Reprinted from TrueFeminist.com, by Sam Sorbo
In her article, It’s Amazing to Be a Working Mom in France—Unless You Want a Job, Claire Lundberg makes and breaks her argument already in just the title. But because Slate decided to run her story, indicating that some readers are more obtuse than others, TF felt it was important to dissect its arguments.
Ms. Lundberg is a new “mom” who, while looking for a ‘real’ job finds that having a little baby at home (or, rather, in daycare) seems to be a liability, even in the very progressive France, where legislated maternity leave is four months. During a job interview she emphatically assures her potential employer that she won’t leave at six o’clock every day and could certainly hire a nanny to pick up the extra day-care responsibilities. Imagine! That business was reluctant to hire someone with an eighteen-month-old, perhaps because she doesn’t take her responsibility as seriously as they do.
TF asks, “Why have the kid at all?” And her argument below emphasizes the validity of our question:
French female executives spoke of needing to “neutralize” their personal lives, making sure home life and children didn’t interfere in any way with their work—even if this meant working long hours, being constantly available, reducing their maternity leave, and minimizing the presence of their pregnancies at work.
Ms. Lundberg goes on to wonder at the discrepancies between the female workforce concessions in the US vs. in France, where maternity is dealt with in a much more ‘loving’ (if you’re the woman – not the business) manner. In America, maternity leaves are shorter and it’s easier to fire people. How unfair, she argues. In France, the onus is placed more firmly on the shoulders of businesses. With that shift of responsibility, it becomes imperative for a business to discern whether a female hire will be a greater liability, due to future maternity leaves or other child-related considerations, and that causes understandable discrimination. The author even admits she plans to have more children (though if they are being whisked off to daycare for ten hours a day, one begins to wonder why).
Her subtitle really explains the gist of the matter:
France supports women having children, and then discriminates against them for it.
Yes! That’s economics 101! Is her brain so addled by baby hormones she fails to grasp the obvious?
But seriously, we don’t give birth and raise families for the benefit of society or the government, regardless of what Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” would have us believe. It’s a personal choice to have a family, and although the government is busy trying to claim authorship of our choices, and therefore control over them, ultimately we are personally responsible for our own decisions. The onus of having a child is on the woman who makes that choice. It was a great step backward when society relaxed its (moral) imperative that the father also shoulder his part of the responsibility, but we did. Now, unfortunately, feminists argue that business should pick up the slack – but that’s illogical and impractical, for the exact reasons the author explains, which simultaneously seem to baffle her.
Of course, being a working mother in the United States is far from easy—without guaranteed maternity leave or health insurance, and without many affordable child care options, American mothers fall out of the workforce at an even greater rate than their French counterparts. However, the United States has done just as well or better than France by most measurements at closing the workplace gender gap. Is it possible that the more Spartan benefits in the U.S. actually contribute to providing more opportunities for women?
This is a question she needs to ask? If the business only risks the loss of the worker during a brief maternity leave, but not the loss of the wages they would be obliged to pay her during a French, four-months-long maternity leave, well, logically, they would have less issue with hiring a qualified woman for any job. Unfortunately, though, the author wants only to see things as she feels they should be, instead of logically and rationally. TF posits that this comes from her own reluctance to acknowledge what it means to be a mother – to be responsible.
Maybe it’s because it’s hard – taking on that huge duty and obligation – that women want to return to the workforce, where they can measure (either fiscally or corporately) their success. After all, when was a mom ever promoted? But as I argue in Do the Hard Thing, uhm, do the hard thing – it’s the most rewarding.
Having kids isn’t something one does and then tries to forget. They aren’t accessories or pets. But that’s the attitude Ms. Lundberg seems to adopt. She ends her lament with a final plea:
What I really want is to find a new job, one where the fact that I’m a parent isn’t a liability.
Parenting is a job, arguably the most important one. It’s only a liability if you choose to think it so.