Lest we think it’s just here in the US that we tear each other to shreds over social policy, in Canada there’s been a huge controversy over Iris Evans, finance minister of the Canadian province of Alberta, making remarks that were critical of two-career families.
While answering questions after a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, Evans said she believes good parenting means that one parent stays at home with the children while they are young, as her own children have done.
According to the CBC website, she said this: “They’ve understood perfectly well that when you’re raising children, you don’t both go off to work and leave them for somebody else to raise. This is not a statement against daycare. It’s a statement about their belief in the importance of raising children properly.”
Okay, fine, if that’s your belief, fine, and I’ll give her credit for not assuming it must be the mom to stay home. I don’t necessarily agree with it; I think every family has to make the best decision for themselves, and the best solution to the needs of the children and the grownups can take many forms.
Also, Canada even has a real maternity leave policy, unlike the US – you get a year off at a certain percentage of your salary to care for a new child, and your employer needs to keep your job or its equivalent open for you. So it’s especially interesting to me that even there, where there is meaningful family leave, the wars still rage.
I think it’s ridiculous that we even have this debate between SAHM and WOHMs or whatever here in the US when for many people, especially in this economy, there really isn’t a choice. Want to keep that job you love and have worked hard for? You’re back to work at three months at the latest, like it or not. A lot of women I know who would have made the choice to go back to work if they’d been able to spend a bit more time with their babies became stay at home moms because they couldn’t stomach the idea of handing their tiny baby off to a daycare provider, while others really wanted and needed to go back to work and cried in the car every day for the first few months because they had to go back before either one of them were ready.
The other thing that makes me mad about this is Evans is showing a real reluctance to own her words after saying something so snotty. She told the CBC she wished “someone else” had been the one to say it.
According to her bio, she has been a member of Alberta’s legislative assembly for 11 years and before that had an 18-year career in municipal politics. Which means, unless she’s older than she looks or had her kids super young, she was raising children for at least part of that time. Pot, kettle, Iris?