Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Switzerland (and almost any land) is Better for Working Parents

Do working parents have it better abroad than in the United States?

Most experiences of working parents abroad appear to say yes.

About a month ago, The Frau wrote this piece for the Wall Street Journal Expat section: Working in Switzerland—What’s an Expat Woman to Expect?

Now back in the U.S. and witnessing the realities of
working American parents, The Frau is ever grateful that her
daughter was born abroad.
In case you want the short answer—an American woman can expect better work-life balance and extremely more supportive policies when working in Switzerland, despite a sometimes backwards mindset that a woman’s place is still in the home.

Stories of working parental woes are all over the American press lately.

Last week, a powerful New York Times opinion piece from writer Pamela Druckerman, The Perpetual Panic of American Parenthood, agrees that American parents have it best working elsewhere. The subhead: “Make our country great, by making it a bit more like the rest of the world,” pretty much sums up The Frau's feelings exactly.

Says Ms. Druckerman on leaving the U.S. for Paris, “I gradually understood why European mothers aren’t in perpetual panic about their work-life balance, and don’t write books about how executive moms should just try harder: Their governments are helping them, and doing it competently."

Another great quote from her piece was from writer Ms. Partanen, who, in her book, The Nordic Theory of Everything, says, “While Nordic citizens often don’t realize how good they have it, Americans seem not to realize how terribly they are being treated.”

That’s what really confounds The Frau. The great majority of Americans she talks to have no idea how bad they have it. No idea. They think the stress of trying to work and parent with no legalized parental leave, no legalized vacation time, and no legalized sick time is their fault.

Blaming the individual for what’s wrong instead of looking beyond to greater causes is sadly an American thing. We're very individual and we like to blame the individual too. We need to stop.

Even when moms have access to parental leave in the U.S., they face hassles to get it. On the cover of the Chicago Tribune’s Life+Style section last Sunday was an article about how insurance paperwork issues interfere when new mothers just want to nurture their babies.

Yes, the American system is broken. And The Frau plans to keep writing about it (global outlook included) until it is fixed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ten Reasons The Frau is Staying in the U.S. (for now)

Dear Yodelers,

Apologies, it's been awhile. The Frau is sorry.

Americans, as you know, tell you they are sorry when they don't-even-but-almost run into you. And they are sorry when they don't blog as often as they should too.

So here's a big American sorry. And another big American excuse: busy, busy, busy.

But The Frau can say she is busy and sorry. Because The Frau is an American in America. At least for now. 

Yes, The Frau and her family will stay in the U.S. until they are ready for another adventure abroad-–which they will be at some point-–especially if a certain horrid, disgusting excuse for a human being is elected in November.

Yes, it was hard to give up that Swiss C-permit, Yodelers. It was so tempting to run back to Switzerland before it expired, especially with the path to destruction the U.S. appears to be on. But alas, as some of you know, transitions–even good ones–are horrid. So are moving boxes, many of which have STILL not been unpacked even after two years. 

Also, it took The Frau 1.5 years to feel sort-of-normal in the U.S. and it was hard to think about transitioning back to Switzerland so soon. That is reason one for staying. For now.

Choosing between countries is never easy.
Reason two is that The Frau could not imagine telling Child M (yes, she is a little child now and not a baby or toddler!) that she could not just go over to Grandma's house whenever she pleased. Child M has a close relationship with two grandmothers now that could not be replicated if she was 5,000 miles from them.

Reason three is related to reason two--extended family support for working parents is amazing. The Frau has been able to travel for work (and pleasure!) and take on new professional challenges without worry thanks to two caring grandmothers that take care of Child M very, very often.

Reason four. Child M is at an amazing school that is perfect for her. It was a struggle to find the right place for her in the U.S., but this school is it. Changing schools again now is not an appealing option.

Reason five. The Frau has committed to being involved in local politics for the next year. She desperately wants to make a difference in a country that desperately needs fresh ideas and global perspectives. America needs more repatriates in politics because repatriates see their country in a way someone who has never left it simply can't.

Reason six. The Frau really does like living in a house again. Space is nice. Not having to share a laundry room is nice. Not having to live up to Swiss standards of cleanliness is nice.

Reason seven. The Frau spent 8.5 years traveling Europe and needs to travel North America. She recently had the pleasure of discovering both Alexandria and Georgetown around the DC area and seeing a bit of Phoenix. And Indiana. Yes, even Indiana was surprisingly wonderful in its own way.

Reason eight. English. Living among those speaking your native language allows you to be fully engaged, rather than always an outsider looking in (although The Frau still sometimes feels like an outsider in the U.S.).

Reason nine. Switzerland will always be there. Child M's ability to have a close relationship with older family members will not.

Reason ten. The little things: New Glarus, Wisconsin gives The Frau a little Swissness when she needs it. Amazing restaurant food without walking distance from her house, especially of the ethnic variety at amazing prices. Free water. Libraries with English books. 

Of course, with all the positives, there are many negatives to American life right now. But that's another blog post, mitenand...


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