Kathy Petersen’s Blog

We’re going the wrong way!!!

Posted in children by Kathy on October 20, 2009

Recently, I’ve read several articles and blog posts and facebook stuff that is talking about how horrible America is for not providing maternal leave — the “best” we have is 12 weeks unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child, or for a primary caregiver to take off of work to care for a sick family member. One woman said that we need to “demand” paid leave, and that every country has paid maternity leave, ranging from a few weeks up to a year (I think Canada gives 52 weeks paid leave). The running theme through these posts is that paying mothers not to work after having a child is showing that maternal-infant care is a high priority, that the breastfeeding relationship is a high priority (because, really, how many working moms are able to successfully 100% breastfeed their children for the first 6 months, which is the AAP recommendation, and continue breastfeeding for the entire first year?), that “women count,” and all sorts of other feminine/feminist/woman-centered catch phrases and lingo that is designed to grab women’s attention and get them to say, “Yeah!”

I know some women truly have to work; and others just want to work although they could stay home. But a large percentage of working moms who are currently griping about not being able to afford to live on one income, or who can’t take 12 weeks unpaid leave, could actually do it. It would just require quite a bit of sacrifice on their part. I know, because I’m living it. Other than socks and underwear, I can’t recall the last new article of clothing that I bought in the past 5 years. Most of my clothes are older than that, and the remainder have been bought at yard sales or thrift stores (probably less than $50 total), or were given to me. Same thing for my children — they have my brother’s sons’ hand-me-downs, and an occasional yard-sale purchase, with the extremely rare new item of clothing. The only ones I remember, in fact, other than a bag of socks, was when both my kids got car-sick and threw up on themselves in the car, and we bought them each a shirt ($4 apiece, I think) for the ride home. Most of the gifts we give them are likewise from garage sales and thrift stores, with an occasional new item. Sometimes when I look at an item, I think, “It’s not so much the cost of X, but the cost of X plus all the peripherals it requires to run optimally!” — Like an iPod — while that’s expensive by itself, then you have to get a sock (or several socks, so you can be “unique” like everybody else), an arm band, a wrist strap, the earphones (and earbuds and headphones, depending on your mood), and then you have to pay to download stuff or have a subscription… It all adds up. Or satellite TV — not just the cost of installation and the contraption, but the monthly bills, plus the ever-present temptation to increase your service so you can get this or that channel, and the occasional pay-per-view thing… and then because you have such a nice satellite, you want to get a bigger TV so you can see better, or enjoy it more… and then because you sit around watching TV all the time, you gain weight, so then you get a Nintendo Wii, which is expensive for the contraption, plus you have to buy wrist straps and hand-gadgets, a step thing, and multiple games…  Because you do it a little at a time, it creeps up on you, and you’ve spent your entire annual income with nothing to show for it, and at tax time, you wonder, “Where did it all go?”

The generation before mine didn’t have to worry about that as much — there were very few electronics on the market, and they tended not to be “the gift that keeps on taking” with all the peripherals and monthly fees. But there’s peer pressure now, and the “I see it, so I wanna get it” pressure, and “everybody’s got one, I want one too” pressure. And it’s not easy! It’s not easy saying, “No!!” It’s awfully tempting to leave my kids so I can work for stuff — stuff I see that other people have and enjoy, and I would like… but I choose not to.

And that’s one thing that really bugs me — I have made the choice, the sacrifice, to stay with my children rather than have a bigger house, nicer furniture, better clothes, more gadgets; and then there are people who are feeling like it’s their “right” to stay home with their kids, and make somebody else pay for it.

That’s the “going the wrong way” bit — I would LOVE for somebody to pay me to stay at home and take care of my children. I would LOVE to generate an income from doing what I’m supposed to do. But until some rich person comes up to me and offers to pay me to watch my own children, that ain’t gonna happen. What will happen, though, if legislation like this ever were to pass, is it would make women less employable, because such a law would undoubtedly color an employer’s decision on whom to hire. If they choose a man, they won’t have to deal with this whole paid leave thing, and trying to find somebody to hire for the weeks or year after a woman gives birth. [That has been one of the unforeseen problems with the Americans with Disabilities Act — fewer disabled people were hired, out of fears of future legal problems.] Such a thing may even be unconstitutional, unless men are likewise given paid leave after the birth of a child (the old “equal protection” clause), and that would more than double the problem. Secondly, who is going to pay for this maternal leave? The company? The government? Either way, it screws things up. If Walmart suddenly has to pay thousands of people not to work, what do you think that’s going to do to prices? And if “the government” (that’s you and me) has to pay, then that’s going to result in much higher taxes. Either way, somebody else will be required to pay for you to take your paid leave. And if the collective “us” (either as consumer or taxpayer) has less money in our pockets (due to higher taxes or prices), that means more people will have to work more hours, in order to be able to afford to eat, live, and buy things. And if there is less money to spend, that means that women who would have chosen to stay at home with their children, and been able to do so on one income, no longer can, so they will be forced into working outside the home, thanks to women “demanding” that somebody else needs to pay them not to work.