No one said raising children was easy. For households with both parents or a single parent working, finding that comfortable work-life balance is difficult. American Pamela Druckerman lives in France and says, compared to what Europeans and Canadians receive in terms of support for child care from their governments, “Americans get practically nothing”:
What we do get is a pervasive national angst. A forthcoming study in The American Journal of Sociology finds that Americans with children are 12 percent less happy than non-parents, the largest “happiness gap” of 22 rich countries surveyed. The main sources of parents’ unhappiness are the lack of paid vacation and sick leave, and the high cost of child care, the authors said.
Druckerman compares national child care policies of rich countries like France, Britain, Canada, the nations of Scandinavia, and less-wealthy Ukraine with those of the United States:
I might have thought America’s parenting misery was inevitable if I hadn’t moved from the United States to France (where parents are slightly happier than non-parents). Raising kids is consuming here, but not overwhelming: The government offers high-quality day care, billed on a sliding scale, and free preschool for children 3 and up. Older kids have subsidized after-school activities and summer camps. On average, college costs less than $500 a year.
Early childhood offerings vary, but everywhere in Europe and in Canada they’re far more generous than in the United States. Ukrainian dads may not change enough diapers, but their government offers paid maternity leave; practically free preschool; and per-baby payments equivalent to eight months of an average salary.
Moving to France and leaving the anxiety and guilt she describes behind, Druckerman has found a better work-life balance for herself:
Leaving America for Paris had the opposite effect. Suddenly it wasn’t all on me. I gradually understood why European mothers aren’t in perpetual panic about their work-life balance, and don’t write books about how executive moms should just try harder: Their governments are helping them, and doing it competently.
Read more here, including a breakdown of child care policies being proposed by both presidential candidates.