October 21, 2005

My New Gig

I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure. But this morning I started a new job. It's called sole provider. With my complete and enthusiastic support Beth quit her job yesterday. So now I'm the bread-winner, the puter of food on the table, the bringer home of the bacon. And only 24 hours in, I've gotta tell ya, there's just a smidge of pressure. But I've got a good job with a more-than-adequate paycheck. And truth be told, neither Beth nor I could look at Mia - tiny, cute Mia - and stomach the idea of letting someone else take care of her. It's a choice we made and a choice we're both happy with.

I guess the one thing that bothers me is the fact that Beth and I were put in a position in which we had to choose between caring for our daughter and earning a second income. The simple fact is that, for the propserity that abounds in this country, we're really behind the curve when it comes to mandatory maternity leave. Employers are required to offer new moms 12 weeks of maternity leave. Let's spin the globe and see what those minimums are in other countries...

Afghanaistan - 12 weeks
Algeria - 14 weeks
Argentina - 13 weeks
Australia - 52 weeks
Bulgaria - 26 weeks
Cambodia - 12 weeks
China - 13 weeks
Congo - 15 weeks
Cuba - 18 weeks
Czech Republic - 28 weeks
France - 26 weeks
Greece - 16 weeks
Hungary - 24 weeks
Haiti - 12 weeks
Iran - 13 weeks
Italy - 20 weeks
Norway - 18 weeks
Poland - 18 weeks
Rwanda - 12 weeks
Somalia - 14 weeks
Spain - 16 weeks
Vietnam - 28 weeks

Lookie there - we're getting our asses kicked by Somalia, China and Iran. Nothing like getting slapped around by a member of the Axis of Evil. We're the most prosperous country in the world. We claim to value our self-determination and our children above all else. And yet we're having a hard time competing with maternity leave minumums handed out by third world countries. How fucking sad is that?

Beth and I are lucky. We can afford to make some sacrifices in an effort to raise our daughter the way we think is best. But what about the mothers and fathers who can't?

Posted by Chris at October 21, 2005 09:23 PM

Pretty amazing information, sometimes I think we're in the dark ages in this country on some issues. But... I am elated for Mia that she'll have Mommy home with her. You will all be glad when she grows up to be ultra-well-adjusted despite the fact that her dad, well, um... never mind ;-)
OMG, first time I was ever first comment!

Posted by: JuJu's Mom at October 21, 2005 09:45 PM

Thanks for the stats, Chris. Pretty staggering. Let me just add that not all American companies are required to honor FMLA, just ones that meet certain criteria (i.e. 50 or more employees). I work for a small consulting firm that only offers 6 weeks of maternity leave, and truthfully, they are well aware that they don't even have to offer THAT.

Good luck to you and Beth in your new jobs!

Posted by: Amanda at October 21, 2005 09:52 PM

yes- we don't have the lock on family values that we would like to think. Even more interesting is that in Sweden, Finland and Norway paternity leave is just as long. Imagine that! In some places they think fathers are equally important! Find comfort in your decision by reading Every Child's Birthright by Selma Fraiberg.

Posted by: Vicki at October 21, 2005 10:09 PM

Amen to not having to hand our children over to strangers. I worked in a daycare for awhile and though I obviously cannot speak for all centers, nor do I intend to generalize here, it was awful. I was somewhat frowned upon for taking my job seriously enough to care for each child as best I could while everyone else was too busy gossiping about the boss and taking breaks. Those kids were ignored and it broke my heart. Good for you guys. Mia is a lucky girl in so many ways.

Posted by: JuJuBee at October 21, 2005 10:17 PM

wow, thats nuts. yeah at my job, we have to use up all of our vacation days and then tap into disability as our "maternity leave"....and i work at a DAYCARE!!!! we take care of other peoples kids but we don't even get proper maternity leave!! oy oy oy!!

Posted by: lizabetty at October 21, 2005 10:22 PM

My best friend (AJ who comments in my blog) and her husband, The Canadian, have two little boys and she stays home with them, even though they can't afford it. They struggle; J's job doesn't pay that well and his employer recently changed the pay schedule, which screwed up all the bills everyone had planned out and stuff. I'm glad that she's able to stay with them but at the same time, very sad that they have to struggle so much. I'm so glad you and Beth have this opportunity. Mia's a lucky little girl :)

Posted by: Rhonda at October 21, 2005 10:22 PM

As I get older and contemplate taking on the awesome task of having a child by myself, the worry about who will care for him/her when I have to go back to work is tremendous. I worked in a daycare center and I know you can find good ones with people who care but still, the cost alone is frightening. Maybe I should look into moving to Australia before I go the turkey baster route. :D

Posted by: patricia at October 21, 2005 11:25 PM

yeah australia is pretty cool like that.. although i believe sweden trumps us, giving 1 year fraternal leave in addition to 1 year maternal leave... anyway congrats on your decision and i wish the 3 of you well.

Posted by: chlamygirl at October 21, 2005 11:35 PM

Here it's 17 weeks maternity leave and up to 37 weeks parental leave.

Posted by: Heather at October 21, 2005 11:38 PM

In Sweden, I hear both mother and father get at least two years maternity/paternity leave. I agree, this country does not support families in raising of the children in terms of having a one paycheck income. Mia is lucky that you and Beth can do it. Enjoy your time with your daughter, and revel in the fact that some stranger isn't responsible for her well-being. :o)

Posted by: Milly at October 21, 2005 11:40 PM

wow remind me if I decide to have a kid to move to austrailia!

congrats you guys, that's awesome!

Posted by: penguintarts at October 22, 2005 12:16 AM

wow, admirable on the part of the both of you...really, I say that in all sincerity. Sometimes I think it's difficult to see the forest for the trees in terms of earnings, material posessions and what is needed versus what is wanted. Yay for the both of you for figuring out what was needed for your family versus what material posessions might be wanted.

BAH about the maternity leave. Didn't we already have the discussion about you relocating your family to Canada? Far closer geographically than Europe (for the grandparents) and close enough culturally for it to be an easy transition. 6-month paid maternity leave...and federal legislation whereby employers CANNOT penalize you for leave of up to 1 year (although the second 6 months is not required to be paid leave and most people have to go on unemployment maternity benefits) but still...job security for 1 year!

can't beat that!

Posted by: wn at October 22, 2005 12:25 AM

Well, speaking as a single mom, IT SUCKS ASS!

Posted by: Queen of Ass at October 22, 2005 12:34 AM

I greatly admire parents who have the patience to be home alone with their children. When I was growing up, all the mom's stayed home. By the time my children arrived, we also made the decision to do with less so that I could be home with the babies. It was lonely because not many others stay home anymore. I'm glad that I had that time with them and glad that I can truly appreciate the work of a stay-at-home-mom. I have friends who are happily married, have been so forever, and stayed home for the most part - but they are rare. I think the divorce rate is high because people are less willing to tolerate bad behavior. I left a job as a supervisor. Several years later after the drunk broke our son's arm, I reentered the work force as a single mom at a starting salary in a predominately women's work-place (read - low salary). My "career" has never quite recovered, I'm never-the-less putting one through college and next year, there will be two. The wonderful forms that I've filled out to get financial aid for their education require me to contribute half of my take home salary for their tuition (being in the middle class sucks - it's why we are perpetually in debt). And I have little retirement. Your wife should find a way to keep her skills current if at all possible while taking care of your precious little one. Men are assholes particularly after marrying again; they seem to forget they ever had children. I've run into too many other women in similar positions to believe that mine is even close to an isolated case.

Posted by: Theresa at October 22, 2005 12:57 AM

I know how you feel about a lot of things said here today. First I could never leave my kids with anyone...I was fortunate to be a SAHM (and student) And now, since I have been working for just a little bit, my hubby was breathing a sigh of relief from the extra income...well you know where I am going with this I think, if you have been keeping up with your reading, you know in a few weeks my new career will be over and he will once again carry the weight on his own. Not forever but still....so I can relate to your words today! And P.S. I have every faith, as I am sure Beth does, that you will be just great in your "new gig"!

Posted by: Kate at October 22, 2005 03:14 AM

Just a clarification about France's maternity leave: for the first two children, women get 6 weeks of leave before the birth and 10 weeks after. Beyond that, or for twins, women get 10 weeks before birth and 16 after, for that total of 26 weeks that you posted. Oh, and this is paid leave, at 80% of one's salary. Men get two weeks of paternity leave now, also paid. And then day care is partially subsidized, so the cost is not as prohibitive as in the States. Add to that all-day preschool from age 3 (and sometimes 2.5) and you've got an environment conducive to reconciling work and motherhood. I am SO glad I had my kids here -- but then I HAD to work because we needed the money.

What I really wanted to say is "good on you" both for what you are doing for Mia. :)

Posted by: Alison at October 22, 2005 05:31 AM

I didn't see Germany on there. I am American but live ther (married to a German). If you can believe it is LAW that women can't work the last 8 weeks before delivery and LAW that they must have 12 weeks of maternity leave (with pay) and can take up to 3 years and still have their job back (personally I think that is going a little too far). Plus they pay kindergeld (child's money) for each child 150 euro/month for 18 years or untile they finish university or reach age 15. Then they pay muttergeld (mother's money--based on the father's income) for 1 year. They really support and encourage people to have children and to stay at home. An interesting note is that the German society is geared for a spouse not to work. They close shops at around 7 pm and 2 pm on saturdays and nothing is open on Sundays (it is a family day). I am greatful to live here, even though I walked way from a good career to stay at home with our two babies (one adopted May 2004) and one born Dec 2004). Glad you are giving Mia the very best, she deserves no less!

Posted by: Krista at October 22, 2005 05:50 AM

here in austria, parents can get up to 3 years parental leave (2.5 years if one parent stays home the entire time, 3 if they switch at some point). my cousins husband stayed home the first year with their first baby, she stayed home two more, then had baby nr.2 and now they have another 2.5 years for that one. i swear, this might be the sole reason that i do not return to the US. at least not when i decide to start a family. 12 weeks is just nothing. yay for you guys, that you were able to do what you felt was best.

Posted by: catharina at October 22, 2005 05:50 AM

I am so pleased Beth is able to stay at home with Mia. I have to say, the social care and national insurances provided in Europe are one of the main reasons I don't want to return to the States (that and Shrub ;) ). Don't get me wrong, we get the f*ck taxed out of us, but when you have a family you get so much of it back.

Posted by: Amber at October 22, 2005 06:39 AM

It's definitely time to stop making "Polish" jokes (Poland - 18 weeks) and start making fun of ourselves.

Hope your new arrangement works out great.

Posted by: Neil at October 22, 2005 08:03 AM

You guys are making a great choice, and I'm glad you can manage it. :)

Also, Sunday, anytime - call me.

Posted by: autumn at October 22, 2005 08:23 AM

okay that is totally cool! but don't forget you need to spend as much time as you can with the mia child too.

congrats to beth. and i know that as smart as you both are, things are just going to keep on moving smoothly. if not we will be here to help you lick the proverbial wounds!


Posted by: melanie at October 22, 2005 08:46 AM

It's more than sad that U.S. employers don't have to offer leave. Women are forced to take sick, vacation and disability (at a lesser pay) when they have children. The laws of FMLA are very strict and often difficult to meet.

Posted by: J.J. at October 22, 2005 09:28 AM

First, THRILLED for the both of you. Beth hated her old job, and although this one is enormous, it's something you both want and can do.

Now general comments pointed at no one:

I will say that some of it is because in countries like Germany, they just don't have jobs. Encouraging women to stay home helps keep that under the radar a bit more. No kidding!

As well, Americans everywhere have way more opportunities economically. Think of all the people STILL trying to move here, even though we are so backwards and reviled.

I'm not saying I love the idea that Zoot's in the position she's in, or that single mothers here are basically left without a choice, but I also think that A) some women aren't equipped to deal with being full-time mothers B) Women shouldn't feel guilty for sending their kids to daycare (we turn out fine, I promise) and C) more DADS should start staying home. It's usually the economic decision rather than an emotional decision, and that's because women just don't make the money men do, still.

Posted by: alektra at October 22, 2005 10:54 AM

It's totally crazy that it's a choice that you have to make as opposed to a fundamental right to parental leave. Mia, your parents rock.

Posted by: verucaamish at October 22, 2005 11:29 AM

Yeah, the FMLA rules are tough. Even though the company I work for qualifies in number of employees, I don't qualify because I've only worked there 10 months, not 12- so I get nuthin'. It's heartbreaking. I'm lucky that they'll give me 6 weeks with job security. The more difficult part? In my family, I am the sole provider. I can't quit.

Posted by: heels at October 22, 2005 11:50 AM

wow..good to know we're right up there with really liberal, women-friendly countries like Afghanaistan and Cambodia.

Posted by: laura at October 22, 2005 12:46 PM

I knew there was a reason for why I wanted to go to Iran, I just couldn't put my finger on it.

If I had a baby nearly as cute as Mia, I probably wouldn't want to leave her with anyone else, either.

Posted by: Heather B. at October 22, 2005 02:25 PM

For all of the greatness in America, there are plenty of faults to go along with it. My boss is from Wales and some of the luxuries they have thre blow us out of the water. Good luck Mr. Bacon Bringer Homer.

Posted by: C at October 22, 2005 05:45 PM

I am very proud of you guys :)

Posted by: Eulallia at October 22, 2005 05:57 PM

Chris...great post! I can sense your passion about this - as it does impact your family - I don't blame you. I'm shocked at that information about the big 'ol U.S. of A. Not to mention the health care situation there.

In terms of maternity leave...don't forget Canada...we get a year off with (*I think*) 50% of your salary from the previous year from Unemployment Insurance to help out.

Even though that is amazing compared to other countries...many cannot afford to stay home. Which then is a catch-22, because in order to go back to work, so you can earn more income (to live), you must then pay for daycare!

Posted by: Starfruit at October 22, 2005 05:59 PM

This is a really good post. Makes you wonder about the nation's priorities. Big Time.

Posted by: kob at October 22, 2005 06:45 PM

Maternity leave in Canada is federally mandated at 17 weeks, but labour is mostly governed provincially or territorially. According to this level of government, mandatory mat leave is between 12 and 18 weeks (lowest in Alberta and highest in Quebec) with the average around 17 weeks. The 6-month leave wn was talking about is likely part of a labour contract, though both s/he and Starfruit are right about the Employment Insurance thing.

Posted by: Mel at October 22, 2005 08:34 PM

As a country, we really should be ashamed of our family leave laws. It really is pathetic. I am so grateful that I have been able to stay home with my children. It hasn't been easy, financially, but I think it was the best decision for our family. I hope Beth knows about all of the wonderful children's programs in this area. There are some great programs and classes through Park and Recreations.

Posted by: Nicole at October 22, 2005 11:39 PM

here is BC we have 12 month mat-leave paid for by Employment Insurance and I am lucky enough to work at a firm that makes up the difference to 90%of regualr salary (not that I need it at present, but good to know)

Lucky Mia (and mum & Dad) that you are in a position to have Beth stay home with the little munchkin =)

Posted by: Kathryn at October 23, 2005 12:13 AM

And on the flip side..new job title "totally dependant"
try that one on for size! It's just as scary. Picture yourself as you are now, just up and quitting your secure, well-paying, well-earned, admirable position, all on the assumption that #1 your marraige will last (where statistically it's doomed), #2you have always had your own money, earned your keep and now there is no paycheck, you depend on your spouse for the money, whether you have to ask for it or not, hmm what happens if we don't make it, what happens if he/she dies, what happens if he/she is disabled, I will have forfieted time/experience/seniority. It's scary being sole provider....it's just as scary being solely dependant on someone else.
Why do we do it? Because how else can we progress, cary on, move forwrd....we love and trust each other and if you don't have that you have NO Business pretending to be a family - Period!!!
I gave up my "independance" a year ago- it scared the hell outta me but it also made me closer to my family. We aren't a traditional family - I have a husband and a stepson, I couldn't love more if had given birth to him. That child has touched/changed my life in ways I cannot express. I am FOREVER grateful to have him and his father in my life. To know and love such people is truly a gift. I sense you have the same with your family Chris. We are sooo lucky to live such charmed lives :)

Posted by: Lainey at October 23, 2005 06:27 AM

Very important issue! Here in Brazil, it's 17 weeks.

Posted by: at October 23, 2005 10:24 AM

I got pregnant way too young, and told my boyfriend (now husband) that I would only have kids if I could stay home with them. He luckily said ok. We honestly can't afford it, but we sacrifice & make it work. I work 2 nights a weeks at a bar for a little extra income, which basically is grocery money and not much more, but other than that he's it. We haven't been able to buy a house, his car's a p.o.s., but our kids are wonderful and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by: shannon at October 23, 2005 10:59 AM

Isn't Sweden, like, 26 weeks? It's disgusting, isn't it? One of my pet peeves about my country -- we claim to honor family and apple pie and all that shit but can't put our money where our mouths are.

Posted by: Stacy at October 23, 2005 11:06 AM

Interesting that there are countries with non-existant women's rights, but yet they are given more time off for maternity than our country. Things that make you go 'hmmm'.

With many parents, the second income barely offsets the childcare costs. So why work your ass off only to pay someone else to do what you could stay home and do? The thought of picking up your kid and having an update of "baby firsts" from the provider, is not very appetizing either. It's much better to get an email, phone call or the full scoop from your wife at the end of the day, than from Little Bo Peep's Childcare Center.

It's the right thing to do, if you can swing it.

Blog on!

Posted by: Sam at October 23, 2005 11:30 AM

Congrats... We made that decision a few years ago too. It has been the best thing we've ever done.

Can I tell you I love your blog.... (I'm delurking for that reason.) And can I link it to mine? If you see mine and think its so stinky you don't want to be associated with it, I understand and will take you off of the list. But I hope you don't mind. :-)

Posted by: Lisa at October 23, 2005 09:42 PM

Yeah, we suck like that. Damn! I was so going to talk about Germany's policy but Krista beast me. It just kills me. And imagine parents with not adequate enough pay for one to stay home, but daycare takes the whole paycheck so the second parent can't work, or works opposite shifts from their partner. That's when it really sucks...been there done that.

Posted by: Amy at October 23, 2005 11:13 PM

I was looking up my company's maternity leave online a few weeks ago and got really excited when I read how much time I got off (paid), including paid time off for all my doctor's visits. Then I realized I was looking at the European P&P manual.

Alas, as a lowly American I get the standard 6 weeks at 75% pay, with 6 additional weeks at NO PAY. This is what I get for working 5 years at the top Engineering firm in the country. Nice.

Thanks for the stats Chris and good luck at your new job as sole provider. (Maybe you should say your the SOUL provider!)

Posted by: Isabel at October 24, 2005 11:30 AM

We get like 6 weeks prior to giving birth and 10 weeks after. I do have to admit we have a parental leave too. That's about a third of the hours you work in one year. That gives me the oppertunity to cut down my work hours from 4 tot 3 days for about one year. Still, I wish I could quit my job when iBaby is born. You;re pretty lucky you're in the position you can do that! :)

Posted by: Sweety at October 25, 2005 02:42 AM

Is that 52 weeks of paid leave in Australia? In The Netherlands maternity leave is paid leave, the parental leave is often unpaid leave. In Sweety's case her employer pays 75%, which is very cool. Her maternity leave starts after Christmas and she'll start working again in June! She'll then work 3 days a week for a year instead of 4.

Posted by: FreezeM at October 25, 2005 04:16 AM

It astounds me to no end on how lame this country is regarding maternity leave. I went back to work at 14 weeks and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But this part is easy.. What happens when Lucas starts kindergarden and needs to be picked up at noon? Or what about 4 PM t-ball practice? HOW DO PEOPLE DO IT?!

Posted by: HipMamaB at October 26, 2005 12:09 PM

Hey! How could you forget Canada? Where, if I am not mistaken, maternity leave is...wait for it...12 MONTHS! Almost makes you want to move up here and have like, 12 kids, doesn't it?

Posted by: Tam at October 30, 2005 09:37 PM