Follow by Email

11 May 2013

Time Off With Baby, Part V: Enlightenment Beckons
"Happy Mother's Day"

Happy Mother's Day, Mamas! And Happy Mother's Day to the children who made you mothers and the partners and fathers who stand beside many of you each day!!

It's timely on the eve of Mother's Day 2013 to explore what it means to be a mother in America. If you read my article on www.glittersnipe.com (a fantastic politics, social commentary, travel and style rag I highly recommend), then you recall that FMLA may have taken only the wee-est baby steps toward meaningful family policy. But there is one shining example of what this nation can do to support families, society, and humanity.

We've talked about the benefits of paid care leave for children, moms, dads, businesses and the economy, and society. But Time Off With Baby takes this issue to its endgame. After comparing U.S. policies to those in every other industrialized nation in the world, Zigler, Muenchow, and Ruhm reviewed Californian policies, now over ten years old, and recommend an American policy going forward that echoes California's. Here's what that is, and how it affects families in the Sunshine State.

Through combined state leaves, most women have been able to take as much as 16 weeks off with job protection, while collecting about 55% of their wages for 10 to 12 weeks since 1979. Since 1992 Californian moms have had access to as many as 26 to 28 weeks of job protection from combined sources: pregnancy disability (16 weeks of job protection), CFRA (California Family Rights Act, 12 additional weeks of protection for parental leave); and temporary disability (4 weeks of partial pay before birth and 6 to 8 weeks after birth).
But California reached even deeper enlightenment in 2002 and approved paid care leave, which prevents parents from losing their jobs and secures again about 55% of wages for family care leave (covered by a payroll tax) after the birth of a child for just one reason: "to promote time off for new parents to spend with their newborn or newly adopted children" - solely for the purpose of attachment and attunement.
A full-time working Californian couple taking advantage of all policies can now get 26 - 28 weeks off for mama, 20 weeks partly paid, and 6 weeks off for papa with some pay - all of this covered by job protection. And Californians are taking full advantage of these protections and benefits, which are changing gender roles in good ways with more and more men taking advantage each year, and keeping families financially afloat during this critical period. These policies also encourage nursing with average breastfeeding terms going from 5 to 9 or 11 weeks, and allow families to find childcare that is a better fit for everyone.
And how are businesses faring? Over six years after PFL went into effect, 253 private for- and non-profit businesses were surveyed about their experience: 89% saw no or positive effects on productivity; 91% noted no or positive profitability; 93% saw no or positive effects on employee turnover; and almost 99% claimed no or positive employee morale due to the policy.
As we know low wage earners are unable to take advantage of FMLA's job protections with 75% of them saying they couldn't afford time off. In contrast, we see California's PFL cutting that disparity significantly with the most Californians taking advantage of these policies earning $12,001 to $48,000 per year. Still, about a third of those who do not claim benefits in CA say they're afraid of losing their jobs, provoking trouble at work, or experiencing career setbacks.

A Federal policy that required at least partial pay during job protected maternity, paternity, and care leave would even the playing field. When paid care leave becomes the company and national cultural norm, stigma will decrease, expectations of leave will increase, and businesses will meet the challenge as families finally begin to feel the relief that paid care leave allows.

As it stands, we have to ask if American men and women can afford to have children at all, if we cannot even afford to be home with them for 4 or 6 weeks let alone 20 to 28. And I find myself asking what the purpose of life and love are, if we cannot use them to create and sustain life. For me, this means more than than writing poetry, helping good people get grants, enjoying the natural world with my friends, and celebrating Christmas. It means seeing my son's shining face each day, and helping him learn to walk this earth creating a meaningful life that will also see life grow anew from his own love. It means hope in humanity, and faith in our ability to do what is right for one another, and especially for the most vulnerable among us.

I hope you signed the petition on Democrats.com, and I hope you will sign again with the National Partnership for Women & Families and Working Mother magazine to fight for PAID CARE LEAVE, wishing the many mothers you know and love a "Happy Mother's Day", this year and in years to come.

As always, leave your comments, questions, hopes and dreams below!!

(In 2010 AZ, HI, MA, Missouri, NH, NY, OR, PA, TX, and VT introduced but did not enact paid family leave laws. NJ has such a law, but I have not covered it here as California's policies rose up as exemplary in Time Off With Baby.)

04 April 2013

Join Hillary in Our Fight!
PAID FAMILY CARE LEAVE

Finally, Hillary is taking up the fight for paid family care leave!! See below pasted from www.democrats.com and click the links to sign your name and add your comments!

What You're Signing:

I want to join the National Partnership for Women & Families in telling Congress: Let's move our nation forward by ensuring that more people can take job-protected leave when they need it and by advancing the paid family and medical leave that millions need. It's time that our nation's policies reflect 21st century work and family dynamics. It's time to support paid leave!

Background:
Twenty years ago, President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the United States took a major step toward becoming a more family friendly nation.
But the FMLA was only meant to be a first step. The sad reality is 40% of workers aren’t covered by the FMLA, millions can't afford to take unpaid leave and the United States is one of four countries that doesn't provide paid maternity leave.
This must change. Now.
More lawmakers are recognizing that family friendly policies are essential to families' economic security as well as the success of businesses and our nation's economy. The American public recognizes this too. Polls show a majority of Americans say they struggle to manage work and family obligations – and 86% say Congress should consider new laws to help.
Paid leave policies help keep people working, level the playing field for businesses, reduce reliance on public assistance and more. It is time for members of Congress to make paid leave a top priority.
READ, SIGN & SUPPORT FAMILIES, AMERICA, and HUMANITY:

24 March 2013

What I Wish I'd Known About Nursing & Pumping

I'm not sure if it's just spring or that I'm at that optimal age for our generation between having completed grad school a few years back and so actually earning more than $50K per year, and still having the physiological capability to bear children, but whatever the cause - I know a LOT of pregnant women right now, and they all plan to work after giving birth. And as we say en espanol - ?como no?! The way the world is now the vast majority of families are going to have to engage both parents in out-of-home work. So, I interrupt our discussion about paid care leave to share with you what I've learned about nursing.

A lot of the soon-to-be-new-moms are, however, giving birth for the first time, and  a few have asked me about breastfeeding. Most people cannot believe I nursed full-time for a year and that my son didn't quit nursing until he was 17 months old while I also worked full-time and hour from home. (Yes, pat on the back.) Now, I'm not crazy, I'm just irrationally tenacious when I'm committed to something. I guess some people would say that's the same thing, but the silver lining is this - you only have to be crazy to figure this stuff out... a perfectly normal person can use all my tips and remain certifiably sane.

So, here's how you do it (partners, dads, and caretakers, it's good for you to know this stuff, too)... and I'm going to state both the obvious and not so obvious:
  1. If for any reason you have a hunch that your child's latch is not right - call the lactation specialist sooner rather than later, i.e. before two weeks after birth. (Bleeding, discomfort and an insatiable baby are tick-offs.)
  2. If that still doesn't work, your baby's tongue may have a connective flap underneath that is too long. See a pediatrician ASAP, and get it snipped. This hurts about as much as having your ears pierced and used to be routine in hospital births through the 60s; it's not very painful nor is it uncommon.
  3. Cabbage leaves - before or after nursing just place a fresh leaf on each side in your bra - this eases the pain and prevents congestion - especially if you are sore or engorged. 
  4. Stay hydrated: that doesn't mean tossing back a 10 oz glass of water every 2 hours. It means a lot of sipping. If you have to make herbal tea to keep yourself sipping - do it. If you do consume large amounts of water quickly, you'll actually dehydrate when your body works overtime to achieve a correct water-electrolyte balance. Pickles also help - the B vitamins help you stay hydrated.
  5. Which leads me to coconut water. Coconut water is an insanely good natural source of electrolytes. Without them, your body will not hold onto the water you need. Bananas are also great. (Don't use Gatorade, you can't digest it and neither can your baby.) Coconut water also has some kind of magical immune boosting power, so it's good for mama and baby. In South America mothers used coconut water to wean their children.
  6. Eat well. LOTS of protein and yes, carbs! Oatmeal is great for making milk in part because it has the perfect (and I don't like that word) balance of protein and carbs for the human being. I ate it every day with nuts for extra omegas - also good for baby. And you can use instant, which is great for new mommas.
  7. Get sleep. I didn't get enough and I regret it considerably: Dad can do one feeding a night!!! Yes, he can! And you won't lose your milk! But, if you're worried, pump into a bottle right before going to bed, and let papa heat it for baby for that 3 am wake-up.
  8. Once you've kinda got the whole infant thing down (I dunno... between 6 and 8 weeks old...) start pumping a bottle a day - that's 4 oz. You can freeze it or papa can give it to start bottle feeding, say once a week. We did both. Also, it's good to have a store for "what-ifs". For me it was a clogged duct that resulted in an infection. I was on strong antibiotics for 10 days that of course killed the probiotics in my son's stomach making him very uncomfortable. We had milk frozen. I kept pumping while on the antibiotics, and was able to give him the pumped milk - spread out once a day when he was in day care months later.
  9. Pumping tips: 
  • If you're going back to work get a GOOD pump! Medela is the best in my opinion and it needs to be both sides at once, a double pump. Obama passed a law that all pumps and pumping accessories and add-ons like bags are now covered by medical flexible spending, so keep your receipts for your FSA.
  • You'll probably need to pump about every 3 hours. I fed my son at 6 am, pumped at 10am, pumped at 2pm, and then fed him at 5:30pm for bedtime (and pumped later, but I'll get to that).
  • Always pump until the milk stops - that might be 12 minutes, it might be 23. Then KEEP pumping for at least 3 minutes. I would always got a second let down. I quickly went from pumping 3 oz per pump (about 20 mins) to 6 oz (about 25 mins) after I added the extra time- capturing the second let down. This happens because the sensation of "sucking" tells your body to make milk, so while you're pumping what was already sitting there - more is being made. You want to capture that let down, too so that your body is encouraged to keep making lots of milk.
  • When you're done, make yourself that herbal Fenugreek (Yogi is good) tea and sip away, then chow a couple tablespoons of peanuts. Making milk burns 500 - 800 calories a day, so don't diet.
  • If you wanna work out - that's fine. I did starting at 8 weeks, lost all my baby weight before returning to work at 20 weeks, and never dieted. I was eating constantly - but lots of protein.
  • Like most mothers - either when mama goes back to work, or baby starts sleeping through the night, you may see a drop in your milk. This is really frustrating, but don't worry, you can get it back. Here's how:
  1. Fenugreek herbal drops. If you get them really fresh they're very good. Drops are better than the pills also, and the taste is a bit fizzy. I put half a dropper's worth right on the tongue followed with OJ, 3 times a day. And Brewers yeast - for me it was 2 pills three times a day with the Fenugreek and I saw immediate results with both. (I never found published reasons not to use either of these; they were recommended to me by moms and midwives; and have been used for centuries.)
  2. Sipping - I would sip the "Nursing Support" Yogi tea (or Celestial Seasonings Bedtime) about an hour before bed, and a couple times during the day if I was up to it.
  3. Extra pumping really helps. Add on 2 more minutes after your second let down at work. this might put you at 35 minutes of pumping time twice a day at work, but remember - it's not forever; your work life will last loooong after your infant becomes a toddler.
  4. My son went to bed at 6 or 6:30pm for the first year, so I would nurse him at bedtime, then pump immediately after putting him down to get that second let-down, and again before bed, while sipping tea. That 9pm pump got me beyond what I needed per day for him, which helped a lot when those growth spurts came along.

My son, 2 weeks old

Dads, partners and babysitters, here's what you can do:
  • When warming milk, do it slowly. First defrost in the bag or bottle in the fridge. When ready to feed baby, run the bag/bottle under warm water from the faucet to loosen all the fats and proteins stuck to the bag (you can massage it), then heat water in a pan, take the pan off the stove, and drop the bottle into the pot gently circling the bottle - loosen all the good fat from the bag or bottle with massage and warm water.
  • DO NOT HEAT MILK in a PAN OR MICROWAVE! High heat kills all the good stuff.
  • DO NOT SHAKE THE BOTTLE! That also kills all the good stuff.
  • When you bottle feed baby, hold him or her like mom would while nursing. Go ahead and put a pillow on your lap so you can make yourself and baby comfortable.
  • Please hold your lil one both on the right and the left so he/she does not come to prefer one side, which can make it harder for mama to nurse on both sides (which she needs to do).
  • Babies consume a bottle much faster than nursing; after the feeding burp your baby over your shoulder or resting over your horizontal arm or lap. Try a few methods, and either rub or pat. I found firm, massage like rubbing in a circle over the back most effective but I'm sure every child is different.
  • Remember, baby is getting comfort from nursing, so try putting the baby's main blanket or mom's shirt over your shoulder while you feed. Later, mom and dad's scents will comfort baby and this really helps at bedtime, or when baby has to be with a different caretaker. (In earlier posts I talk about how the parents' scents comfort the baby, because she or he is made of you - you smell familiar because you are family - so that blanket needs mom and dad's scent - not another loved one, to do the job of giving comfort.)
  • Dads and partners, doing that one night feeding a day will make a BIIIG difference! You'll bond with baby; s/he will go back to sleep FASTER and sleep deeper - as will you and mom; your sweet love will be better rested the next day; and you'll know you made breastfeeding more sustainable - win-win!
My son, 17 months old

For all the new moms - LOVE you lots!! Congratulations on giving birth to your very own! If you have questions, leave a comment. If I cannot answer it - I'll find one for you before you go nuts between feedings!
And, if you have tips to add, please do so in the comments. Thank you and good luck to everyone!!
TIME OFF WITH BABY IV: Western Europe, in Her Infinite Wisdom

As we now consider the effects of paid parental leave policies studied in Time Off With Baby: The Case for Paid Leave Care, let's remind ourselves what the purposes of paid care leave are:
       "The Primary motivations for providing rights to parental leave are to:

  • more easily balance the competing demands of work and child rearing,
  • to enhance the labor market position of women, and
  • to improve child health and development." pp. 112
Let's just take a moment to breathe with that sentence. 
................................................................................................................................................................
I defy even the GOP to find anyone on God's Green Earth who believes these aims are not worth fighting for.

So, what are the policies in Europe and Canada and how do they affect children and families?
  • The nations studied offer:
  1. a minimum of 3 to 4 months of paid time off;
  2. often at least 6 months off but as much as a year or more of paid time;
  3. frequent rights to additional unpaid leave with job protection; and
  4. benefits that can be split between mothers and fathers (often giving additional supplements when fathers take a minimum of 2 weeks time).
  • For the most part parents took the full available allotment with women especially taking advantage of benefits, suggesting that policies must ameliorate the challenges of work-family balance.
  • "Short and intermediate duration" leaves have positive effects on women and employment: increases in female employment and reemployment after giving birth; and there were either no effect or small positive effects on women's wages. Fun fact: Danish researchers saw women's wages increase when leave time was increased from 14 to 20 weeks! (More women choosing to return to the same position after a period with baby rather than quit altogether?)
  • Possible effects of the "glass ceiling" were seen in employment segregation due to stymied female advancement, but only in nations where leave is extensive - over 1 yr. In the U.S. such long periods are not under consideration, so this is moot.
  • Some research showed child health benefits including reductions in infant and baby mortality, especially from 2 to 12 months when parent involvement is most crucial -- except in terms of education. However, raising a child is not building a computer. I'll wager that every parent out there who is involved in their child's life is as interested in psychological well-being, relationships, communication, self-reliance, and recently highlighted qualities like resilience of character - perhaps even more than educational achievement. It is in these developmental arenas that our children thrive due to our closeness, attention and love in the early months (see previous posts)- for we are raising human beings who feel, express, engage, enjoy, experience, and love other people, the world and themselves.*
  • However, research in Norway found that when paid care leave was, again, increased from 12 to 18 weeks, there were educational benefits, especially for girls and less educated children (the most vulnerable) suggesting that this increased bonding and support time in emotional care does contribute to a child's ability to learn - something, I think, frankly, is so obvious it's almost embarrassing to have to mention.
This is what paid care leave the world over looked like a month ago:


While I believe the U.S. can learn a lot from our brother and sister nations on Earth (and use a dose of healthy competition), I also know each nation has its own challenges, and the governmental policies of each nation reflect the culture of its peoples. So next week we'll take a closer look at our homeland through the policies of California answering what we tried and how it went down.

See you next week!


For more on character development I recommend The Social Animal by David Brooks or The Soul's Code by James Hillman, not to mention the poetry of Joy Harjo.

12 March 2013

TIME OFF WITH BABY III: Corporate Interests

After last week's poetic break from Time of with Baby: The Case for Paid Care Leave, I hope you're ready to sink your teeth into some real meat! We've talked about why parental leave for infants and babies is so important, for both families and society; what it means developmentally - emotionally and cognitively - for babies; and the societal economics in support of paid leave. Lets bite the bullet and deal with the primary enemy of paid care leave in the U.S.

Corporate lobbyists would have you believe the entire economic structure of this nation would fall under the burden of paid leave care costs. But, according to both California and our authors, Zigler, Muenchow, and Ruhm, things don't fall apart:
  • Employers benefit from paid parental leave: hiring and training costs for a new employee can be as much as 150% of the departing parent's salary.
  • Other employee costs are also lowered. For example, better maternal and child health reduce sick days and lower insurance costs (breastfed babies, for example, experience fewer infections; most day cares do not allow a child with a fever to come in).
  • Since California enacted its paid leave policies it has been found that most companies do not hire temporary workers, but divy up responsibilities between other members of the new parent's team.   Not only does this mean lower costs, but it utilizes the very reason most employees stay in a job - loyalty to supervisor and co-workers, who by the same token care about their friend who is out on leave, and know they, too, may need the support of co-workers in the future.
  • Further, it is a myth that companies will absorb all of the cost of paid parental leave. In many nations, as in California, employers' and employees', as well as state or federal funds, are aggregated to create pools from which benefits are paid, as with disability leave.
  • It's important also to mention that because of unpaid leave many women are forced into a slowed rate of career advancement and stymied earnings. Some women leave good positions because they wish to remain home with a child and find reentry to be a set-back in both position and earnings. Others are in effect, punished for having a child by lost wages, slower rate of promotions, and other ill effects.
  • Over half the nation's population earning less than they deserve and providing less than America needs slows the economy.
  • Every workplace benefits from greater diversity if only because it increases a company's chance of finding the right person for a job, creating greater stability and better productivity.
These findings paint a clear picture for me - everyone wins when families win. Which leads me to ask why so many in the United States are so fundamentally against paid care leave. Let's just try this out: is it ultimately not about our children, but about the mothers? 

The firestorm that erupted in the 2012 campaign season brought to bear a few major women's issues: 
  1. What's up with "legitimate rape"?
  2. Why did it take sooooo long to pass VAWA?
  3. And why did the GOP so vehemently oppose insurance coverage for oral contraceptives?
While these examples barely scrape the surface of the "war on women" they do point specifically to our power as creators... And to our vulnerability as creators.

I've talked about this issue before: only women can bring children into this world, but in many societies for far too long this has made us beholden to men and vulnerable to their insecurities, frustrations and need for control - over us, and what we bring forth.

Paid care leave is not only a family issue, but a women's issue. And a men's issue. When we as a society make the choice to uphold the family, we will acknowledge the essential roles of each member of the family, as well as the strengths and frailties of each member. It is in that light that we can see what a family truly is, and that we are at our best as individuals, families, coworkers, and government protectors when we accept and build on both strength and vulnerability: for that duality is our humanity.

Please leave your comments below! We'd love to hear what YOU think!

04 March 2013

Love Song to Sleep

Many moons ago I also promised you poetry. So let me honor that promise tonight.
I hope you enjoy...



The whole world is asleep
In the room next to mine –
His little fists curled around
A sweaty receiving blanket.

Eyes closed so gently to the night
And day alike,
To my steps over the floor,
And the 30-somethings’ party across the backyard,
To military jets overhead,
And the prostitutes
Under our front steps,
Their johns all unzipped and unaware…

That above their heads
The peace of sleep is ever pervasive,
blessing us all.

24 February 2013

TIME OFF WITH BABY II: Babies

When we left off last week, I gave some dismal numbers that probably left you a bit irritated about the condition of parental support for early life childcare. But there was a silver lining: that if America were to support parents in taking extended (6 months) leave to be home with their infants, our society as a whole could see benefits that are valued at as much as $17 to $1 of investment by some world renowned economists.

That's all fine and well, but most of us don't ask the monetary value of nursing our baby 8 times a day, or spending 20 minutes a day stacking blocks, knocking them over and laughing about it for a week. So, let's talk in human terms. What does it mean for parents to be home caring for their infant? and what does it mean for parents to be separated from their baby because they have to work?
  • Recent research has shown a clear relationship between early experiences, like nursing, and longterm behavior reinforcing the commonly held belief that these experiences influence the "wiring" of a baby's brain. To wit: what happens to an infant shapes his or her brain, for better or worse, even as brain plasticity is reduced as the child reaches 3 years old. The wiring of the brain in early years builds a foundation for every developmental ability that will occur in life, literally determining neural architecture.
  • Researchers have seen that both paid and unpaid maternity leaves facilitate maternal benefits including lessened depressive symptoms and severe depression, and support improved health generally. We know that how the mother feels is directly felt by her child and strongly effects how she behaves with her child at this very vulnerable period in brain development.
  • Oddly or not, only paid leave had a beneficial effect on infant health during a mother's leave. Perhaps this is why researchers recommend a minimum of 6 months of full-time breastfeeding, but at least 4 months if 6 cannot be managed, and - as most working mothers have experienced - mama needs to be home to make that happen. (From other sources: all mama needs to do is smell her baby and milk flows. Separate mama and baby, and that process is arrested.)
  • Personally, I was relieved to hear this book report that many moms echoed the sentiments I felt daily, and repeated them: "I know my baby is in a good place, but I know what she needs best." "I feel stressed (or guilty) that I am not with my baby during these months." "I am being 'cheated out of an important experience.'" "If he could only sit up (usually happens reliably between 6 and 7 months), I would feel better [less horrible] about leaving him."
  • Urie Bronfrenbrenner, developmental psychologist, is quoted as saying, "in order to develop normally, a child needs the enduring, irrational involvement of one or more adults in care of and joint activity with that child... somebody has to be crazy about that kid."
  • The authors boil down the relevant research about parent-child relations to this: "It is almost as if parents and babies are programmed to care for each other."
  • Erik Erikson is supported in his notion that the most fundamental task of infant caregivers is to form basic trust.
  • Some research has shown that if the mother returns to work full time at any point in the first year of life, children show cognitive delays at 3, 4 or 5, and sometimes as late as 7 or 8 years old. (New research shows that if that return to work brings significant funding into the house, and care provided is ok, the negative effects are negated.) When fathers supplement some of that care - lesser effects are seen.
  • Additionally, at least one recent study showed that extended hours of nonmaternal care (more than full time work) were linked to greater impulsivity and risk taking as late at 15 years old. Additionally, research has shown elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels in children 12 - 24 months old who were cared for out of the home [I've seen this, it's very disturbing; my child didn't act like himself, he was inconsolable and miserable until falling asleep.] In some kids it gets high enough to call "toxic stress" triggering fear, anxiety and aggression.
  • By the same token, babies 3 to 54 months old who were in 30 hours or less per week of day care did not show greater behavioral problems than those home with a parent full time.
  • But if you're like me, and have no choice but to go back to work when your baby is just 19 weeks old, hear this: "Across all outcome measures, the influence of parents appears to be greater than that of nonparental child care. Put simply, parent-child interactions have a much stronger effect on the child's development than does the child's experience in out-of-home care." So, if you have to go back, and you don't work too much, and you love that child as much as you can, your child is really going to be ok.
But it all boils down to one thing for me: that those irrationally crazy-about-the-baby parents should be able to be with their child at this critical time in their child's life if they chose. And society should help them do it. Our society should help us do it.


Please leave your comments, thoughts, concerns and even additional research if you've got it below. Let's talk about what all of this means, for us, today, as moms and dads in the real world.

Research above is reported from  Time Off With Baby: The Case for Paid Care Leave by Edward Zigler, Susan Muenchow and Christopher J. Ruhm, 2012.

17 February 2013

TIME OFF WITH BABY I: Economics

So now that both Howard Dean and President Barack Obama are talking, will the nation start listening?

While Obama took the "attainable goals" (please don't laugh, these are our kids, right?) approach, Howard Dean, followed his typical "hold no prisoners" route. And God bless him, because I'm not likely to drop my zero-to-three advocacy, and Lord knows we could use a very public defender on our side on this debate, yes, even if it's due to make us all laugh (these are our kids, right?).

So, now that the conversation has been publicly reopened on early care by Mr. Dean, and pre-school by Mr. President, let me give you some ammunition. I accepted it as my obligation to read Time Off with Baby: The Case for Paid Care Leave (thank you, Tris) in November after writing my last post. But let me tell you this is one motha' of a text, and it took me a while to distill for you only the most exciting, gut-wrenching and salient points, so that when we do make our elevator speeches, by golly, we leave our listeners downright nauseated. Are you with me!?

I'll try to convey what I've learned in a few posts so we can both maintain sanity. Since it's what America knows best (I have a pet theory that slavery sowed the seed of capitalism), let's put our money where our mouths are. For today, we'll talk economics, because if we don't start there, as you know, in the U S of A, we will never get anywhere. (When you talk to the Devil use his language.)

Major bullets, compliments of authors Edward Zigler, Susan Muenchow and Christopher J. Ruhm:

  • Nobel economist James Heckman determined that investment in the earliest years of life yields higher returns than can be achieved through funding any other time in the lifespan: for each DOLLAR invested in early childhood, between $4 and $17 - SEVENTEEN - are saved. In societal terms, we reduce crime, teen pregnancy and welfare need, and increase schooling, workforce productivity and health. I'd like a taste of that ROI!
  • Full-time Center-based care for an infant in 2009 ranged in cost from $4570 in Mississippi to $18993 in Massachusetts: the average annual cost then was more than the average annual cost of a year's tuition and fees at a 4-year public college in 40 states. Did you plan to pay for 8 years of higher education per child?
  • When Educare, a research-based childcare production set out to initiate programs in a few locations to provide exactly what infants, babies and pre-schoolers needed in day care, cost was estimated at $16K - $17K per year per child ... in Maine. So, when your child receives what he or she deserves by scientifically established humane standards, developed to support your child's beneficial growth - mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and physically - it actually costs as much as higher education.
  • By today's standards, the government has agreed that childcare must cost no more than 20% of income above the poverty line to be considered "affordable". A month of my child's not-bad-at-all, probably not stellar 2-year-old day care for 3 days per week costs me one week of take home pay. That's 25% of my above-poverty line salary, as an officer, by the way. Let's thank God, once more, that I'm married and my husband is home two days a week, because if not, I'd be shelling out 33% of my take home pay on daycare.
I'm going to ruin the ending of the book for you, just so we're on the same page here (ba da bum bum bum). In California parents are already provided with a shared approximately 50% pay for 6 months of early child care leave. And after doing the math, spending some serious time with babies and mothers, then dropping in on the work world, these economists are recommending a federal program that offers California's benefits in all 50 states. Not so much because that's what's best for the family or baby but because of everything out there which would probably be better (in Europe some moms get paid for up to 2 years), this is a compromise that is affordable for our nation as she stands now, and gives families the best start within the limitations we face through a policy that we might actually pass. Attainable goals, people. The authors wanted to be taken seriously.


This is a picture of my son with his Aunt. Why? Because my son is one of those lucky children who is loved and cared for by the whole village. Some children are not that fortunate. And while we may not be able to get everyone involved in taking care of every child, we can all be involved in supporting at least the two people who matter most: mama and daddy, so that they can give everything they have to raising their child.

Not sure moms and dads matter so much?? - check in with me next week.

And let's talk! Add your comments and questions and thoughts below!