Elisabeth Badinter & modern motherhood

I read this week’s New Yorker piece yesterday on the French feminist Elisabeth Badinter. The full article is unfortunately not available online but there is a summary of it here:
There is quite a bit in the article about her feelings about women and Islam (for example, she is in favor of the niqab ban) but a lot of it relates to her new book about modern day motherhood.

Badinter is convinced that young Frenchwomen have been undermining their hard-won claims to equality. She believes that, in the name of “difference,” young women are falling victim to sociobiological fictions that reduce them to the status of female mammals, programmed to the “higher claims” of womb and breast.

She herself has 3 children, by the way – she is quoted in the New Yorker as saying they all arrived very quickly (I think within 3.5 years) partly because her husband was quite a bit older. She is now a grandma of 3 who takes the grandchildren away every other weekend to their country home. She is quite wealthy.

Here she is being interviewed in Der Spiegel –

Badinter: We are currently living through a troubling phase in our development, a relapse to times long past. In French, we call this phenomenon “l’enfant roi,” or “the child is king.” According to this view, the interests of the mother are clearly less important than those of the child; they are secondary. And that, in turn, brings with it the desire to have the perfect child. Many of today’s young mothers believe that if they’re going to make the effort to stay at home and completely dedicate themselves to their children, they want them to be perfect, too: perfectly raised, intelligent, balanced, in harmony with nature. I honestly wonder how this affects children in the long term.

SPIEGEL: You’re particularly opposed to breastfeeding, which women are gently pressured to do.

Badinter: Gently pressured? Sure, with the help of a massive guilt trip! “You don’t want to breastfeed? But, Madame, don’t you want the very best for your baby?”

The New Yorker article commented that breastfeeding rates at 3 months in France were by far the lowest in Europe, I believe it was 30% vs. (for example) Norway’s 90%. French women work full time at a very high rate, however they have twice as many children as several other European countries. France has a very good child care system.

SPIEGEL: Has the model of their mothers really made women happy?

Badinter: Though it certainly wasn’t perfect, it was a huge leap forward. We could have kids and work — and no one made us feel bad about it. I think that’s one of the big differences between French and German women. French women have always been women first and foremost, and only then mothers. Shortly after giving birth they don’t just stay at home with their child; they go out, and they go back to work quickly. They want to return to their lives and be a part of society, and they also have to be a woman again, to be seductive — that’s what French men expect. It’s not just an upper-crust phenomenon, either. It’s in our genes. Even in the 17th and 18th century, women had a life apart from the children — a communal life, a social life, a love life.

The above quote made me wonder how much of this has to do with the role of women specifically in France. Evidently in the book one of the things she is opposed to is the family bed. The importance of sexuality to adult womanhood and the fact that she thinks it is less possible among women who are living more for their children is one of the reasons I think she is opposed to the newer model of motherhood.

Badinter: I can tell you something else I’ve learned over the years by looking out my window and watching mothers walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg park: I’ve spent hours watching their empty faces and their God-how-I-hate-all-of-this expressions. These women sit bored by the side of the sandpit looking to the left and the right, while their children play alone in the sand. Why can’t women admit that it can be unbearable to have to spend the whole day with a small child? That doesn’t automatically make you a bad mother.

SPIEGEL: So, what is a “good” mother, then?

Badinter: The French ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss said that you should always maintain the right distance between two cultures. I believe that a good mother is someone who manages to keep a certain distance between herself and her child — not too close, not too far away — to give it what it needs, to not smother it, to not be constantly absent or constantly present. She has to be something in between. But, unfortunately, that’s extremely rare.

The book appears to be coming out in English in January. The French version was reviewed earlier this year in several places.

The Daily Beast

Yes, the great new oppressor of women—according to the impassioned screed of a popular French author—is that warm, pudgy little creature in the crib. “The baby,” writes polemic philosopher Elisabeth Badinter, “is the best ally of masculine domination.”

Badinter’s recently released screed has divided feminists, angered ecologists, annoyed health experts, and become a bestseller in France. The book may have an academic title— Le Conflit, la femme et la mère ( Conflict, Woman and Mother)—but it might as well be called: New Mom, Your Life Is Over! She rails against the sanctification of motherhood, over-the-top environmental-sensitivity, and return-to-nature trends in contemporary child rearing that relegate the modern mother to the level of a “female chimpanzee.” A mother of three, Badinter argues that the progressive demands on motherhood take away a woman’s physical freedoms, smothers her social life, and usurps her sexuality, among other laments—all in the name of being a “good” mother. And despite mom’s best intentions, she will never quite be good enough.

The New York Times

“Women’s lives have grown more difficult in the last 20 years,” Ms. Badinter said in an interview. “Professional life is ever harder, ever more stressful and unattractive, and on the other hand, there is an accumulation of new moral duties weighing on women.”

In “Le Conflit: la femme et la mère” (“Conflict: The Woman and the Mother”), she contends that the politics of the last 40 years have produced three trends that have affected the concept of motherhood, and, consequently, women’s independence. First is what she sums up as “ecology” and the desire to return to simpler times; second, a behavioral science based on ethology, the study of animal behavior; and last, an “essentialist” feminism, which praises breast-feeding and the experience of natural childbirth, while disparaging drugs and artificial hormones, like epidurals and birth control pills.

All three trends, Ms. Badinter writes, “boast about bringing happiness and wisdom to women, mothers, family, society and all of humankind.” But they also create enormous guilt in a woman who can’t live up to a false ideal. “The specter of the bad mother imposes itself on her even more cruelly insofar as she has unconsciously internalized the ideal of the good mother,” she writes.

The Guardian

Thanks to a new coalition of ecologists, breastfeeding advocates and behavioural specialists, she argued, young women are facing increasing pressure to be perfect mothers who adhere to strict guidelines for how to care for their babies.

If this “regressive” movement takes hold, French feminism could be set back decades, she argued.

“The majority of French women [now] reconcile maternity with professional life. Many of them work full-time when they have a child. They are resisting the model of the perfect mother, but for how long?” Badinter said in an interview with Libération newspaper. “I get the impression that we may now be at a turning point.”

Ms. Magazine asks, “Will Elisabeth Badinter’s new book rile Oprah mommies?”

She does, however, hold fast to the philosophical tradition of Simone de Beauvoir, arguing that a woman’s identity must be determined outside of motherhood or, as she writes “a woman first and mothers second.” Badinter is primarily interested in deconstructing “essentialist feminism” which, she suggests, “boasts about bringing happiness and wisdom” to mothers and families but subverts feminism and holds mothers to a false ideal (one can never actually be a perfect mother)

Badinter suggests that the culture of masochism and female sacrifice to maternity is at unforeseen levels in America, where the ideology is fueled. One only needs to look at the case of Ayelet Waldman for an example.  Waldman, some of you might remember, was booed on Oprah and demonized by mothers across the country for daring to suggest that she loves her husband more than her children.

Jezebel has a jokey take on it all as well, with perhaps unsurprisingly the most positive review of her out there that I ran across. She’s good at getting press, that’s for sure.

I like to listen to podcasts while I run and last week I was listening to the Slate Double X gabfest. The July 14 one discusses In Spite of Everything, which is a Gen X divorce memoir. Evidently the author is a child of divorce herself and I think maybe her husband is too. In the podcast one of the women commented that she thought in the 1970s divorce was treated more casually than it is today and that she thought there is something of a backlash against that for modern day married people. I believe she also related this to modern day parenting: that women today take parenting much more seriously than women did 30 years ago. I thought this was similar to Elisabeth Badinter’s contentions about the idea of maternal perfection, as well. She comments in that Spiegel interview,

What we’re currently experiencing is daughters taking revenge on their mothers. I didn’t want to be like my mother, either — that is, sitting at home waiting for daddy to get there, hoping that he’d give me some money. I wanted to be independent. The current generation of young women is made up of the daughters of the feminists of the 1970s. They don’t want to be like their mothers — torn between their job and their family, constantly stressed, constantly tired. They think it must be much more satisfying to devote themselves entirely to their children.

I think she has a point that the culture of maternal perfection and subjugation to the children does have an impact in that it is the ideal in American mothering culture at the moment and is difficult to live up to. The fact that it doesn’t seem to be nearly as much a part of MotherTalkers as it does on some other parenting blogs is one reason I prefer being here where people are pretty live and let live. (Ms. was a bit snide in calling them “Oprah mommies.”)

I’m not so much on board with Badinter’s idea that you have to work in order to be a fully actualized woman – I work (part time) but I think it is kind of an old fashioned idea that women have to work. The 1970s feminists had a real backlash from women couldn’t work to all women should work and my hope is that nowadays we have somewhat gotten to more of a balance where every family can decide for themselves what is the right work situation for the mother and hopefully the father as well. I like working and having that adult and more intellectual challenge, but I also like having time for my home and my family, so that’s what works best for us. I’m sure other families have worked out a situation that is best for them as well. I don’t agree with the one size fits all prescription.

So – what are your thoughts?


49 thoughts on “Elisabeth Badinter & modern motherhood

  1. Well, all I have to say

    Is that my life is more fulfilling now than it was before kids.  My friendships are much deeper.  I worked full time then, and now I work flex/ casual.  So yeah, my thoughts are that this woman has spent a bit too much time navel gazing.  What’s true for her is not true for everyone.  Plus, I really ENJOY and LOVE my kids, even if there are periods of exhaustion and boredom.  So there’s that.  I never thought having kids would be all rainbows, sunshine and self actualization all the time!

  2. Ok…I didn’t go to all the links

    and read full interviews/pieces, but from what you highlighted, I do indeed get what she’s saying.  

    I don’t think it’s all just about women working.  We are living in a sentimental age.  Children and motherhood are placed very high in the pantheon.  And yes, even from the time in which I had my children, there seems to be a big change in how women are supposed to see themselves.  I don’t think anyone would disagree with the notion that becoming a parent is indeed a pivotal point in one’s life…it does change everything.  However, how much should it change?  That’s the area of question.  I do see that younger mothers today are being pressured all the time with the “but it’s the BEST for your CHILDREN!”  It is a means of control.  I look back at my mother’s generation, and you know what?  They were mostly stay at home mothers, but I never recall anyone pressuring my mother to breastfeed, play or set up play dates for her children, make friends based on her children, make major financial decisions based on her children, or plan any particular part of her life solely around her children.  Now, my mom was a great mother…and I think women by and large will be “good” mothers without being pressured into giving up individuality or having societal pressure to behave otherwise.  

    • good points as usual,

      But I think it is a little different now because there weren’t a lot of career choices readily available to your mom like there are now.  I was raised in the whole “you can be anything you want to be!” generation, and I do feel pulled in two directions…not to waste my education, but yet to do what’s best for the kids and be at home with them.  Which, to both camps, I say “I will do what works for my family, thank u very much!”

    • Yes, work is just

      one piece of it. A big part is her thought that the focus on motherhood in one specific stripe (attachment / natural parenting, breastfeeding, cosleeping, cloth diapers, etc) is setting women and feminism back because it means women have to return to their “traditional” roles and removes them from public life. I think there is definitely some truth to that.

      It’s hard to balance the needs of children, particularly small children, against the desire to have an adult, separate life.

      • To add to that

        I think your point was more general in terms of the control rather than the public life aspect – the issue of always putting children’s needs above our own and the pressure to do so being a form of control. I think that is a good point.

        Internal conflict: the hallmark of motherhood in 2011?

        • I think it is indeed the hallmark.

          Parenting has never been an easy task, but I don’t think there’s ever been a time when women were so set up to second guess every decision they make.  

          • Perhaps the increase in research

            and publications and websites on things like child development, child health, parenting and so forth plays into the idea that there is one correct way to do things and therefore if you’re not doing that you are in some sense failing your children.

            • I’m currently reading

              an older book (from the 90s, but these things move so fast) called “Parents Who Think Too Much”.  The author argues that even if the information is valuable, unless it is highly factual and practical (such as when a fever has spiked too high), everything parents read only serves to undermine out confidence and make us think we’re not doing enough.  We’ve gotten the message “never trust your own instincts”.  It’s ringing very true for me.  I haven’t read a lot of parenting books, and obviously the ones I have are the ones that validate my own opinions and style anyway.  However, I constantly find myself falling short of being the parent “Your Competent Child”, which is my favorite, tells me to be.  

              I’m treating my children as though they are incompetent!  And the only way to change this is to do a complete overhaul myself as a person!  I was a lot happier in Simone’s first year, when I smugly turned my nose up at most books and all philosophies.  

      • I agree with her

        point that mothers are set up with enormous expectations — should they choose to accept them. IME it’s pretty easy NOT to get on board the perfectionist mother train, because really what happens if you DON’T breastfeed? If you DON’T take your baby to exercise classes, if you DO work and use childcare? It seems to me the repercussions are small (dirty looks at the coffee shop while you bottle feed?) and fleeting. (I say that as someone who has never truly experienced the Mommy Wars so ymmv.) Let me tell you, at my stage — college apps — no one is asking if I used formula!

        What riles me about Badinter is she claims that women are kept down by the excessive standards for being a good mommy, when really what should be keeping them down is whether or not they are sexy enough for men. Puh-leeze.

    • I see that as true

      and kind of of a piece with way conservatives push madonna/slut versions of womanhood, and it’s woven through our pop culture in general…

      There’s really no such thing, in the media, as “good enough” parenting if women are doing it.  (And probably not if other marginalized folks are doing it, either; being poor or a person of color are additional strikes against the possibility of your way being good enough for the precious children, but then again poor children and children of color are less precious, to the degree that you could probably apply the Tragedy Scale in America: The Book.)

  3. I tend to think

    the repercussions tend to be more internal than external for the most part. When things don’t work out as hoped then maybe you question whether you did something wrong in your parenting. I know I experience this if they are not behaving well or whatever. With your training you may have more self confidence in your parenting than maybe I do, I don’t know :)

    I find these years more complicated that way than early childhood.

    • for your sake,

      I sure hope I’m not more confident than you. Most of my calories are spent on second-guessing, I think 😉

      For me it’s more like what Erin says — I’m not living up to what I’ve internalized as my own expectations and I’m down on myself as a result. I don’t feel like the world is down on me, is pressuring me to do it differently, or even knows how badly I’m doing. Maybe I just have a different experience of external/internal standards?

      And I completely agree about the complications. It has been immensely more difficult to know how to help my child as he’s become more selective about what he tells me, and as he is presented with scenarios I know nothing about. As a baby when he couldn’t talk I could pretty much tell what he needed, and as a younger kid he talked so much there was no guessing involved. Now? A wing and a prayer, as they say.

  4. Maybe

    I’m missing totally missing Badminter’s point, but I don’t see this as a working mom/SAHM issue at all. I think you can drive yourself crazy as either.

    My mom always worked, but my friend’s mom didn’t and I don’t remember her doing anything like moms do today. She was truly a stay-at-home mom. Of course, she had six kids, so she was working her butt off to keep up with the daily care and maintenance, but homemaking was her work. She was not living up at the school like so many SAHMs today, she didn’t have her kids in a million activities (they could do activities if they could get there and they had the money for them), and she certainly didn’t sit there all night being the Homework Police. She was very happy, loved and took care of her large family, and she was a wonderful mom to have around the neighborhood for latchkey kids like me.

    • I think her point on work

      is that the trend toward wanting to be the perfect mother means that women are spending less time working or otherwise in public life and that removal is a step backwards. I think she sees it as a return to 50s style domesticity (put in American terms anyway) and that’s what her generation rebelled against.

      • Oh

        Got it. Yeah, not sure I agree with her on that. Have to think about that. Have we really gone “backward” as she says? I don’t think so.

        The GenX/divorce book you mentioned looks very interesting (which I would like to read). I think my view on family life are affected by what I saw growing up in my own life including my parents’ divorce and my mom always having to work.

        • Mine too

          I was a latchkey kid from second grade on. My mom worked two jobs or worked and went to night school until I was in sixth or seventh grade. I wanted to avoid job stress, since she would take out a lot of stress on her kids, and also wanted to be more present for my kids. I think a lot of people are parenting in reaction to their own upbringing.

          The generation before us sees it through their lens, where it was a mark of women’s progress to work outside the home. I think women today are more inclined to view it as a personal choice (in that we are talking about the very narrow slice of Americans who can choose) and not as a step backward forced on us by societal pressure to be perfect. I’m not convinced that women who make the choice to stay home (out of “society”–really? Like, we’re hiding in the basement or something?) are undermining the feminist movement. Crackheads like Bachmann and Palin do actual damage, and no one can dispute they are in the public sphere.

  5. It seems like it could be true

    I mean, from a macro- point of view, I get what she’s saying. There are people out there who get bogged down in popular parenting philosophies to their own detriment. But maybe because I have only ever read two parenting books in my entire life, and because my standard is “Are you doing better than your moderately dysfunctional mother?”, I feel like I’m doing a fine job with my kids, I like my part-time work arrangement, and while I wish I had a little more time to myself, I don’t agonize over it. It’s just part of having young kids. And my friends, working FT or PT or not at all, have similar outlooks. Maybe that’s part of the glory or being a middle-class Midwesterner and not an upper-crust Frenchwoman, though. Not too much navel-gazing around these parts.

    • Yeah

      I think how obsessive you want to be about motherhood and being perfect isn’t necessarily related to working or not.

      I agree that there are certainly cultural and regional differences at play here. Most mothers and fathers are really just trying to hold it together and do the best they can, whether working or at home or something in between.

      • Not sure I agree

        The uber-moms (or “mompetitors”) I’ve known tend to be the women who gave up a career to stay home.  There seems to be this edge of having to justify what they are doing by showing that they can do it better than the moms who haven’t dedicated every moment of each day to childrearing.  It’s the, “oh, you feed your child jarred baby food?  I puree everything from fresh organic ingredients.  Of course if you’re too busy…” attitude.  Perhaps in some cases if they are leaving a highly competitive career they can’t immediately shift gears, and end channelling that energy into childrearing.

        • I tend to agree

          In my work I have often wished out loud that a certain class of parent would get a job, already, and stop expecting “deliverables” from their children. Sadly, some of them have a need to see and treat their children as more impaired/disabled than they really are, because then their sacrifice seems more worthwhile? tolerable? These are the parents who drive 90 miles 3 times a week to a practitioner when there are several equally good ones near their homes. A form of martyrdom, sometimes.

          • folks

            I know you’ve mentioned these types of folks before, and it always amazes me. Who would wish for their child to be more impaired than they really are? Makes no sense to me.

            I agree with you on the first sentence, but I’m not sure it’s related to working or not. I think there are a lot of neurotic working moms too.

            • I tend to see it

              more in parents who’ve had careers. It’s like they’re wired to work hard and fast and their pedal is stuck even when what’s called for is relax, give it time, be flexible, enjoy yourself and your child. Some of these kids are hauled from appointment to appointment like you wouldn’t believe, and that is their life. These parents complain to me about their kids’ social skills and I have to ask, When exactly would they have developed those? You don’t learn how to be with other kids by staring at your mom’s headrest from the backseat.

              I had a problem with a parent a few years ago — she was quite traumatized and angry and stuck. I needed some time to work with him and she would say “How about from 11:30 to 11:45?” I tried to explain that that’s about how much time I take to help the child warm up and feel comfortable before testing. I even offered to go to their home in the evening or on the weekend but they could not find any 1-hour blocks (and even then I would have had to return 2 – 3 times). It was unreal. He had vision therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills class, aqua therapy, hippotherapy (horses), plus scheduled long naps, long feeding times, etc., and he was in school (6 years old). I don’t think he ever had an unscheduled moment.

              I can kind of understand it because I had self-worth issues when I was home with my son. I had just begun grad school and therefore whatever was going to happen after that obviously hadn’t happened and I felt like I was looking into a void, career-wise. It made me really uneasy. I also had a strong need to contribute financially, even though we didn’t have an actual need at that time. Weird.

              There’s another set of parents with undiagnosed Munchausen’s by proxy, and another set that doesn’t like their kid and needs to have lots of diagnoses to prove it’s the child, not them. Work with the public long enough and you will see it all, I tell you. Fortunately the good, normal, affectionate, accepting parents are far greater in number.

          • this makes a certain sense to me

            I know I occasionally lean on the “I have a medical needs child” thing to excuse my unemployment, even though it’s not a huge time burden.  I don’t amplify it or go the martyrdom route but it’s an occasional crutch, an easy out; nobody questions it.  Moms who are satisfied with an SAHM identity wouldn’t need to do that, but that’s not me – it’s an easy way to duck an implied, “why are you home if you don’t want to be?”

            • it makes sense

              to me, especially if the parent is not at home by choice, but there’s a subset who go overboard. And a child doesn’t have to be deeply impaired to need an at-home parent; the unpredictability is all, I would think, for you and GiGi (plus the lengthy clinic visits for your son’s enzymes).

          • there it is

            In my work I have often wished out loud that a certain class of parent would get a job, already, and stop expecting “deliverables” from their children.

            There’s a sort of parent (mom) who is holding herself to the ideals Badinter references and who really would be best served by working, but won’t do it because it isn’t natural enough. Instead, she’s just making everyone around her miserable and holding her kids to standards they can’t possibly attain. My friend like this is finally, finally on Zoloft, but I don’t think she’d need the Zoloft if she had a part time job.

            I, on the other hand, feel equally obligated to my kids and my career/ earning potential and probably need to take a step BACK into part time work but can’t seem to figure that out, so go figure.

        • Yeah

          but you live in California  ; )

          I never saw anyone freak out about baby food or breastfeeding or co-sleeping or all of the stuff this author is talking about. Now, I do see a lot of moms going way overboard on activities and volunteering, and I do think that might be a compensation for the fact they aren’t working in their careers anymore.

          Again, I still think this is a relatively small percentage of moms overall, although in some communities it wouldn’t feel that way.

          • Perhaps the fact

            that she is very privileged is playing into this too. She sees a very specific slice of mothers. The Wiki page on her (while not all correct as it says she has one child and she has 3) says she is one of the wealthiest women in France.

  6. She’s missing the point

    In my opinion the problem isn’t getting women to do less for their children but in getting men to do more.  I think pouring love and energy into the young people of a society is brilliant; it just shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of women.  

    As for breastfeeding and the like, family-friendly policies make it easier for women and men to balance work and home life.  Once the family-friendly policies are in place and women are aware (rather than bamboozled by formula companies) of the benefits of breastfeeding/whatever they can make their own damn informed choice.  And the crazy people with nothing better to do than criticize other people’s choices can suck it.

    • I love this:

      pouring love and energy into the young people of a society is brilliant; it just shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of women.  

    • yes, yes and yes!

      DH just started a new job. For the first time in his working  career, his boss is also a man with young children. The new boss has told DH that he wants to instill more work-life balance in the team and has followed up on that by taking a day off to stay home with the kids when his wife needed to do something for medical purposes. DH said that night “I finally feel like I can arrange for time like that without losing face with the boss.”

      So there you go…

        • you know?!

          It frustrates me, but I get it that previously, DH would never make regular arrangements to come in late or leave early to do school runs, dinner time, etc. Particularly in the last job, DH had a boss who not only was a single man with no children but a control freak who liked to work long hours and liked to schedule meetings starting at 5.30 or 6 p.m., attendance mandatory.

          I think that feminists’ “battle” for the 21st century is to make it possible for men to say “I’m leaving early to pick my kid up from school” without being embarassed or lose face in a corporate environment. Because I think that when that happens, it’ll cease to be an issue for women as well.

    • I think though,

      that overall it’s been shown the most effective way to have men do more is to have women do a lot less.  Goes for childrearing and for housework too.  Men step up to the plate when they have to, but people in general don’t step in to put in effort when someone else will do it if they don’t.

      • I agree

        And I definitely live that in my life.  It just rubs me the wrong way when writers seem to be suggesting that children are nuisances and should be farmed off to be taken care of.  I think kids are pretty awesome and moms & dads should be involved in their lives.  They should be able to do other fantastic non-kid things, too of course.

  7. part of me liked what Badinter articulated

    I have to say, part of me liked that Badinter was articulating the pressure on mothers to be perfect. I’ve had my fair share of sitting next to the sandbox and wondering how life had come to saying “one scoop, two scoops, three scoops! Yes, we filled the bucket!” There is a ton of pressure on women to stay home with the children; in Jess’s kindergarten year, there are just around 100 kids. I’ve found five women who work full-time. Five. I sit in a bucket with about a third of other mothers in that I work part-time from home. The rest are SAHM.

    OTOH, Badinter elides over the fact that in France, there is de jure sexism all over the goddamn place. Don’t even get into the tyranny of social expectations for women in France to embody a certain type of femininity at all times. Don’t even talk about the fact that even though there is subsidized daycare and free five-day/week part-time nursery school classes from 3, it’s the women that do the balance of care on the other hours. Or the pay gap between men and women.

    • Thanks

      I was thinking you would be able to provide a good perspective with respect to France.

      Interesting that there are so few working mothers in at least your part of Australia. I seem to find that working moms are more common in expensive areas, and isn’t housing quite expensive where you are? How do people afford a $750k-$1 mil house on one salary? Or are salaries just a lot higher there?

      • salaries are higher

        we only have 33m people to make a country run, with strong trade unions, so salaries are higher. The minimum wage is currently $15.51 per hour or $589.30 per week. But people really struggle with housing. I can count at least 15 families off the top of my head for whom mortgage stress is a real and present concern.

        Now I do admit freely that I live in a little bubble myself; my little corner of heaven does tend to be higher on the SES scale and Jess’s school reflects that.

    • Yeah,

      that’s a significant thing to leave out.  It sounds like there is significant support for women to preserve most of their lives when they are also mothers…but only if those lives conform to a certain cultural standard.

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