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Sep 4 2012

Maternity Leave Isn’t Fair

By at 4:41 pm

pregnant woman in office

No one wants to consider pregnancy and birth as “illnesses” and yet maternity leave is, for working women, the equivalent of prolonged sick leave. I have a problem with that. Although women do need to recuperate from birth, and need time to bond with their infants, I think that maternity leave penalizes those other workers who do not have babies during the time they are on the job. It gives new mothers a “perk” that others do not enjoy and forces co-workers to assume more of a burden by expecting them to do their own work, and that of their absent colleague.

And apparently, I’m not the only one who feels so. This Sunday (two days after I wrote this piece) the NY Times ran an article on this very same issue. “Parents are a special class, and they get special treatment,” the article quotes.

Please, Kveller readers, do not verbally lynch me. I am on your side. I realize I am expressing a very non-PC point of view, one at odds with current thinking and existing policy in many countries. But, truthfully, maternity leave just does not seem like equitable treatment in the work place. In the broader context of “work,” it does not seem fair, and may actually hurt women by making women of child-bearing age less attractive to employers because of the anticipated time off. Read the rest of this entry →

May 29 2012

News Roundup: Public Dollars for Jewish Day Care, The Founding Mother of Natural Birth

By at 4:45 pm

The Jewish parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.

kveller news roundup 5/29/12

– A pretty terrific roundup of the most recent parenting books, and why American mothers are so quick to read them all. The focus here is on French feminist Elisabeth Badinter and her somewhat weird take on motherhood. (The Nation)

– While we’ve been complaining about the lack of Jewish day care, a little-known Hasidic network just got a $31 million contract for subsidized day care programs. How’d that happen? (The Forward)

– Meet Ina May Gaskin: the founding mother (no pun intended) of the natural-birth movement. This 72-year-old midwife is still delivering babies on her farm in Tennessee. She’s never had malpractice insurance, has never been sued, and if you live in Brooklyn and are pregnant, you probably have her book. (NYT)

A new study out says that soy-based formulas are just as safe for babies as milk-based ones. The study goes on to say that still, breast is best. (Huffington Post)

May 24 2012

Why We Desperately Need On-Site Day Care

By at 3:38 pm

on-site daycare

Tara Filowitz Arrey just shared her day care nightmares, even before her baby is born. Now let’s hear from Renee, who proposes the perfect solution for working moms.

I just saw Debbie Kolben’s December article in the Forward. (Sorry, Debbie, I have a lot to read!) Debbie, Kveller’s editor-in-chief, described her search for a good, Jewish day care center for her young child. Her very important point was that the real way, the very best way, to ensure Jewish continuity (the big topic in Jewish think-tank discussions these days–and for many, many previous days) is to create Jewish day care facilities, to create environments in which the very youngest Jews can learn, and live, Judaism. Read the rest of this entry →

Week 25: Freaking Out About Day Care Before My Baby is Born

By at 1:54 pm
day care blocks

What am I going to do?

This week has been one of harsh realities. Yes, we’re super-excited about welcoming our bundle of joy (Carolyn? Caitlin? Charlotte?–seriously the name keeps changing everyday!), but each day that passes gives us new things to think about. Things that we probably should have anticipated before, but just kind of thought it would all work out. I sound like I’m on 16 and Pregnant instead of 33 and Employed! This week’s worry: Infant Daycare.

After meeting with the Human Resources lady at the school district office, I came to the firm conclusion that I really cannot take more than 12 weeks off (with the last four weeks being completely unpaid). This means I may have to go back to work on a Thursday (fun!) and will have to deal with the concept of having a 3-month-old baby and a full-time job. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 2 2011

The Nanny Share Nightmare

By at 3:11 pm
call me note

This nanny-share business is a lot like dating.

D.C. is blessed with a large number of online parent networks—hyperlocal and greater DC listservs that make you feel like you’re not alone in this grand experiment of raising a child and give you great advice on questions big and small. I’ve always felt a real bond with these people.

Until now. After a long, hard summer, I’ve come to the conclusion that a large segment of the parents in D.C. are psychopaths. Or at the very least, not looking out for my family’s welfare. In the slightest.

We spent our summer desperately searching for a spot in a nanny-share for our little boy.  I never dated much (I was more of a serious monogamist), but now I think I understand that unique hell. The feeling of possibility at the beginning. That wonderful moment when you realize you might just live happily ever after. The weeks spent building and strengthening the new relationship. And then…sudden, crushing, rejection.

There was the family that spent weeks talking and meeting with us only to reveal that we were only one of several families they were talking to, and we hadn’t made the cut. Read the rest of this entry →

May 26 2011

Who Takes Care of Your Kids?

By at 9:04 am

Violet Jones helped care for Renee when she was young. Here she is in 1988 at Renee's daughter's bat mitzvah.

Unlike the time in which I raised my children, it is pretty much impossible for a family today to survive on one income. Child care options are tensely examined, researched and chosen, often with reservations, second thoughts and regret. It is incredibly stressful for you young parents.

The choices seem to boil down to care giving at a day care center or by a nanny. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. But what I react to, based on what I read and observe, is the sense that the people who are doing the care giving are grossly underpaid, often overworked, and sometimes, most terribly, treated poorly.

Two recent, prominent articles in the New York Times discussed Ai-Jen Poo, a woman considered to be the Norma Rae of nannies, who leads a coalition fighting for the fair treatment of domestic workers. The article mentions, “the professional couple bringing in six figures a year…( and) the nanny or maid without whom the couple would not be able to practice their professions.” On average, the article notes, the nanny’s salary is less than $15 per hour with no benefits. Even more troubling is the lack of respect and dignity these workers, who give their hearts to the children for whom they care, often endure.

One family I know pays $12 per hour which seems to be the going rate in the neighborhood. This made the nanny ineligible for Medicaid. The family made the illegal, but, in my opinion, the ethically imperative  choice to partly pay the nanny in cash so she could keep her (meager) medical benefits. (We do have to wonder: Can someone really live in New York City on $12 per hour and be expected to pay for private health insurance?)

I have no experience hiring a nanny. I was lucky to have been a happy, full-time stay-at-home mom until I went back to work in a home-based business when my youngest was 5-years-old, and back to my profession in an office when he was 8.

But I grew up in an unusual 1950s/1960s situation: My parents had full-time help. And my mom didn’t work outside the home. Violet came to our household when I, the eldest child, was a year old and left when I went off to college. She worked five days a week for 12 hours a day and until after lunch on Shabbat. She cooked, cleaned and took care of the three kids. She picked us up from the school bus stop, took us to the park, and gave us dinner. I have more memories of being with her than I do of being with my parents. I have so very many good memories.

I learned a lot from Vi and from how my parents treated her and expected us to treat her.

This was before the civil rights era and Vi was a black, religious Roman Catholic from St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands. I was not allowed to call her our “maid”–she was the “person who helped my mother” or the “woman who took care of me.” I was not permitted to have her “clean up after me.” She was treated with all the respect and dignity due a human being, especially one so important as to be taking care of the kids in the family. She knew all about us, but we knew very little about her and, as an adult, I have often wondered who was taking care of her daughter while she was taking care of us.

In a very real sense, Vi was my most important teacher and the moral center of my childhood. I learned tolerance and gained understanding about different races, classes, and religions. I knew about Lent, the Pope, and the changeover from the Latin mass. I saw the Daily Tribune (a tabloid) in her bag and the Times on our table. Vi taught me how to sew a hem to shorten my dresses to mini-skirt length. She taught me how to dance, shmoozed with all my friends, and evaluated my boyfriends. I stayed in touch with Vi until several months before she died (that’s another story.) She was at my, and my siblings’, weddings and at my son’s bar mitzvah (as our guest at a hotel in the Catskills.) I do not underestimate the impact she had on my life and I always tried to let her know how important she was to me.

I believe, inferring from my parents’ values and behavior that she must have been paid fairly for the times. I am quite sure that she was treated better than one would have expected in those days.

The point I want to make is that how we treat our help, the people who work for us, influences our children from the minute they become part of our households. How we speak to our nannies and day care workers, our cleaning ladies and housekeepers, what we say about them, what we expect, is absorbed by those little heads from a very young age. Especially when you share child care responsibility with someone, when you entrust your most precious child to someone, that someone deserves the utmost respect, dignity, gratitude, and appreciation. And a fair wage.

Our children’s caregivers are essential to their well-being and to the smooth functioning of our households.

They should be our heroines.

In grateful memory of Violet Jones 1923-2001

We all have opinions about who should raise our children. Read here for one mom’s search for Mary Poppins and go here for a dad’s take on why nannies are for people who shouldn’t have kids.


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