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?
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.
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.
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.
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).