, 2006 8:46 PM

I haven't read all the comments, but why is it the governments responsibility or mine to pay for your choice to work? I have six children, I chose to have them. I don't ask you to buy their diapers. I homeschool them. I don't ask you to buy their books. So why because you choose to work should I pay for your child care?

Our country would be better off, by letting people make their own choices and leaving the management up to them.

We make do on one income, in a modest home, with one car because I chose to stay home. I don't understand why working women can't accept that their choice has consequences. Please stop asking everyone else to finance your choice to work.

Incidentally, homeschooling is not even a consideration for most in France. The government makes that incredibly prohibitive. And in Germany another socialist country with many benefits for working women, it is illegal to homeschool. You may enjoy the benefits of the "nanny state" but there are many other "strings" that come with it. It's incredibly simple minded to just blithely compare what YOU would get if you lived in France. If it is so great, move there. But please don't turn American into France.

www.spunkyhomeschool.blogspot.com

Posted by: Spunky | October 25, 2006 9:21 PM

So why because you choose to work should I pay for your child care?

You don't work, so you don't pay for anything.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 7:06 AM

Stop, comma abuse.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 8:37 AM

There is nothing wrong with that sentence.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 8:58 AM

"And we think your slimy "lover" (fornicator would be a better word) is scum too."

Actually, only unmarried people can be fornicators. Married people who have affairs are adulterers.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 9:25 AM

"And we think your slimy "lover" (fornicator would be a better word) is scum too."

Actually, only unmarried people can be fornicators. Married people who have affairs are adulterers.

does it really matter? a cheat is a cheat.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 9:57 AM

Okay, so CbC is a fornicator, and her boyfriend is the adulterer. Nice pair.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 10:12 AM

Okay, so CbC is a fornicator, and her boyfriend is the adulterer. Nice pair.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 10:12 AM

-noun 1. voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other. So CbC and slimy scumbag qualify as fornicators, since they are not married to each other.

Posted by: fornication is defined as | October 26, 2006 10:15 AM

France also has sky high unemployment and a tax code that would reduce the average american to tears. NO FREE LUNCH!

Posted by: PAT | October 26, 2006 1:00 PM

LOL**
So much entertainment, so little time!!

BlueR.

Posted by: BlueR | October 26, 2006 6:58 PM

ToJune,
True, the revolutionary war was won with assistance from France, Spain and the Dutch (Netherlands). However, they were not as concerned about helping colonists win independence as they were concerned about Britain becoming an increasing global power. But that is way off topic....


Well, since you decided to go there, I shall throw in my 2 cents, being of the blood of LaFayette. He happened to overhear the plight of America and admired American spirit and desire for freedom, and at a VERY young age put his own personal fortune to work financing the American war and fighting and being wounded fighting for Washington. He financed it for the ideals, not for politics. The French gov't actually had him imprisoned because of his anti-aristocratic views, even if he was going against England it undermined authority and their control, despite him being a royal. Read the book LaFayette.

As far as benefits go, Norway sounds great. I wonder how married people without kids fare.

As far as taking time off for family emergencies, it should not matter if it is a sick kid, spouse, or parent. Emergencies happen to everyone and people need to be more sympathetic to other people. Humanity needs to get priorities straight. Projects will still be there. Stay more one day to take time off the next or something... but a company will be healthier if it takes care of the people. I am sick of people not treating others as they would want to be treated. I do not believe that any system is perfect, and we could all definitely learn from each other. The corruption in politics definitely needs cut out- and taxes can be better spent so the burden would not be as bad. I hate seeing generals spend thousands just on flowers for a fiesta party while we're fighting a war, or someone buying a fancy new conference table... who knows what else politicians can blow tax dollars on! We need people FOR the people.

Posted by: Chris | October 27, 2006 9:21 AM

Hey momof4, I work full time yet still go to my kids soccer practice, volunteer for the PTA and go to Target, with the kids in tow. And keep my house, no maid or cook for me. That doesn't make me a saint, it makes me a typical mom. Don't assume working moms don't do the same things you do. Except in France. :-)

Posted by: Fairfax | October 27, 2006 10:29 AM

I saw the Oprah thing, and the woman who could take the year off for her child, and all. She said something that went completely unanswered, however. She said she does a radio show and was 'a one man, really one woman, operation'. So, what happens to her show while she takes off for a year? Does the radio station just pay her and her replacement? What if the replacement is better at being a radio personality, does the replacement lose out anyway so as to protect the maternity mom?

What if one were self-employed, and ran her own business or practice? Is the government going to just pay someone to let her CPA lay dormant for a year?
What about the clients, do they have to go back to that maternity CPA? Or is it that all self employed people just pay the high taxes, but don't get the benefit.

That Oprah show, and much of this conversation, focuses on benefits in the abstract, and not on consequences, or the mechanic of who pays what when.

I don't think their system would work here.

Posted by: Kam | October 27, 2006 10:36 AM

my test comment ha ha!

Posted by: abhishek ganguli | October 31, 2006 1:04 AM

I find this topic hard to understand. Having children and raising a family is a signifcant and commendable effort, but it's also a conscious choice. A couple that makes a conscious choice to not raise a family sees none of the tax or employment benefits offered to parents.

Posted by: yup | November 3, 2006 10:43 AM

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