8.3.11

Ladies Day

The preamble to this post is that I took these photos last night while Matthias was working (check him out in the background).  They're for an e-course I'm doing with Vivienne McMaster called You are your own Muse.  To be honest, I've found "getting into" this course difficult - initially there was a lot of talk about 'dialoguing' about our feelings which instantly got under my skin. Is dialoguing even a word?!? And then I took these photos and I had a lot of fun - which I've decided is really what this course is about.  And I posted them on the course's Flickr group and everyone was very supportive.  So now I like the course again. There might be a few more of these photos in the coming weeks, but for now enjoy my little political diatribe for International Women's Day.

I don't often get too political around this space but there is one day every year that I like to celebrate and throw my political hat into the ring. It's International Women's Day - and it's today.  Did you realise?  Did you even know?
beginning to play
This year, even more so that last, I feel extremely lucky to be where I am.  Through luck more than anything else I will deliver my first baby in a country that has some of the most progressive maternity laws in the world.  As soon as I announced my pregnancy in February my job was protected and my ability to come and go as my health dictated assured. At 34 weeks I will begin maternity leave, which will continue up until the Bean's birth and then for 8 weeks postnatally at full-pay. During this time I will have access to a personal midwife, prenatal classes and a return-to-health exercise program all paid for by my state (public) health insurance.  I will deliver in a hospital, free of charge, with access to doctors, nurses, medication and surgery.  After maternity leave I will probably switch over to what is descriptively called "parent money" and me or my partner (or both!) can stay at home and care for the Bean for up to 14 months with part of our salary paid by the state. When I want to return to work, childcare is an affordable and socially acceptable option and my job will be waiting, even if that happens to be 18 months after the Bean is born.  Yes, I am very happy to be living in a country that supports my choice to have both a family and a career.
21 weeks
As much as I love Australia, had I been living there I would be entitled to the "Baby Bonus" of roughly $5000 and payment at the minimum wage for 18 weeks. Following that I would be entitled to up to 52 weeks unpaid maternity leave. Childcare is sufficiently expensive in Australia that if I wanted to return to work I would need to sit down and consider whether it was financially a realistic option. In the US I would have to cross my fingers that I had paid my health insurance and then hope I was living in a state that legislated for paid maternity cover, otherwise I'd be entitled to 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave, if my workplace was covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  Alternatively I might be able to apply for "Short Term Disability" Insurance that might cover me for six weeks at 60% pay.  That pregnancy is even considered eligible for short term disability insurance says a lot about how a country's legislators view pregnancy and motherhood.
things to come...
Of course, it is conceivable that once baby-Bean is born I may never wish to leave his/her side again and will be happy to create, play and learn along side him or her.  As someone who enjoys an academic career alongside my other hobbies I think that this is unlikely, but then again, three years ago so was living in Berlin. However, what I do know and believe is that ultimately equality is about choice and in this instance the opportunity to choose not just between my career OR motherhood, but also to realistically choose the option of a career AND motherhood.  In looking at Australia and the US's current maternity policies I realise that if I was living in either country Matthias and I would have to sit down and have some serious chats about whether a) having a baby was an affordable option b) whether I wanted to continue working post-baby c) the cost of childcare and finally, we would have to weigh-up my desire to continue my academic career with the costs of childcare and the consequences of going back to work full-time, part-time or on a casual  basis to our joint income. Essentially I would be forced to choose between my career and motherhood and Matthias would most likely be forced to take an industry job, rather than a government job which whilst lower paying he finds more enjoyable.  As someone who has had equality and the importance of education and independence drummed into me from a young age I find even the thought of having to make this choice makes me incredibly angry. It also makes me wonder how much of what is being legislated is really about choice, freedom and liberal laissez-faire policies and how much of it is about morality and societal thoughts on the role of women as nurturers and child-rearers.  
victory
I would love very much to provide you with some answers or evidence or something of that note on this topic, but these are merely the musings of my feminist brain today. Happy International Women's Day - hopefully I've sparked some fire in those brain cells of yours and whatever the discussion ,we can come away a step closer to true equality (which is really what today is all about).
Conquerer
I'll be back again with a less political agenda tomorrow!

16 comments:

Paul & Paula said...

Thank you for this post... living abroad and having seen different systems I more and more wonder what people/ mums in Germany are complaining about.
Childcare is really affordable and apparently as of age 3 does not cost you a thing anymore and if you are organised and register well in advance a place should be doable.
The maternity leave is superlong and paid. Plus you can even take 2 more years, not paid but keeping your job...
and so on and so on...
Enjoy honey!

Indie.Tea said...

What a beautiful post.
And being in the U.S., I can absolutely tell you that you are spot-on with the pregnancy situation. I've even heard of couples with health insurance that they've been paying for for years, being told by the insurance carrier that the carrier won't pay for things - like an extra day in the hospital when prescribed by the doctor, or a c-section.

Indie.Tea said...

O, and by 'beautiful' I meant the photographs...

Kristina said...

Loving the pictures (especially the last one!) and also Happy International Women Day to you!
As being German I am "used" to the options women and mothers have in Germany and it is great. Even in Switzerland, where I live at the moment, the laws are very very old school... You dont even know :)
Liebe Grüsse, Kristina

justine said...

I forgot it was international women's day today! great post and sounds like you are in a very good place for having a baby. It's funny I always think I was so lucky to have my children in Sydney as I think having babies here in England would be so cold and grey and miserable and expensive! good luck with going vegetarian for lent, will you have to eats loads of extras for the pregnancy? I did look at that course you are doing, I worried that she had a certain style, I will be interested to hear your thoughts on how it is going.

Tara said...

Love the photos! I live in US and my husband and I really want to start our famiy now, but I don't want to be forced back into work after 6-8 weeks because of financials. I WOULD LOVE to stay home for the first 12-18 months of my babies life! That would be awesome! I think you are very right in your saying " That pregnancy is even considered eligible for short term disability insurance says a lot about how a country's legislators view pregnancy and motherhood"

so true!

Anika said...

International womens day-how sad that I have not heard of it...just goes to show I suppose.

Yes, the US needs to step it up a bit in the raising of our babies. I think that it would change a lot of people's lives for the better and raise some great babies to be good adults. My insurance dropped me when I told them I became pregnant...scary when that happened. They told me that had I let them know the day before I found out I was pregnant it would have been covered but since I found out earlier that day it was too late, "a pre-existing condition".

These shots are so beautiful...really lovely Clare.

Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

Clare, this is such a wonderfully interesting post and gives me so much to think about. I only know how things are handled here in the US, which usually varies depending on the company you work for and the type of health insurance you have. I can't imagine being in a country that took such wonderful care of its pregnant mothers-to-be, but it does a lot to highlight what's wrong here and how hard it may be for women in other countries still.

germangreeneyedmonster said...

Great post, makes me even more thoughtful about leaving Germany and starting a family in the UK. I would stay if I could I guess...

Li + Belle said...

These are beautiful photos of your pregnancy.
I am also fond memories of my own, and to the positive that I have received here in Germany. Sufficient funds and a really good hospital stay, using a midwife after the birth, medical care of the baby after birth. There is much secured and. Later, it looks a little different, at least here in the heart of Bavaria in the country. Since there was no child care, when I had to work again. It was not even sure if there are free nursery places. At that time (ten years befor) ruled in Bavaria or the old time = wife stays at home, working man goes. This is changing but - fortunately - in recent years.

Have a nice day!

SJ said...

Brilliant post.
I've been thinking a lot about this issue recently as the possibility of having children creeps closer and closer and it still blows my mind how women even manage to balance it all. When childcare is so expensive in Australia and the cost of living in a city like Sydney so high, how on earth does one manage it all?? I'm fortunate enough to work for a university that has excellent maternity leave benefits but the fact that this isn't the norm is ridiculous. Australia can be progressive in many ways but man are we falling behind in so many social issues (gay marriage etc). I love living here but it can be quite frustrating.

Jamie said...

I hadn't paid much attention to Women's Day until I read your post. You gave me so much to think about - our world still has a long way to go before we really reach true equality.

Kelly said...

Great post, Clare! Yep, you have it better than we do with maternity leave in the US. My career changed radically after I had my little guy. I'm happy and blessed with where it has gone, but it is different because I can't imagine being away from him all the time. Thank God I'm able to work from home. I would have never imagined my jewelry business would be such a big part of my income and life.

Your bump is looking very cute!

Stella said...

Great post! I've been thinking about this topic lately too.. Sounds like you're in the perfect place!

monique said...

First I will start off by saying, this post is very well written. As a working professional and recently engaged. I hear you I live in the U.S. I'm an independent contractor and currently uninsured. I am in good health and lucky enough to have an uncle who's a doctor. I always wondered why women in NYC had children so late and now I know, it's really tough to afford a child here. I'm going on 30 and it doesn't look like I'll be able to have a child any time soon. You are so lucky to live in a country which such great policies. I dream of living in Canada at times due to the profit driven insurance system here in the U.S.

tschitschi said...

Thanks for this great post! I live in Denmark and it is amazing how much less women (an men) worry here about getting kids then they do in Austria (my home country) - simply because the childcare system makes it so much easier!