Washington Post Opinion: French Parents are “Superior” Because of Government Support

Remember three weeks ago when I theorized that social supports for the middle class might help explain American parents’ so-called “inferiority”? Brigid Schulte, a Washington Post staff writer and a New America Foundation fellow, gives the theory some substance, here. (Thanks to my friend Giuliana for tipping me off.)

…if French parents are calmer and more confident, it’s not just because their parenting standards aren’t as intense. Another reason is on the corner: In France, that’s where you find the crèche, a government-subsidized child-care center where virtually everyone, after a four- to five-month, state-subsidized, paid parental leave, sends their children — working and at-home mothers alike.

In contrast, the United States is one of only three countries in the world, along with Swaziland and Papua New Guinea, that have no federal paid parental leave policy. After President Richard Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Childcare Act of 1971, which promised to ensure quality, affordable child care, American parents were left to fend for themselves. In a country that pays its child-care workers less than its janitors, that is a time-consuming, expensive and often fraught search. Child-care costs, which consumed 2 percent of the average family budget in the 1960s, now take up 17 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, second only to a mortgage or rent.



3 Comments to “Washington Post Opinion: French Parents are “Superior” Because of Government Support”

  1. There’s a relevant op-ed in today’s Baltimore Sun, by Valentine and Cole of Maryland CAN (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-student-conferences-20120305,0,2367484.story) that calls for support of pending legislation (SB 329/HB 567) before the Maryland General Assembly that ensures parents and guardians the right to attend parent-teacher conferences, Individualized Education Program meetings, Individualized Family Service Plan meetings and 504 meetings without penalty from their employer. They note that our overambitious (just kidding!) BCPS Office of Engagement has set a “goal” of getting a breath-taking 15% (!) of parents to attend at least one parent-teacher conference! Granted, as the authors of the legislation know, it’s hard for parents in grinding low-wage jobs to get time off to do this. Still–I’d say that if the rich kids’ parents missed as many as 15% of the P-T conferences at one of our posh private schools, the school officials would be looking them up to find out why they were such slackers!


  2. Of course I’m a big fan of social support for families. Six-weeks maternity leave and pricey options for day care make you wonder if we have our priorities straight. I really do believe that “it takes a village” to raise a child, and in a country like the U.S., where people often live far away from their parents and siblings, the burden of raising a child with neither family help nor social support becomes overwhelming. When I’m not at home in Italy, the only help I get is from our pediatrician, parenting websites, and other overwhelmed mothers. Not a good cocktail to maintain perspective.

    One thought, though: Do 20-something parents show “helicopter” tendencies, too?


  3. It’s a shame n this so called privileged nation that we treat the least of these as if they were n a third world country . The conservatives r responsible for this, yes the family values small gov. party, they would rather tell a woman what to do with her body. Wake up America get out n vote, that’s all we can do.


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