Tag Archives: parental leave

little girl on a playground

Why American parents need to stop idealizing childrearing in other countries

Every so often, a story highlighting how happy kids are in some part of the world (usually some Nordic country) will appear on my feed. The article will point to the numerous things families over there do better than us Americans. Almost gloating, the author will profess the profound advantages of being a child over there versus being a child in the U.S.

And, yeah, from this side of the U.S., it does look a lot better. Supportive government policies that enable parents to spend more than a few months (or often less) with their new children, school systems that encourage free and outdoor play, and a culture that values families are just few examples of how other countries are touted for their superiority.

In many ways, these articles go as far as implying or directly saying American parents do it all wrong.

One country cited often for its superior parenting style is Denmark. There’s a book and countless articles praising the Danish way of raising children. To be fair, there is a lot to admire about Danish culture and how that permeates all aspects of life. The idea of hygge, or spending time together as a family doing “cozy” activities like reading, playing games, or just chatting around fire is something my non-Danish family does often. But, in order to be in a good place to have those moments, other needs must be met, and that is something articles praising foreign parenting styles often fail to acknowledge.

Denmark’s family leave policies support family togetherness. Between the four weeks of paid leave given to mothers BEFORE childbirth, to the 14 weeks afterward AND the additional 32 weeks where both the birthing and non-birthing parent can be on leave, Danish moms and dads get lots of time to bond with their new family. Compare that to this country, where there is no paid leave and even our 12-week unpaid option isn’t available to many women.

Kinda hard to get hygge with it when you gotta be back at your desk when your vaginal tears have barely healed.

The other aspect worth noting is places like Denmark are homogeneous societies where the vast majority of people share the same ethnic and religious backgrounds. Countries like this are not dealing with the tension and reckoning that comes from being in a diverse society. To be clear, I have no doubt racism and other forms of discrimination against minorities exist in Denmark, but, by nature of Danish demographics, it is not something they have to contend with as much as we do hear in the U.S.

Dealing with microagressions as well as intergenerational trauma impacts how a person functions in society and in how one cares for their families. Worries about how their children will be treated and even if they will come home alive is a real and justified fear for many marginalized Americans.

Yes, we can still look to other countries for guidance in how to raise our children. I think there is much to glean from embracing parenting styles not just from other countries, but from the diverse cultures right here in the U.S. I also think it is worth noting American parents are doing the best we can.

I would love for a comprehensive, paid family leave policy to be well established by the time my kids (if they want to) become parents. I would love for people of all backgrounds to feel truly at peace and safe in this country.

Who knows, maybe in 30 years we will celebrating the “American” style of parenting.

This post originally appeared in my Substack, Parenting, Politics and Pop Culture.

Bringing babies to the office isn’t “working”

Every so often I come across a post about some company’s generous policy of allowing new parents to bring their babies to work with them. Usually the praise for the family-focused policy is accompanied by a picture of a smiling baby, happily sitting in a baby seat while mom goes about her office tasks.

These policies are touted as a wonderful solution for new parents who have to return to work and can’t or don’t want to rely on outside childcare.

The reality, however, is much different.

While some babies are calm enough to allow you to get your work done, others demand a lot of attention. Some babies are colicky, need to be held constantly. They need to be burped, changed, cleaned, and on and on.

And, then there’s the feeding.

If you are nursing, you may need to feed your baby as often as once every hour, and if you consider how long a feeding session is, that doesn’t leave much “baby free” time to get work done.


This can be daunting if your job requires you to meet certain daily or weekly deadlines, you have a customer-centric career, or you have a job without flexible hours. 

Though, I was working from home, I still found it challenging to balance my job and my baby without outside support. I often found myself working in the middle of the night or very early in the morning to catch up on what I had missed caring for my son during the day. I imagine those who bring their babies to the office have to do the same.
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The truth about working from home with kids


When I was pregnant with my first child, I decided I would keep working. My job as a writer/editor enabled me to work from home, and, while it didn’t pay a lot, it did provide decent insurance coverage for my family. My husband, then an independent contractor, also worked from home. Our ability to work where we wanted and flexible schedules, in theory, gave us the perfect scenario for keeping our jobs while raising our children.

Before my baby was born, I arranged, what I thought at the time, was a pretty sweet setup. I would work from home four days a week and come in to the office for one. I could be at home with my child and still work. On those days I had to be in the office, my husband could take care of the baby. What kick-ass parents we would be. Killing it in the workforce and as parents.

Then our son was born.

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