Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Balancing work and family

Ironically, family issues kept a number of interested parties away last night, so I have summarized our discussion. and have provided a preview of the October program (Thurs. Oct. 23, 5-7 pm, Nifkin Lounge, family friendly potluck supper!)
So, what does it take to balance work and family?  Participants reported:  organization, flexible scheduling, a sense of humor, family planning, reliable child care, a supportive partner, and good friends or family with whom you can share some adult conversation while the kids play (which we witnessed first hand, as our three youngest participants alternately colored quietly and ran laps around the Lounge!).  We also noted the trend of parents waiting longer to start families, both here and abroad, and touched on the continuing trend of teen parents, and speculated on the class and educational differences between the two groups.
The discussion focused most heavily on social support of child-rearing, which is much advanced in Scandinavian countries, just starting in Korea where birth rates have been declining, and actually somewhat ahead of the US.  The Korean system permits a small stipend for parental leave during the first year (currently about 20% of the average salary); only 78 dads took advantage of the program last year while thousands of moms used their maternity leave.  The next version of this policy looks toward making the leave a percentage of income rather than a flat rate.  In the US, the leave permitted by the Family Leave Act is unpaid, and thus is only really available to those of higher income.  European models are far more family-friendly and either support parental (maternal or paternal, often the family's decision) care for children during their first year or longer or adequately funded daycare facilities until children reach school-age. 
We'd like to thank Heejae Kim, who took the time to look up the statistics of the new Korean programs and the Sadler Memorial Garden Committee for letting us scavenge for produce for the potluck.  As a result of your generosity and JoAnne Ellis's creativity, we enjoyed ratatouille and a platter of delicious sweet peppers and beans.  Cooperation in action--how fitting for a balancing themed semester!