The 'who's going to raise the children' question

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and even more so now we are actively trying to get pregnant.

I think back to my own childhood and all the great memories I have of playing outdoors with my sisters, baking flapjacks in the kitchen with mum, home-made cakes and biscuits for Christmas and birthdays, coming home from school to afternoon tea...
And I know that's the kind of life I want to be able to give my kid(s).

And I think that's what's frustrating me most right now: I can't accept the idea of putting my 3 month old baby into daycare (cause that's all the maternity leave you get here in Belgium) and seeing it no more than an hour every morning and evening - just enough time to wash, change clothes, feed and put to sleep (cause that's all that's left over when you work a 9 to 6 job in advertising).

I'd love to find a job that would allow me to either work from home or be home around 4 every day or work only 3 days a week, and still allow me to earn enough to cover the costs. It's not that I want to stop work altogether, and I think it's a good idea for any kid to spend some amount of time in daycare with other children, it's just that finding a job that meets both the time and money requirements is a hell of a lot harder than it should be.

This country has resolutely chosen a parenting model that stimulates mothers to remain active professionally - daycare is tax deductible, you can work 4/5ths for a certain amount of time (15 months) after your child is born (but I'll immediately add that most companies in the advertising business subtely discourage it), you only get 3 months maternity leave. Well, that's fine for the women who place their career above their family (or who don't have a choice if they want to make ends meet), but what about the people who still believe that raising a child is already in itself almost a full-time job and who want to do it themselves instead of leaving it up to government-funded strangers?

Other countries have taken a different approach and see motherhood (and to some extent fatherhood) as jobs in their own right. They put in place structures that enable parents to work less hours and spend more time raising their kids. The job market in those countries is full of part-time positions and prospective employers don't look at you like dirt if you happen to enquire about the possibility of working less hours.

I've done the maths and I know we can live decently if I only work 3 days a week, providing I keep the same day rate as I'm charging now. The major issue is that as a freelance I can't choose the days I work, and most projects are full-time, even if they only last 2 or 3 weeks at a time. So there's no way I can decide to only work 3 - fixed - days a week and still hope to get projects. And I can't just decide to put my kid into daycare some weeks and not others, cause daycare centers don't work that way. Part-time jobs are almost inexistant - most of the positions that would fit my profile are more likely to pay you for 37 hours a week and expect 50 - and any job that would allow me to work part-time is likely to pay so bad I'd be better off on unemployment benefits.

This is totally, absolutely frustrating me. And I'm pissed off at a government, country and society that has made decisions that impact my life so much. And my freedom of choice when it comes to how big a part I want to play in raising my kids.

Oh, and if I hear one more person saying "well, that's how everyone else does it", I'll cram something down their throat. It isn't because this country is packed full of frustrated, overworked, over-stressed mothers that I have to become one of them.

1 comment:

Bryher Hill said...

Wow that sounds really difficult, good luck in working through it.

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