“Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With the worship in the sky —
Mingles where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.”
William Ross Wallace
As with most important topics, it does not matter what one’s political beliefs are, their religion, job, or age when it comes to this subject. If one is a parent, they will need time to raise their children. They will also, of course, need money.
Some of the richest countries in Europe and around the world offer new parents paid parental leave anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year and a half. Japan, Austria, Norway, Germany, Luxembourg, and many others offer from more than half a year to more than a year of time off for child rearing.
Parental leave in all of its forms is important for both parents and children. Although it is usually more difficult for women to be away from their children, it is important to have a balance between the presence of both parents in the life of the child. This helps improve the little ones’ emotional stability and intelligence, getting them ready for a full and fruitful life.
Unfortunately, not all developed nations see such things as necessary. The United States, for instance, does not offer any paid parental leave. It is therefore understandable why the number of stay at home mothers has been on the rise in this country. The money one saves on a babysitter and the security of raising one' s child themselves instead of entrusting them to a complete stranger makes it worth it for the mother to stay at home. This is not per se a bad thing. But it does say a lot about the narrowing choices of both women and men.
Why is it so important that people get paid time off? Because if they don’t, most will not be able to afford to stay at home even for the necessary period of recovery and care for the child. Why do they need to stay home at all? Because, if we claim to be part of a society that is trying to provide for future generations as well as for their old age, then it is of paramount importance that we take care our children are being given enough attention and care to grow into balanced individuals. If we do not, then the future of all of us looks anything but bright or stable. The baggage with which we saddle or the gifts with which we endow our children will affect them for the rest of their lives, and through them, society.
Of course, the greater part of this conversation will revolve around paid maternal leave, especially since, after giving birth, there is a necessary period of recovery. It can take a long time for a woman to recuperate after the life-changing experience, some suggesting the process is closer to over a year rather than the six months generally referenced by some in the West. If enough support is given to the mother then she can provide the right care for her child, fend of postpartum depression and fatigue, and live a life conducive to raising a strong and stable child.
However, every type of parental leave is important, and Europe needs to make sure it ensures the continuation and betterment of such practices. It should be clear to everyone that by raising our children we are creating the world of tomorrow. What could be a bigger investment in the future than properly raised and educated adults? And what could be a greater responsibility and honor for us than to build this future harmoniously by being allowed to lovingly rock the cradle ourselves?
More from the series: "Lessons from the US: What Europe can learn from the US and the mistakes it needs to avoid."