Dr. Phil: Part 3

22 Oct

On to the bigger issues Hillary pointed out:

  • Better work/life balance for men and women
  • Making quality child care affordable for everyone
  • Better federal and state enforcement of child care standards (which is currently abysmal)
  • Increasing and making more reasonable parental leave (via federal legislation)

I cannot agree more here.  These are the core issues which make the whole working mom vs. stay-at-home mom thing seem completely pointless.

Balance: this is something that I think Americans have a particularly hard time with.  When I am in the Mediterranean (I say with a casual disregard, as though I am there all the time…) I just don’t feel the same way.  Here, I feel…  harried, caught up in chasing the dollar.  We have a lot of good things here, but they come at the price of always feeling caught up in the capitalist dance.  Now that I am working from home, I feel like I have a much better balance and I don’ t think I could have managed it if I were working outside of the home.  That’s just for me.  I think a lot of people do better working out of the house.  Again, it just boils down to what’s best for you, and that means making time for yourself and your family.  It means taking “mental health days” if you do work away from home, and even if you don’t.  It means relaxing, enjoying yourself, taking the time to acknowledge the good in your life.

Childcare:  I cannot get over the cost of childcare in this country.  Where I live, which is several hours from major cities and in a relatively out of the way area, I would have had to pay $1000 per month to put Evi into daycare.  I could have paid $800 if I did in home care.  In DC, where I was working, it would have been between $1200 and $1500 per month, which would have been my whole paycheck.  How can we expect people to survive when they are making the choice between quality childcare and paying the rent/mortgage?  It just seems out of balance, as does the (completely off topic) fact that it’s cheaper to eat at McDonalds than to go to the grocery store.

Better enforcement of standards:  this is something I got to see a little bit of first hand when I started the process of getting licensed to do childcare (which I didn’t end up doing.)  Some of the people in the orientation classes terrified me.  Maybe it’s ignorant of me, but I find it difficult to believe you can offer my child quality care if you look and smell unwashed and you speak as though the English language is optional (in favor of various forms of slang.)  How can you offer my daughter something educational when you have trouble spelling basic words on your application, don’t listen to the instructor, and are unable to follow simple directions?  The various boards and committees set up to oversee the whole thing ought to require more of applicants in the first place, and then ought to do more than a random check once a year or less.  I know several daycare providers who haven’t had anyone show up to check on them in three years or more.

Parental leave:  I know a few parents in various European countries who have as much as a year of parental leave.  It isn’t something we could easily transition to right now in the US, but it should be a goal.  Putting in place the right structure to make this work for the parents and the companies involved would take time and effort but would, in the end, be so worthwhile.  If my parental leave had lasted a year or more, I would likely have gone back to work at the end of it and not had the financial concerns I have now.  The cost of childcare also goes down once your child is a year or older, so it would have been better all around.

I don’t know the answers.  I don’t know how to fix it all.  I do know that we frequently spend too much time and effort on things that are not nearly as important as our children, and we are often trying to fix symptoms instead of solving the problem that caused them.

I wish I had the answers.  I wish I could say something profound that would change this.  In the end, I think it’s up to every parent and everyone who wants to be a parent at any point to be thinking about how to make this world a better place for our kids.  I believe that means increased parental leave, decreased childcare costs and better controls on quality.  I believe that means a focus on our children and their emotional, physical and educational wellbeing.

For now, give a kid a hug.  It’s a step in the right direction.

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