I HAVE BEEN IMPRESSED BY THE READING OF AN ARTICLE IN THE PROGRESSIVE MAGAZINE "MOTHERING". ALTHOUGH I READ IT OVER A DECADE AGO, FRIENDS FROM DENMARK AND SWEDEN HAVE CONFIRMED THAT THE DETAILS ARE REAL:
1. PARENTS ARE ADVISED TO TAKE 18 MONTHS PAID VACATION (SWEDEN has the best benefit).
Many other countries in Europe particularly in Scandinavia have one year paid vacation.
Reality in contrast: The USA has the worst maternity/paternity leave benefit in the industrial first world. Few americans have any paid leave. Teachers may have 3 paid months. Many U.S. mothers fear losing or do lose their jobs when pregnant.
2. The father must take at least a month off with the child. This vacation will be forfeited if not taken. (Scandinavia)
3. All employers must be flexible. Many government working women will work a 3 day week for THREE years--so not to lose touch with employment. She will get full salary. This is a legitimate alternative to taking 18 consequitive months off.
4. If children get sick before the age of 8, parents have 80 paid sick days to care for children.
Here is a more recent article from Mothering Magazine (2006):
This overwork leads to depression. When we repeatedly ignore our own needs, depression is inevitable. Mothers in the US, however, often have no other choice because our national policies do not support women. The US offers 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. In a study conducted at Harvard University in 2004, 163 of 168 countries had some kind of national paid maternity leave.1 Only Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the US offer no paid maternity leave.
In most industrialized countries, working parents are entitled to maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, and childcare leave. Of 22 countries surveyed in 2006, the period of maternity leave was mostly between 14 and 20 weeks, with payments between 70 and 100 percent of usual earnings.1 Several countries offer longer maternity leaves: 24 weeks in Hungary, 28 weeks in the Czech Republic, 34 weeks in Ireland, and 52 weeks in the UK. In Germany and Italy, maternity leave is obligatory. Fifteen of the 22 countries reviewed have paid paternity leave of 2 to 10 days. Portugal provides 20 days of paternity leave, 5 days of which are obligatory.
In addition, all EU member states must provide at least three months leave per parent for childcare purposes. Four non-EU countries also provide parental leave, the exception being the US. In six countries, parents can take additional "childcare" leave after all parental leave has been exhausted.
In Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, and the UK, the total of continuous leave available ranges from 9 to 15 months. In the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden, continuous leave can run as long as 3 years.
The US has the longest average workweek and the longest average workday in the world. Canadians work 6 fewer weeks per year than we do, Swedes 11 fewer weeks. Here in the US, balancing work and family is becoming increasingly impossible.