Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Taking Care

In one of my college classes, we'd just read a piece that touted the virtues of polygamy, and how convenient it was to have your sister wives watch your children while you were at work. No nasty microwave dinners, no kids fixing their own breakfast--a veritable paradise, according to the author.

None of the women found it an appealing notion, while a few macho guys from various cultures discussed how great it must be to have nine wives. Still, they failed to find any virtue in the concept of polyandry.

The conversation drifted to how government could help out new mothers.

"My friend had a baby, and they gave her seven months of with pay," said one of my students. I think she's from Senegal

"My sister-in-law got 12 months," I told her.

"Was that here?" asked another student.

"She lives in Canada." I said.

"I want to move there," said a young woman from France.

"But things are not bad where you come from, are they?" I asked. "I hear no one works more than 35 hours a week?"

My Asian students looked over at her in amazement. They had never heard of such a thing.

"And everyone gets six weeks vacation. But the new Prime Minister wants to change that," she responded.

"How do you feel about that?" I asked.

"I'm against it," she said.

I can't say I blame her. Like many Americans, I work multiple jobs. It seems like, as far as working people go, our country is moving backwards. When I was a kid I lived across the street from a guy who worked in a Taystee Bread factory. His wife didn't work, and they raised four kids in that house. Today they'd have to apply for Medicaid and live in a tree.

And on a factory worker's salary, that tree would almost certainly not be in a good neighborhood.
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