Monday, June 04, 2007


There was this one Urban Politics class. During a group discussion, we were supposed to develop a feminist form of urban design, so we focussed on co-operative living. We felt that, among other benefits, co-ops make having kids easier; it's that whole it takes a village to raise a child thing. I remember my teacher said it was interesting that we focussed on child rearing as the number one feminist issue, rather than, say, violence against women. I thought it was interesting that he thought it was interesting.

It's certainly topical right now.

I was just at a press conference where this guy says to the TV cameras: I've been thinking about grandchildren more and more lately. I hope my daughter-in-law is listening to this.

A week earlier, I did a double-take when I saw the cover of Maclean's. It read: Hey Lady! What will it take to make you breed? Your government needs to know. You can read the main article here. It brought up some interesting points, although I found the title crass. I especially liked the bit about France. That country has some great incentives for parenting, which don't try to get women to stay home; in fact, almost 80 per cent of French women work. This is why:

There is a calibrated income-tax rate for families whereby the more children a couple has, the more money they keep in their pockets. The state offers a monthly allowance of roughly $400, which is bumped up when the child reaches the age of 11. Parents are entitled to a tax deduction for in-home child care help (which Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who stepped down this week, recently announced will be doubled). There is an extensive state-run crèche system, where parents can leave their toddlers at a moment's notice, for free. Families with three or more kids are deemed "famille nombreuses" and are eligible for zero income tax, heavily subsidized rent and transportation, and state-funded parental leaves that can extend for years. They also get free access to many public amenities, and about $325 per year toward extracurricular arts and athletics programs for the kids.

The response by the Tyee is also worth a read: So you want me to breed?

I want to know what my lady friends think about the pressure to bear children! Also: let's move to France!


Anonymous said...

I wonder WHY Canada is so far behind countries like France, though I think we are certainly further ahead than say, the U.S. where they don't have the one year mat leave. Europe also has a much more liberal (read: normal) attitude towards holidays. None of this two or three week bullshit. Is it b/c the countries are smaller? Not as much bureaucracy? Older? More comfortable with sex? Stronger religious influence? Diff't political system?

Working in the gov't, I don't feel that I would be doing damage to my career by having a baby. The benefits are good (one year mat leave with eight month top-up to 100%, benefits, etc.) but the daycare costs are still ridiculous! One paycheque a month would go to daycare. But the tax credit here is good - isn't it something like $7000 a year per kid?

I don't know if I feel pressure to have kids, or if I just naturally want to have kids.

I agree: off to France!

Erin C.

Erin said...

I want to have kids too, but government pressure seems to take some of the romance out of the act. No?

You're right about Europe: those countries know what's up. Don't French people get 5 or 6 weeks of holiday? I've ranted about this on many occaisions in the the past. Most Canadians don't even use their measly two weeks. Bah!

Angie said...

Yeah, mat. benefits are better here than the US, but still suck in their own way. I just got a signing bonus for my union signing a new contract - which means that I am going to have to pay EI back an equivalent amount (that is, if they don't discontinue my benefits for not reporting income I didn't know I made... sigh...). If you don't get employer top-ups, the max amount you make on EI is about $400 a week. Some people make less (based on income). I know several people who were unable to take the full year off because they couldn't afford to live on one income and the measly sum from EI.

You really are left behind when it comes to pensions, your place in your organization (who knows what's going on after a year away?), the way the men you work with view you, the way you have to somehow divide your heart/mind between work and your child. To me, it is worth everything I am giving up. I can see why it wouldn't be for some women. And let's face it: women raise children. Good men assist.

If the government wants a higher birth rate they should put more money into reproductive technologies and pregnancy loss research. One cycle of in vitro treatment costs $5000 plus the cost of drugs (that is if you can get in to see the one reproductive endocrinologist in Saskatchewan - after sitting on the waiting list for 16 months) and those babies are frequently miscarried.

And make the benefits more European in nature.

Still, I think most people look at 2-3 kids as a "proper" sized family. So I doubt the social environment will change so drastically that we start considering 6-8 kids "normal".

My arguments aren't very eloquent, are they? No debate trophies for me! But then, I was up 4 times in the night with a very loud, very silly baby.

Lydia said...

I will certainly take up with a Canadian commune in France, but I don't want to give birth to children. I'll adopt them, sure (and I had this plan long before Angelina popularized it), but government pressure doesn't matter to me.

Also, Maclean's headlines are consistently crass. Remember "Why do do our daughters dress like skanks?" and the baby-pink cover with a big Playboy bunny icon?

robyn. said...

hmmmm....british single mothers get too many benefits. it entices 14 year olds to get pregnant so that they can get a flat nicer than mine for much less money. and then the government gives them money for child care. the more children you have the more money you get but you loose money as the children get the smart single mum's have more babies to keep the income up.

i have children in my class who are 4 years old and i see them more than their parents. they go to kids club at 7am, kids club feeds them breakfast...drops them off at school...picks them up...feeds them dinner and then their parents pick them up at 7pm. they also get school dinners at lunch time so the poor buggers don't get a home cooked meal all day.

i would say about half of the kids club kids have parents that get government funding to subject their children to this (and then sit around at home all day while other people - strangers - bring up their kids). the other half have parents that work just to pay for the kids club bill.

i don't know how any of this fits into anything, but it truly annoys me and sometimes i want to adopt these kids.

anyhoo, i'm much to selfish to have children right now, i like my alone time. and i need to be in a time and space where i do not have to work. i especially could not teach and be a parent, i would neglect my own children very badly after a day with everyone else's children.

robyn. said...

ps...the french system sounds good. tax breaks instead of free money...

k said...

i agree with erin: government pressure takes the romance out of it. i also find this a frustrating conversation to have when it's not addressed as to just how the government benefits by us having children.

true, long mat leaves with benefits and things like the new $1000 per BC baby for their 'college fund' are helpful, but they're also blatant incentives. capitalism depends on growth and expansion, at the detrement of the environment as well as all of us who live in the world (especially those in underdeveloped places). as the average canadian is now having 1.6 babies (or whatever it is) this is a really scary picture for capitalism and the economy. due to our present state of affairs, personally, i think that the best thing people can do for the world is to not have any children at all. not that i'm against people who do, or not saying that i won't have a child of my own someday, just talking idealistically and realistically here. our population can't keep on expanding as our land base and resources are rapidly declining. sustainability and capitalism are not compatible.

capitalism also depends upon having and maintaining an unpaid work force, which is another reason why keeping women at home (even with mat term wages, which are really low...) looks pretty good to the capitalist structure. i also think of this when i hear right wing, fundamentalist american presidents talking about making abortion being illegal and limiting women's reproductive rights (such as what happened with RU-486). this is why feminism within a capitalist patriarchal system isn't equality at all.

i think that it's important to think about who benefits from keeping women underpaid and in the home with the children. it's certainly not us or our kids...

(i didn't read the macleans article, maybe it does address all of this, but i doubt it.)

sarah said...

word, erin. i think we've talked about universal childcare as a massive missing piece before.

people have mentioned government benefits, but i think the biggest action around realistic work for fertile women is in small business. it's all about flexible hours, in-office childcare, real part-time positions, ability to work from home, and basically the ability to work and be a parent at the same time, instead of trying to put one or the other on hold. (bonus: automatically improves things for dads, and for non-parents who have a life outside of work.)

small business is such a funny kind of capitalism. pretty much the ultimate in non-pure markets, totally biased by human relationships. economics rather than markets. i am digging the conscious entrepreneurs lately, as far as being decentralized and cooperative.

there's been quite a lot of press about women leaving the corporate world and about the low rates of re-entry into corporate jobs after mat leave, but less press about the concurrent increase of women in small business and entrepreneurship. there are good ideas coming out of that.