Motherhood: Canada’s New Glass Ceiling?

This upcoming Sunday, May 11
is Mother’s Day in Canada. It is a day
set aside to celebrate those women who love us unconditionally and shower you
with a kiss and a hug — at least that is what Hallmark greeting cards tells
me. In reality motherhood in Canada is
easy for some, hard for most, and typically something that women in my
generation are putting off until later in life.

About a year ago, the news-weekly Macleans, devoted an issue to examining what they termed the “new
glass ceiling” for women – motherhood.
In Canada a woman who qualifies for maternity
is entitled to 15 weeks of paid leave from her job. Additionally another 35 weeks of paternal leave
can be taken by either the mother or father, or can be split by the parents. But this is only offered to those who have have worked
600 hours in the past 52 weeks, meaning that a woman who becomes pregnant with a
second child without going back to work between pregnancies is not entitled to
the same benefits. The amount paid out
by the federal government is a percentage of the claimant’s salary with the
possibility that his/her employer will “top up” or pay the remaining amount to
allow a full salary to be earned during this time. Parents who choose to adopt are eligible for
similar benefits as well. It also offers some sense of job security as individuals leaving their job on parental or
maternity leave are entitled to return to their positions at the end of their

So what does all of this mean for
Canada? Our fertility rate is still
dropping despite the fact that these maternity and parental leaves are in
place. Many women still delay their
first pregnancies because they feel that they should first concentrate on their
careers before launching into motherhood.
The situation is obviously much better than it was when my
mother gave birth to me, but compared to some other countries around the world, Canada is
not doing enough to encourage women to have children.

Although I believe that motherhood
should be a choice, it is not a choice when a woman who would like to have kids can
not because she feels that she is not in a position to do so. In parts of Europe, where the fertility rate
has plunged in recent years, governments have come up with new policies to encourage couples to reproduce. In France,
for example, the benefits extended to new parents include simultaneous parental
leave for both parents, a housekeeper who is dispatched to your home for the
first weeks of parenthood to help with household chores, and most importantly
affordable child care when parents are ready to go back to work.

There has been talk in Canada
about creating a national child care system. However, this was essentially killed by
the governing Conservative party which, instead, brought in a "Child Care Benefit" through which parents are entitled to $100 a month – or $1200 a year – in child care benefits.

Are you kidding me?!

A hundred dollars barely covers my monthly bus pass, let
alone child care. Daily rates begin at $40 here in Ottawa, recently voted one of the most affordable cities to live in Canada. In the province of Quebec, where social
services are much more comprehensive, child care is subsidized by the
provincial government and therefore much more affordable. Unfortunately, the demand
exceeds the supply of qualified child care facilities.

When it comes to motherhood, Canada may offer some benefits and social programs that American mothers envy, but still not enough to make having children accessible to all women.

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  • invalid-0

    “Although I believe that motherhood should be a choice, it is not a choice when a woman who would like to have kids can not because she feels that she is not in a position to do so.”

    There are a lot of things I would like to have, but am not in the position to obtain them. It doesn’t mean I should force someone else to give them to me.

    Women have the right to have children (and the right to NOT have them), but they do not have the right to force someone else to pay for them. The only glass ceiling there is, are self-imposed ones.

    Also, has it occurred that some women WANT to wait to have children? And it’s also important to look at why these benefits aren’t helping. Perhaps, no amount of money or maternity leave will make women want to have children. Perhaps, they simply don’t want them (or want to have only 1 or 2).

    The sense of entitlement in the article is beyond belief.

  • invalid-0

    “The amount paid out by the federal government is a percentage of the claimant’s salary with the possibility that his/her employer will “top up” or pay the remaining amount to allow a full salary to be earned during this time.”

    No, that salary is not “earned” during that time; it is merely being collected. That’s what makes all the difference.

    “… meaning that a woman who becomes pregnant with a second child without going back to work between pregnancies is not entitled to the same benefits.”

    And why is that remarkable? In order to take more maternity leaves, it’s reasonable to have to put in a token appearance back at your job once in a while; otherwise, you’re no longer effectively working a job to take leave from. 600 hours a year isn’t that onerous a standard for demonstrating that you’ve notionally returned to your job between maternity leaves.

  • invalid-0

    This article is patronising to women. “Oh, if only the government gave us more free goodies, I would have more children!” Why is it that these people expect the rest of the population to support their CHOICE? Publicly-funded education isn’t enough; paid maternity leave isn’t enough; a payment each month for one’s children isn’t enough. The rest of socety should not be forced to enable motherhood. Enough already! The sense of entitlement comes through loud and clear in this article, and as someone who is childfree, I frankly resent it. If I wished to pay for children, I would have had my own!

    Women these days feel that they have options, motherhood being only one. Some women simply have other priorities in life–like a career, maybe? It is patronising beyond belief to intimate that every woman is just DYING to have a baby, if only society would support her choice. Life entitles sacrifice–if a woman wants a baby, then let ner pay for it. Don’t expect the rest of us to support a choice which is not ours.

  • invalid-0

    The author assumes the only reason women aren’t reproducing like bunnies is they don’t get enough free stuff. Perhaps the reason birth rates are plunging everywhere women have educations is that we now can do other things with our lives *besides* merely reproducing. No reason to panic over falling birthrates — now that reproduction is a choice, those who want it, choose it. Those who don’t want it, don’t choose it. If you’d like to go back to the “good old days” when women had no choice, be my guest, but leave me out!

  • invalid-0

    Shear and utter nonsense. The world population isn’t in danger of diminishing one bit. I wish these politicians would stop putting this pressure on women to bear children. It’s one more pressure women do not need. All the bribes in the world aren’t going to make a difference if a woman doesn’t want a child.

  • invalid-0

    Our Earth is already groaning under the destructive weight of 6.6 billion rabidly consuming humans. Far from offering taxpayer-subsidized incentives to have more children, governments should be erecting hindrances to population bloat. Parents should pay more, not less, for the burden they place upon infrastructure, services, and the environment.

    Articles such as this, that push the “we must shell out bribes to get people to breed” agenda, consistently render themselves jokes by starting from the same false assertion, every time: that making more babies is such a colossal favor to society that we must all be willing to dig deep into our pockets and fund it generously. The assumption that people do others such a huge favor by replicating themselves is based solely on sentimental goo (meaningless dross such as “children are our future!”), and a willful ignorance of environmental issues. There’s also the underlying assumption that our economy will utterly collapse if we don’t create more workers to support the oldsters — the tired assumption that the only kind of economy we can ever, ever participate in is the grand, bloat-rich pyramid scheme we’ve jury-rigged together to rob the future to pay for the past.

    Because it’s based on these same old false, tired assumptions, the rest of the article (and this one’s no exception) has all the logical merit of a verse of “Woolly Bully.”

    Every other investment made with public funds must be quantified and audited, but the mommy-payment schemes are always puzzlingly exempt from these requirements. What do we get for our tax contributions? What guarantee do we have that the mommies soaking up these bribes are doing a good job raising children? What recompense must women who do a lousy job of childrearing make? What happens if the child you absolutely had to have me pay for turns out to be a felon, disabled, or too mentally ill to work? Are the women who’d be getting all this tax-funded support for making a personal lifestyle choice accountable to anyone for anything? Are the beneficiaries even needy in the first place, or are they, as more than one critic has pointed out before, primarily available only to white-collar women who already have the means to support childrearing without assistance? (Seriously, folks…do you think your average waitress or Wal-Mart clerk will have all these perks available to her? Think again: this is a welfare benefit for the haves, not the have-nots.)

    There’s no shortage of humans. If Canada’s really in love with its albatross pyramid-scheme economy, and wants future workers, why not allow them to emigrate from Africa or Asia, where the population is growing? Oh, but wait…are you worried those people are the wrong color for you? Peel away the illogical baby-pink vellum on these breeder-bribe mommy-manifesto schemes, and you see the ugliness underlying: Canada wants to pay white, educated, middle-class women to have more babies, because they’re worried the population of those who are “truly Canadian” is declining. There’s no shortage of available future workers on this Earth — unless you’re kept awake at night worrying they’ll be the wrong race for you.