Motherhood: Canada’s New Glass Ceiling?

Pamela Pizarro

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

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

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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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