Friday, October 9, 2009

The latest "truth" about Stay-at-Home Moms

Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that stay-at-home moms are disproportionally low-income, young, non-college educated women, most of whom are Hispanic or foreign-born. According to the statistics, they are women who stay home with children because they have limited skills and limited child care options.

This picture is in sharp contrast to the reports of a few years ago, which depicted the typical stay-at-home mom as an educated, formerly career-oriented woman who, upon marrying well and becoming a mom, decided to quit her job to stay home with her children, nanny and housekeeper.

As in previous work-family discussions and Mommy Wars skirmishes, the theories and questions pour forth: Are educated women who leave the workforce to care for children "opting out," copping out, or being forced out? Are they spoiled rich girls? Are they women without the ability to do anything more than care for children? Are they women who can't participate in the workforce because they have children? (The truth is within all of those statements, and in many not said.)

New York Times blogger Judith Warner made many good points in her recent post "The Choice Myth" (October 9, 2009). I especially appreciated her acknowledgment of how the "all-or-nothing non-choices of our workplaces" often force women into stay-at-home motherhood. Here's a link to her article as well as to a Washington Post blog post of October 2 about the issue.

But my favorite comment among the many posted by readers of Warner's New York Times piece is #238, which was the second to last response before the blog closed for comments.

Herewith I quote "Jen," who sums up why women often feel they're damned if they do, damned if they don't.

You need to have a child before you’re 27 years old, because your fertility decreases after that time.


You should wait until you’re financially stable to have children. And in this economy, you’re not going to be financially stable until you’re at least 40, unless you’re very, very lucky.


Oh! You need to have a baby before you’re 35, because after that age the risk of birth defects really increases.


Don’t get married too young, because you might regret it. Also, don’t have a child on your own. Also, meet all these other conditions in order to be the perfect mother/woman/wife.

OH! And I almost forgot…

If you go back to work after having a child, because you genuinely enjoy your career and may be your family’s primary breadwinner, you’re a bad mother.

Also, if you choose to stay home and be with your child all the time and give up your education and all that you’ve worked for, you’re still a bad mother, for setting a bad example. Even if you’re married.

Have a nice day."
Thanks, Jen, wherever you are.

Image from

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Among the Top 10 Nations—We're Number 13!?

In the United Nations Development Programme's newly released Human Development Report assessing quality-of-life around the world, the United States placed 13th. The rankings are based on 2007 data (that's before the global economic meltdown) for criteria such as literacy, gross domestic product and "a long and healthy life" as measured by life expectancy.

The three very worst places in the world to live
(from worse to slightly less horrible) among the 182 nations studied: Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

Although being 13 out of 182 is in the top 10 percent, it doesn't put the U.S. in the esteemed Top 10. What's interesting about the Top 10 is that those nations have the types of health care systems a vocal segment of our society is screaming against.

Here's the list of the Top 10 nations. Each one features universal health insurance coverage for its citizens (i.e. every person has health insurance and access to medical care).
(1) Norway (2) Australia (3) Iceland (4) Canada (5) Ireland
(6) The Netherlands (7) Sweden (8) France (9) Switzerland
(10) Japan
For instance, Norway treats health care as a government responsibility, like national security.

In nations including Japan, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands, the government provides funding for coverage by private insurers with care from private practitioners.

Canada and Australia combine the two systems by having the government pay for services performed by private practitioners. (The last option is used by Medicare, the widely appreciated U.S. health care plan for senior citizens.)

None among the Top 10 has our employer-based, for-profit health care insurance and delivery system.
"All other industrialized democracies guarantee health care for everybody—young or old, rich or poor, native or immigrants," reports health writer T.R. Reid in a September 21 Newsweek article titled No Country for Sick Men. Another fact from that piece: "22,000 Americans die each year because they lack insurance; likewise, the U.S. is the only developed nation where medical bankruptcies occur."

Although I lived in Japan for a while, and received very good, low-cost health care, and I love Paris, I feel very lucky to live in this country. But having spent time abroad, I can both appreciate what's great about America and recognize what's not. We can learn a lot about fixing our broken health care system by looking abroad. People I know from other countries are surprised that Americans accept the scattered, bankruptcy-inducing system we have, and they're stunned that we're actually fighting with one another about providing a health care safety net for all.

Here's a link to an AFP news story about the UNDP report.


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