This week, my brother in law and his girlfriend came to visit. He moved to the Czech Republic about 3 years ago to teach English and met his girlfriend who is from there.
The other night we got to talking about maternity leaves. She asked me why I was going back to work so soon...I was taken aback by the question because most mothers I know ask me how I was able to stay home so long. And here she was asking me why I was going back to work after a year and half of staying home. I went through my answer: partly financial, partly because I think Jenna was ready for some independent time and partly because when I (hopefully) have another baby I will stay home for longer because my teachers' salary will not pay for the childcare of two children. And partly because I would like to redo our kitchen and our bathroom...but that's a whole other thing altogether.
Then she told me how it works in the Czech Republic. Obviously the details are not 100% accurate because she has not gone through the process yet. But it goes something like this: paid maternity leave for 2, 3 or 4 years (to qualify you need to make a certain amount of money)
I found an article about this which said:
Within the first six months of their maternity leave, they have to decide which type of parental allowance they want to draw. Parents are free to choose between a two-year parental leave with a monthly contribution of 11,400 crowns, a three-year parental leave with a monthly contribution of 7,600 crowns or a four-year leave with a monthly contribution of 7,600 which is reduced to 3,800 when the child reaches 21 months of age. In short, the longer time they want to spend at home with their child the less money they get.
Leaving some of the details aside, what struck me most was two things:
#1 - Mothers may take a maternity leave for a significant amount of time to raise their children without the fear of losing their job.
#2 - Not only is their job there for them when they get back, but they're given some sort of financial assistance while they are on leave.
In the United States, there is no law that says women have to be paid for any maternity leave. I work for the Department of Education in NY and the 6 weeks you get for maternity leave is unpaid (you may use up all your sick days and borrow some, but that can leave you with negative days when you return, which is the case for me). And in regard to job security, although as a tenured teacher, I have that, most of my friends who work in the private sector do not.
I think it's very interesting the differences that exist around the world with regard to childcare and work. I wonder if we had something like that in place here if more women would choose to stay home.