Opt In for the Balancing Act
posted by Sheri

As part of their "Mothers Matter and Caregivers Count" campaign, NOW is promoting legislation and policy proposals that recognize REAL family values. Currently on action alert, help Representative Lynn Woolsey, D-CA, lead sponsor of the Balancing Act (a.k.a. H.R. 1589), a package of proposals to "improve the lives of working families by providing family and medical need assistance, child care assistance, in-school and afterschool assistance, family care assistance, and encouraging the establishment of family-friendly workplaces." Lend a helping hand to this effort here.

And while you're thinking about all the Balancing Acts that you're tackling in your own family's home and work life and how we could make work life a little better all around, don't miss Stephanie Coontz's slam on the opt-out theory from the Christian Science Monitor, via Alternet—her lovely piece "Myth of the Opt-Out Mom."

Here's a good bit:

In the middle layers of income distribution, most wives and mothers are in the labor force most of the time they are raising children. Some experiment with part-time work while their children are young; others stop working for a few years.

But even these women are seldom choosing to opt out. They are shut out by the most backward work-family policies in the industrial world. An international survey by the Council on Contemporary Families found that, of the world's leading industrial countries, only the United States and Australia do not offer government-mandated paid maternity leave. But Australia offers a year of unpaid leave, while the US Family Leave Act guarantees a maximum of just 12 weeks. And half of American workers are not even entitled to that, because they work for companies too small to be covered by the act. Self-styled "pro family" advocates often oppose family-friendly social policies, such as paid parental leave and investment in high-quality child care, in hopes of forcing women to become full-time wives and moms. But in other industrial countries that lack adequate work-family policies, such as Japan, Singapore, and Italy, women are increasingly turning away from marriage and motherhood altogether.