A friend of mine sent me this article about The 30 Best Places in the World to be a Mother. Thanks Stell, it was quite an interesting read. From 176 countries, the United States places 30th, while Austria is in 11th place. Save the Children evaluated all 176 countries based on maternal health, children's well-being, educational status, economic status and political status. I feel fortunate to have been raised in a country placing in the top 30, as well as, to be raising my child in one that places in the top 20.
I was born and raised in the United States, in Connecticut to be exact. I have a deep love of my country, but I am also a realist. The United States has changed big time since I was a kid. Growing up, we were allowed to play within a whistle blow of my grandfather's house. You hear the whistle, you have five minutes to get home. We played in the street, we played with ALL of the neighborhood kids, and we did this with a ball or our bikes, never with fear, anxiety, or worry that something would happen to us if we were out of our parent's sight. Being a kid was awesome most of the time. Things have DRASTICALLY changed, and I know I don't have to explain why, I don't understand why, but I surely don't need to explain what I mean here.
I grew up with a working mom. My brother and I caught the bus to go to school, went to daycare after school and my mom or my grandma would pick us up and bring us home. Growing up, working and living in the US, I expected to raise my children in a similar fashion...get pregnant, have baby, go back to work 6-8 weeks later. I never knew it could be any different! Stay at home moms were a rare commodity.
On and off since 2008, I have lived in Austria. I originally came here as an Au Pair with a family I knew in the US. While here, I met my husband Michael. I moved back permanently in the summer of 2010 and Michael and I were married in the fall. In February 2013, we welcomed our first child, Alexa, to the world. Since falling pregnant, I have learned an enormous amount about raising and having children in Austria. It is AWESOME.
In Austria, eight weeks before the official due date of your child you go into Mutterschutz, maternity leave. Mutterschutz lasts until eight weeks after your child is born. We're talking 16 weeks here, of paid, awesomeness. This is paid by your company. Before the last week of Mutterschutz you then register for Karenz, more maternity leave or parental leave because either the mother OR father can take this paid time off. You have options...there's the 12 month option, the 24 month option, or the 36 month option. Yes, that's right, 1, 2, or 3 years of paid parental leave. Paid for, by the amazing social insurance system.
Now when I first discovered this insane system, all I thought was, "What the heck am I going to do at home for TWO YEARS???" Please keep in mind that I have worked as an Infant room teacher, a nanny, an Au Pair, and I was a babysitter from the time I was taller than the other kids until I left for Austria! This idea of a mom staying home for two whole years just boggled my mind! Why would anyone want to do that? I have always been active, independent and very busy working and earning my own money, what would I do for two years at home? Surely, the Austrian people are crazy. Or so I thought....
Alexa at 8 weeks old.
The day my daughter turned eight weeks old I cried. I realized how blessed I am to live in Austria and be raising my daughter here. Yes, we are thousands and thousands of miles away from my entire family and my friends and yes that gets to me ALL THE TIME, but look at all we have here... If we were living in the US, the following Monday would have been my first day back to work and my daughter's first day of daycare. She was so small! How could I have ever left her?? It made me truly understand what all of those mom's had gone through leaving there little bundle with me at daycare and going back to work for 6-8 hours! I have not been away from Alexa for more than four hours! How could I ever leave her for a WHOLE day???
I am very thankful that I am able to stay at home with her for at least the next two years. It is something I surely will not take for granted!