Feb 17, 2011

This mama gets political, for once

These days I live in a current-event void, I'm afraid. NPR is my sole source of outside news, and more often than not, children's instruments drown out Steve Inskeep's words. This morning, however, the paid family leave came up on NPR and I politely asked the kids to shut up. Unfortunately, the subject was mentioned essentially in jest. So, I wrote my first letter to NPR:
Dear Steve Inskeep and the Morning Edition team,

As an educated woman who has deliberately chosen what, at times, feels like the very unpopular option to forgo an income and stay home with her children during their early years of childhood, I was glad to hear you bring up the subject of paid family leave on today's program. Two Norwegian men, both cabinet ministers, at home with their babies! Wonderful. Too bad you raised the subject during the ten second interval that you generally reserve for comic jabs about failed bank robber getaways and the like. In an era when women's pay inequity is finally being seriously considered, and when research clearly points to the critical role of early childhood education even quite simply as an economic driver, paid family leave for both men and women seems like a no-brainer.

Norway and its prime minister, the brunt of your joke, support paid family leave for fathers, not because pushing a baby stroller earns a man smiles from the ladies. They offer 10.5 months of paid family leave to a couple for each child, and are enlightened enough to require that some portion of that time be taken by the father or else forfeited. The U.S., on the other hand, is the only wealthy country in the world that provides no guaranteed paid leave to care for a newborn child. A Norwegian-style law in our country would do triple duty: promote father-child bonding, advance women in the work place, and enhance child development. Wouldn't it be in our interest to reward parents for raising high quality future citizens? The U.S. and NPR should be tipping their hats to those courageous Norwegian cabinet ministers, and taking notes.

Sincerely,
Katie Quirk
Professional Parent and Writer
If you want to learn more about paid family leave, it's interesting to note what other countries are doing and what the U.S. is failing to do. A Wikipedia article may not the most professional of sources, but it will give you a sense. If you live in CA, WA, or NJ, take note that you may be entitled to some paid family leave.

And now, for those of you who demand at least one photo per post: