January 9, 2004
"This is one of those situations where living in Europe would benefit us greatly," Dan said this morning as we had an impromptu new-father's lunch at a corner cafe.
We had been discussing the stresses of trying to figure out how to balance work and caring for our children and had reached an impasse of staggering proportions. The key problem for both of us lies in insurance: our partners get insurance through their jobs, while we're both self-employed and pay for our own insurance. For either of our partners to move to part-time work would mean that they would lose their insurance, and to cover the insurance cost out-of-pocket would mean finding almost $800 a month from an already-stretched household income. Of course, for both parents to work full time means paying a staggering amount of money for child care, which seems to contradict the whole point of full time employment in the first place. Figuring out the answer to this puzzle has kept me awake many nights now, Mr. Bush--it's keeping me up right now, in fact. And today, at breakfast, we were talking about it, both of us hoping that the other had a come up miraculous solution.
Instead, we only came up with tales of foreign lands.
"My friend Mats lives in Sweden," Dan continued. "He's an avant-garde jazz musician and his wife is an interpretive dancer. These aren't the hobbies they do on the side, these are their full-time jobs. They live in a beautiful home in Stockholm and don't have to worry about insurance."
"Not only that," I added, "but Swedes get over 400 days off when they have a kid."
And with that we both sat there in frustrated silence, wishing that somehow the fate that landed us born US citizens had perhaps shifted over a few thousand miles to the east.
To a solution,