The Wall Street Journal has a blog called The Juggle, which is about the work/life balance and “juggling” kids and career. I find myself commenting there more than anywhere else, which surprises me, because I have no juggle here in Sweden. At least not yet.
Nope. I got to work part-time while Baby B was very small. I got a long summer off. I am on paternity leave now. I will work part-time – as is my right by Swedish law – when I go back to work. And I have that right until the younger kid is 8.
Life with two small kids is still a juggle, of course, but it is nothing like an American juggle. I guess that is why I get so engaged by the WSJ blog, seeing the contrast with my life, feeling so very lucky to be in Sweden.
What I am most struck by is how Americans put all this time and energy into making their lives work day to day, without taking the larger look, without fighting for a society that would not force them to juggle so much.
Example: Here is a post about the economic consequences of breastfeeding.
There is a negative effect of breastfeeding on women’s employment status, says Phyllis Rippeyoung, assistant professor of sociology at Acadia University and co-author of a working paper about the economic consequences of breastfeeding.
“In terms of long-term earnings, women who breastfeed less than six months have similar income trajectories to those who never breastfeed, but those who breastfeed for six months or longer have far steeper declines in income, mainly due to their increased likelihood of reducing their work hours or quitting,” Ms. Rippeyoung says. (We’ve also written before that many women who intend to continue to nurse, give it up after a few weeks back at work.)
There are also mothers who will endure real economic hardship if they miss work hours to pump or breastfeed. “We can’t just look at health outcomes. We must look at economic outcomes as well,” says Mary Noonan, an associate professor at University of Iowa’s sociology department and co-author of the working paper. “Money also matters for a child’s health.”
Here is my comment, which I seem to echo over and over. I think people will soon get sick of me on the blog, actually.
Coming from Sweden, I just can’t get over how people in the US get lost in the small stuff of life in a crappy system. How about this – give mothers longer maternity leave. Let them be secure in their job and stay home for a year or nine months or whatever and breast feed.
Then you have so many less compromises, so many less hard choices. Your employer might have it a little harder, but so what? And your taxes are a bit higher but isn’t that worth the chance to avoid all this to pump or not to pump nonsense?
Look to the big picture. Parental leave should be a health care sized-issue in the U.S.