A short rant
Ok, I just read an article on yahoo about restaurants, cinemas, even Whole Foods Market banning children from their establishments at certain hours. I am disgusted by this trend started by a Pittsburgh restaurant recently. I can be as irritated by a bratty or screaming child as anyone else, occasionally, but the reality is that most children are in fact very well-behaved. Furthermore, more adults are whiny and irritating than children, and I can be more annoyed by the presence of an obnoxious adult in a movie theater than a child. If we as a culture are not approving of children being children, and cannot appreciate and accept their development, then how do we expect to keep growing? Children should be appreciated by the culture and allowed to be children. I look at cultures that embrace and enjoy children and I see happier children, more relaxed parents, and a better atmosphere overall. We need to think about the direction our country is headed with no universal health coverage for children, no individual maternity plans, short maternity leaves, no paternity leave, little support for early family life. Children are the future of our country and until the ones making the laws are the ones raising families, support for families will be lacking.
I spent a lot of time here in Europe talking to families about the policies in European countries. They are often shocked to hear our normal work environment entails 9-10 hour days with 2 weeks vacation in a year, and maternity leaves that do not last more than several months, and are often only partial salary, or none at all. In Germany, women are offered up to one year maternity leave that is at least partially paid - the first few months are full pay, and it decreases from there. They have up to 3 years off to 'raise their children' wherein the employer is required to hire them back for their same or equivalent position. i.e they do not have to decide to stay on their career path or to stay home for a few years and risk never being hired back in their career field again. In Holland, there are similar laws. It is common to have up to 8 weeks vacation time per year, and many businesses offer 4 day work weeks, or 3 day work weeks for mothers.
While staying with our friends in Germany, our friend who is 7 months pregnant told me she was required to take paid time off during her pregnancy. She is a dermatologist, and in Germany, for professions that are considered higher risk for a developing baby, pregnant women can take paid time off to 'encourage healthy babies', she told me. Wow. Doctors can take time off so they don't worry about communicable diseases while pregnant, what a progressive concept. I know their system is not perfect either - there are abuses of the system, the money has to come from somewhere, not everyone benefits. But having the concept of protecting children and supporting families at the forefront of legislation is inspiring.