Do You Work? maternity leave keeps women coming back

I've been thinking a lot lately about being a stay-at-home mom. I am one and have been for 8 years now. I am exceedingly thankful and happy to be here and wouldn't trade the time I've spent with my three kids; especially the tiny baby time.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately because we've moved to France and women here enjoy serious mommy benefits. French women get job protected paid maternity leave of 6 weeks prenatal and 10 weeks post-natal for the 1st and 2nd child. For a third, it's upped to 8 weeks prenatal and 18 weeks after. And for twins post-natal leave jumps to 34 weeks. This is all paid leave. If you'd like to wait longer and not be paid, you have the option of up to 104 weeks (that's two years folks) unpaid leave shared with your partner.

Add to this, the 35-hour work week, two-hour lunch breaks, and subsidized, state-run child care and you've got a better idea why so many women continue to work after having babies. And so when I meet new people they always ask, do you work? I've gotten this question more over the past six months than in the entire five years I lived in Ireland.

Initially it made me feel defensive, diminuitive, because I didn't realize that they were only asking because here in France with all the benefits and flexibility there's not a great deal of reason to quit working. Why would you when your job waits for you, when you have flexible time for school runs, long lunches that match up with the 2 hour school lunch period, half days or full days off on Wednesdays for extra-curricular activities and 117 days of general leave during the year. And the flexible time, shorter work weeks and holiday leave are for men and women.

It's noted that in France the feminist movement allowed for differences rather than denying them. We are the ones who have the babies and there's no getting around that biological fact. That is a difference in physiology, not a inequality and it shouldn't be seen as one. A flaw in the feminist movement in the US was trying to ignore this fact rather than penciling it into our benefits. It should be accounted for, not as a weakness or special treatment, but because it should be seen as necessary.

How do you feel about extended maternity leave?



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