October 18, 2006

The French Connection

Sometimes I go on TV and state that in most cases, I'm opposed to alimony. Men write to me and tell me I'm wonderful.

Sometimes I go on TV and declare that women should set up their life with an eye to recognizing they should be able to support themselves and their children, because life throws curve balls. Men write to me and tell me I'm everything that is wrong with our society because women believe working is more important than raising their children.

I often muse if sometimes these are the same guys writing.

Here's a thought: What if we put the kids first? What if we just finally recognized that pissing and moaning about what everyone else is doing is just wasting precious time, and more importantly, jeopardizing our most precious resource - our kids?

First and foremost, I believe that families have to work out what works best for them. Couples should discuss beforehand how they want to raise any kids they agree to have. Get a plan. Get a backup plan. And then get a backup for that. THINGS DON'T ALWAYS GO THE WAY YOU THINK.

This article from today's Washington Post was intriguing. They've introduced a myriad of income supports so that women can have the families they want, and not lose traction in their careers. Subsidized daycare, early education systems, family-friendly work environments - all the things richer countries can't afford.

I'm not holding France up as some economic model - hardly. But in recognizing the value of their children, and the education of those children, it's a refreshing change from the garbage I hear in my own country. Ireland's former Prime Minister Mary Robinson recognized the danger of short changing the kids - she threw open the doors to the universities of that country and Ireland has gone from a desperate, impoverished country to one with one of the most sought after worker pools in the EU.

Unlike Blanche DuBois, I will never rely on the kindness of strangers, or anyone else, to secure my future. Only a fool would. I will forever believe a smart mother will have the ability to support herself and her children. Death, divorce, illness, unstable economies - thing they don't exist? Think again. Parents work too hard, both in and out of the home, to have to gamble on the crapshoot of unlicensed daycares or a podge of unreliable safety nets.

I have American friends that salivate over the Canadian concept of a year-long maternity leave. They get 6 weeks. That's criminal to do to a mother and a baby. Most people I know knit together an ever-changing situation of being at home, working part-time, after-school programs and early-education programs. It's time we recognized that in these early years, so many things change so quickly - we're not talking about endless years of daycare - we're talking about responsible, valuable alternatives that help children learn, and help men and women be responsible parents.

We need to give a damn about everyone's children, not just our own.


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