Relaxing the Population Control
Back in mid-September, Marc and I discovered that an article mentioning our book had been printed in a German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung (print-only). A kind reader from Germany sent us a copy of the article, and then we passed it over to our speaks-five-languages friend, amazing ESP mom Melissa, to translate for us.
Happily, we absolutely loved it! As it turns out, the article is a description of how the lack of family friendly laws and corporate policies in Germany play a big role in discouraging couples from having children. But instead of only blaming the government or businesses, or waiting for the laws and policies to change, or (heaven forbid) going down that well-trodden path of blaming men for not doing their fair share with the kids, the author, Alex Ruehle, suggests a third option: equally shared parenting. Or, specifically, learning all about ESP by reading a certain book. Yes, yes...we're so proud!
But enough about us. The article goes on to suggest a message that we hold dear - that personal responsibility for the life of your dreams is a vital force. That German couples who want equality and balanced lives need to go out there and create them, just as we feel is necessary here in the US where the policies and laws are even more dismally aligned with our wishes. Says the author (translation by Melissa, brackets added by me), "Now we could say that just a few couples [those portrayed in our book] are not going to change that much in the grand scheme of things. But politics always starts at home. And will things change much if men, who want so much to spend more time with their kids, after a short and failed conversation about it with the boss, go begrudgingly back to the dawn-to-dusk fulltime job? Or if women just shrug their shoulders and keep sitting on the bench at the playground?"
"You read this book and start to dream. The next day, you wake up and go to the office, and it occurs to you that two thirds of German bosses don't give a %$&* about their employees' work/family balance. All these bosses, who react so indignantly, as if someone were asking to do some obscure sexual rite, when someone comes with the harmless request to work four days per week -- can we get rid of these bosses, please?"
"Most women with big careers will sacrifice having children in order to keep their careers. At the same time, companies complain that there are fewer qualified women out there. It makes you want to shout: make a decision, will ya? Do you want us to give you more kids? Then give us more family-friendly flexibility. Otherwise, you'll just have to hold up the economy by yourself."
No, it won't always be easy. It will often be incredibly hard, and not always the path of most monetary wealth. But we each have only one life (or so we assume) - so it would be a shame if we didn't forge our own path.