I actually do not have to put a disclaimer on this post because I just can’t complain on this topic: social (read: monetary) support for new moms in Germany. It’s rather complicated so I didn’t fully understand it until it was explained to me by a government official yesterday. I knew that the maternity leave benefits and laws were extremely generous, but I figured that, being a freelancer at the moment, I wouldn’t be receiving any of those benefits. So I have been saving for the few months I expect to be too busy/exhausted/plagued with new mom brain to be able to take on any jobs. But it turns out that I will receive a monthly “allowance” (for lack of a better word) from none other than my health insurance company—to the tune of US$800 per month for a full year (or until I begin working again). Add the Kindergeld that all parents receive for up to 26 years (US$210 per month), and it’s more than enough to meet monthly necessities (life is much cheaper here).
As a proud must-make-it-on-my-own-entirely-with-no-help-from-anyone-ever American, I admit I feel a bit guilty. And then I wonder why exactly. To feel guilty is in a way disrespectful to myself and a denial of the value of the work raising a child is worth. The social support is acknowledgement of and a show of respect for mothers–something most countries in the world show mothers with the exception of mine. American mothers–myself included–should toss this guilt and stubborn independence and get some f*cking self-respect. And with that self-respect, we should be angry and more demanding that our government and corporations start giving us respect. American mothers should be livid over what we must endure that women in other countries–and expats like myself–do not, namely unpaid and ridiculously short maternity leaves, complete lack of any outside financial support, working up until the day before we give birth, coworkers and bosses lacking a compassion that is socially acceptable to lack… The truth is, I never even considered having a child when I was living in the US because I saw the hell that mothers went through and I had no desire to live such a life. Not to mention in my career area I would never have been able to make enough money to afford day care, healthcare, saving for college, etc (topics worthy of their own posts someday).
So I am going to get working on losing this ridiculous guilt of mine instilled by an overly sink-or-swim culture and stingy government and corporate structure. I deserve it. And all of my fellow American moms deserve it too. It’s time we all gave ’em a bit of healthy hellish wrath.