Do Canadian Working Moms Do It Differently?
By Jennifer Farrell
Although I am a Canadian working mom, I have a lot of working mom friends in the USA and in England. Recently we had an online discussion about whether working motherhood differs in Canada compared to the rest of the world. It was an interesting topic and one that was complicated by our own interpretations of the term ‘working’. It was universally agreed among us that all moms are working moms and we all work hard for our families. Some of us work hard for ‘the man’ outside the house, while all of us work hard for the men and women inside our houses.
Women in both the USA and England agreed that we spend copious amounts of time at the office considering the following topics:
- Finances and how to afford daycare;
- Guilty feelings while being at work and not at home with our kids;
- Worry about our child(ren) getting into an accident and how we could afford doctor or hospital bills;
- Dreaming up ways to claw our way up the corporate ladder;
- Thinking about how we will spend vacation time with our children; and,
- Wondering when we can afford to get pregnant again and calculating how much time we can afford to take off if we are.
As a Canadian working mom I do consider these topics with some notable exceptions. I never consider how I will afford doctor care or hospital bills. Health Canada takes care of all that for me. Our universal health care system is for everyone and everyone is treated the same. The only things we pay for out of pocket are ‘optional’ services not covered by our employer provided Health Insurance such as private hospital rooms or drugs not deemed “mandatory” to our care (like marijuana pills for cancer patients). That’s it.
I also never spend a second thinking about when I can get pregnant again because I know that I am legally entitled to a full year of paid parental leave after my child is born and up to three full years of unpaid job protection if I decide to stay at home and raise my child through toddlerhood. I only spend 11 months of the year thinking about how I will spend vacation time with my son because in February, everyone in Canada receives a statutory “Family Day”, which is a vacation day designed to allow families to spend time together.
My USA and England mommy friends think this is a huge advantage for Canadian working moms. As my friend Neah, who had her baby Ellen in the states, then moved to England for work said “I was physically at work 3 months after Ellen was born… but my brain really didn’t start functioning until at least 6 months and more fully at 8.” She goes on to say “England gets nine months, and it makes a huge difference. Moms are more prepared when they go back to work.”
My other friend Tulip agreed, confirming “…the fact that we get anywhere from 6-12 weeks off as opposed to 12 months is a huge difference in terms of bonding, paying childcare, establishing breastfeeding, no paternity leave… physical recovery.” This makes perfect sense to me. Personally I was able to breastfeed my son for 8.5 months, but would that have been the same if I’d been forced back to work after 12 weeks? Probably not.