Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, I want to wish our Cynmill — and Laura! — a very happy birthday. Here’s to a fabulous day for a fabulous trio!

In case you missed it, Newt Gingrich won the Republican primary in South Carolina this past Saturday. Here are detailed results courtesy of AP.

Brain, Child magazine ran a bittersweet story on the complicated history and nature of sibling relationships.

This blog post at BlogHer, in which a new mom claims that “parenting isn’t hard” and that yelling at your children in public is tantamount to abuse, perhaps not surprisingly, garnered a lot of reaction in the thread.

A couple in the UK that refused to reveal the gender of their baby for five years, just announced to the world that they have a boy, according to Yahoo Shine.

Parents magazine published a comprehensive story on the lack of paid maternity leave in this country. MomsRising executive director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner was quoted in the second half of the story.

Actress Jessica Alba launched an organic diapering service called Honest.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

If you can humble me with another bragging moment, I won the “Best Activist Blogger” trophy for the Latinos in Social Media Awards. It was a thrill to receive the results live via Twitter. Thank you for voting for me and for your ongoing support over the years. When I left my reporting job eight years ago, I would have never imagined being a part of this dynamic community and doing what I do for work. I feel so incredibly fortunate and blessed. ¡Gracias!  

For the first time in U.S. history, a majority of moms — 50.8 percent — are receiving paid maternity leave, according to Bloomberg News. However, the United States has no national paid leave policy so some of this may be due to women cobbling together disability, sick days and vacation days. Also, very few women without a high school diploma receive any paid time off (19%).

I want to scream every time I hear the “immigrant-children-will-never-learn-English” meme in this country. As it turns out, immigrant families are having a hard time keeping their children bilingual, according to the Boston Globe.

OMG. Michelle Duggar is pregnant with her 20th child, according to the TODAY Show.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

Update: Okay, here is the radio interview. I am 29 minutes in and take turns talking with a doula named Miriam Perez. Aside from my tangents on questions 3 and 4, I think I did fine. So listen away if you want to practice your Spanish! -Elisa:)

What’s up?

President Barack Obama has nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, according to the Associated Press. I was impressed by Obama’s speech yesterday on TV and like that Kagan would become the third woman on the bench if voted in by Congress. But I read mixed things about her at Daily Kos because she hasn’t actually served as a judge so not all of her positions are clear. What do you all think?

One debate I unfortunately got sucked into — although I did not participate — was the one about the “motherless Supreme Court.” Here is a Huffington Post column knocking it. Not since Sandra Day O’Connor has a mother served on the Supreme Court, even though we make up 81 percent of women 45 years and younger. (The latter U.S. Census Bureau statistics were compiled by MomsRising, by the way.) Do you think it matters?

My opinion for what it’s worth: I don’t think any candidate for any job should be judged by parental status and Justice John Paul Stevens is a great example of that. But I do think the lack of women nominees who are mothers is emblematic of our outdated work policies: the new 60-hour work week, a lack of paid family leave, paid sick days, subsidized childcare and the wage gap, which is largely due to maternal status. Women without children make 90 cents to a man’s dollar while mothers make 73 cents and the single mother makes 60 cents to a man’s dollar. Also, mothers are 79 percent less likely to get a job than someone without children who has the same resume. All of these stats are fresh on my mind as I did a radio interview on it yesterday.

The non-profit organization Save the Children just came out with a report on the countries with the “best conditions for motherhood.” Norway topped the list in the developed world, followed by Australia, Iceland and Sweden. In the developing world, Cuba topped the list, followed by Israel, Argentina and Barbados. I was on the nationally syndicated Radio Bilingüe’s “línea abierta” or “open line” show to discuss the conditions that led the United States to a mere No. 28 ranking on the “more developed countries” list. As a representative of MomsRising, I talked about the lack of paid national maternity leave and even sick days for mothers, which by the way, have helped close the wage gap in the rest of the developed world. It just doesn’t exist. I wish the program would link to the segment. If not, I will post when it appears online. Anyways, rather than start some culture war between mothers and non-mothers, I think this is the real debate we should be having.

U.S. regulators recalled best friend charm bracelets from Claire’s because of their high levels of cadmium, according to AP.

From the ethics files: Gawker ran a fascinating story about a feud movie critic Roger Ebert had with some tea party activists on twitter. Five California students were sent home on Cinco de Mayo for intentionally wearing American flag t-shirts, and Ebert had this to say, “Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.” Later on, he explained his statement even further, saying that it would be disrespectful to wear a Union Jack t-shirt at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and that our country holds specific days to celebrate different cultures like Chinese New Year, Pulaski Day in Chicago, and yes, Cinco de Mayo. He felt that we should respect the cultures and not intentionally mock their celebrations.

While it sounds like the kids wore the American flags to get a reaction on this particular day — and yes, lately there has been a lot of racism towards Mexicans — I don’t know if I would have compared the American flag ensemble with a hammer and sickle. But I appreciated Ebert’s sensitivity and empathy on this issue and was completely turned off by the way the tea baggers attacked him for his cancer. (Ebert lost his jaw to cancer, by the way.) They were downright cruel. What do you all think of this issue of students observing — respecting — different cultures in school? Do you agree with Ebert’s statements?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Australia debates paid maternity leave

An Australian politician this month introduced a bill calling for a paid maternity leave scheme. Natasha Stott Despoja, a senator from the Australian Democrats Party, put forth a bill that would give mothers 14 weeks’ government-funded maternity leave (at birth or at time of adoption). The proposal is estimated to cost the government A$219m/year.

Currently, around 34 percent of Australian working women have access to paid materntiy leave, Stott Despoja said in introducing the bill. An opinion poll shows that 76 percent of Australians supported the idea of a national scheme, according to this article from the Australian Broadcasting Coporation. Australia already has a small form of government-funded paternity support-  the so-called A$5,000 Baby Bonus.

Despite the popular support, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Stott Despoja and the Democrats, which are one of the minority parties in Parliament; the ruling Liberal party has already said they’re not in favor of a paid maternity scheme, and have conflated the Democrats’ proposal for a government-funded scheme with an employer-funded scheme. Deliberate distortion like this drives me up the wall.

Asked about the subject last week, Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey referred to a compulsory business-funded scheme, saying a newsagent in Shepparton had told him “she would sack all her young female workers if we introduced paid maternity leave,” because she could not afford it.

The Democrats are crystal clear on where funding would come from, according to their page on the bill:

While there has been concern in some areas of business about the potential costs of paid maternity leave, this Bill does not propose an employer-funded scheme of paid maternity leave, recognising the burden it would place on small businesses.

A paid maternity leave scheme allows women to maintain their attachment to the labour force and also promotes retention of the skills and knowledge that they bring to the workforce.

In recognising the importance of women’s attachment to the labour force, and allowing for the continuation of superannuation payments throughout the period of leave, a paid maternity leave scheme relieves the pressure experienced by women to minimise time taken after the birth, or adoption of a child.

Not that the Australian Labor Party’s been much better on the subject. ALP support an unpaid materntiy scheme and their response to Stott Despoja’s proposal was to say they’d refer the subject to the Productivity Commission to examine the cost of different options.  It is, after all, an election season; why support another party’s popular proposal when you can wait a couple of months,  potentially win the election and introduce one of your own to great fanfare.

Part of Stott Despoja’s argument is that Australia is only one of two OECD counties not to have legally mandated paid maternity leave. The other country? You guessed it – the U.S of A.

I gave birth in the UK, which does have a mandated paid maternity scheme – 26 weeks paid, with the minimum pay stipulated at something around the £100 mark/week. It definitely made a difference for us; I had no intention of going back to work before Jess was six months, out of plain desire and economics – nursery places for infants would have almost entirely eaten up my salary contribution. The £100/week helped defray a lot of the basic living costs and it was comforting for both of us to know that DH wasn’t solely carrying the load. (BTW, the UK’s maternity leave scheme further gave an additional 26 weeks unpaid maternity leave, with guarantees that a returning mother would come back to her position. So, women are entitled to a full year of maternity leave.)

A paid maternity leave scheme is a wholly pragmatic solution, IMHO. Speaking to Australia’s situation, there is a dearth of daycare center positions in a lot of cities – such as my hometown, Melbourne. If mothers could stay home for 14 weeks with pay, it would ease a great deal on daycare positions, plus ease the pressure on family finance. Additionally, parts of Australia are at levels of record unemployment – Melbourne’s unemployment rate is 4% – basically, meaning that all able-bodied people who can work, are working. This is leading to significant inflationary pressures through wage inflation; a paid maternity leave scheme would help retain women workers.

There’s not much time to get this done; Parliament’s session will end any day now as Prime Minister John Howard must shortly call an election. I plan to contact my member of parliament’s office today (he’s Labor) and ask why the party isn’t getting behind a paid maternity leave scheme. I’ll update as and when I get a reply.