This post originally appeared on the Bellani Blog.
I found something adorable on the internet the other day.
A mom (who lives in Finland) creates these somewhat elaborate scenes and photographs her napping baby in them. As she says, “While my baby is taking her nap, I try to imagine her dream and capture it.”
I find it almost too hipster/whimsical, although of course I wish I’d thought of it. Then again, I would never have dared to pick up my napping child, put them on the ground, take a picture, and put them back to bed, since the chance that the baby might wake up was too terrifying. When ours were sleeping, we tiptoed around the house and forbade anyone from even mentioning the fact that the twins were asleep, because that would jinx it.
But the adorable thing I want to write about isn’t this woman’s hobby; it’s what the government of Finland does to (indirectly) make this woman’s hobby possible.
Here in the United States, we don’t make it particularly easy for working people to have and raise children. We’re one of only five countries—along with Australia, Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland—that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave from work. (Most countries offer at least ten weeks of paid leave, although it varies greatly. Many European countries even offer paid paternity leave. Oh, and it looks like Australia will start offering 18 weeks of paid maternity leave in 2011.)
What we do have is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) which requires that employers with more than 50 employees offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave. New parents who work for smaller business, and parents who can’t afford to go without pay for three months are out of luck. (Rhode Island state law actually goes further and requires 13 unpaid weeks, and permits new mothers to collect temporary disability insurance, or TDI.)
My little family was extremely lucky. My wife works for an organization that allowed her to bank up enough sick days and vacation that when added to the state’s TDI benefit added up to some substantial (for this country, anyway) paid time off. I was in graduate school, with all of the scheduling flexibility that entails. Even so, becoming parents was exhausting and expensive; if one of us had needed to return to work much earlier than we did, I’m not sure how we would have made it work. Families who do make it work have my utmost respect and admiration.
This is probably neither the time nor the blog for an extended piece on the economic and social impacts of parental leave policy. Instead, let’s focus on something else totally awesome that Finland does: in addition to financial support during their maternity leave, new mothers receive a maternity package of things a new parent needs.
Check it out! All new mothers get a package containing about 20 outfits, a mattress and bedding, cloth diapers, books, condoms, a rather stylish bib, and my favorite item, a “box (can be used as crib).” I just love the idea that every new parent in Finland gets this stuff, and I’m fascinated at the process that must go in to deciding what makes it into the package each year. It must be so reassuring to know that at least some of your basic “stuff” needs are going to be taken care of.Filed under Baby Stuff | Comments (4)