Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Woman's Dilemma

Alas the dilemma of being working women and childbirth rears its head again today -- after French Justice Minister Rachida Dati returned to work five days after having her Cesarean section. This raises many dilemmas for me. I'm caught between relating to her professional responsibility (it was not just any meeting she returned to but the first Cabinet meeting of the year with a focus on the justice agenda) and feeling that she is somehow undermining her commitment to family and the precious time which we never have with our newborns again -- but often don't realize until it is too late. Women's groups in France, accustomed to more paid maternity leave than here (of course!), are upset, and in many ways I agree. If she only needs to take off five days, what does this signal to other employers about what is needed by women to care for their newborns and own physical and mental health?

Like most issues dealing with the work/family balance, I find it to be a personal decision -- unique for each woman, family and child. And employer. But I know the reality is that our society still undervalues women who choose to stay at home longer. And if most of us were given the choice of more paid maternity leave, we'd readily volunteer.
Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Year, New Administration, New Baby

It's going to be a historic few days in the nation's capital. Those of us living in the "zone" near the Capitol, are in for a bit of disruption...closed bridges, monstrous traffic, blocked roads, posses of tour buses, not to mention the crowds anticipated in the millions. We're a bit constrained in our movements not due to the traffic but my 9th month of pregnancy and impending due date of January 23rd.

In the meantime, I'm still waiting to see who the Obama Administration gives the nod to for USAID Administrator. Hilary Clinton was on the Hill earlier this week, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and had quite a bit to say about levels of funding for foreign aid and her commitment to it as part of the "smart power" arsenal. I think we're going to see more funding devoted to health and girls' education, two areas she strongly supported as First Lady.

As for my own health, please send any karma my way to have this baby this weekend. I've thought more and more about all of the women in the developing world who face this week and their delivery with trepidation due to poor medical conditions and pre-natal care. On that score, I feel particularly lucky.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy NewYear

Happy 2009! Pregnancy; work trips to Jordan, Australia, Thailand, the DR and UK; a new Australia-based company and new corporate position; the beginning of our house renovations; and the sad death of my father at 74. Yet, as trite as it sounds, with every ending, there IS a new beginning as my son will be born 9 months after my father's death. I'm looking forward to this year and the arrival of our little one in the next few weeks...and all the chaos that chapter in our life brings.

In the meantime, it's hard not to be reminder of how fortunate we are -- and the plight of so many others around the world less fortunate, as Nick Kristoff points out in his column today about trafficked sex workers in Cambodia. Like him, I'm amazed by the courage of the young women who broken out of these bonds -- but sadly, the odds are still overwhelmingly against those forced into this horrific businesses. Here's just one local organization trying to make a difference, that I encourage you to check out. The founder, Somaly Mam, has been recognized internationally for her courage -- and I need to pick up a copy of this book, The Road of Lost Innocence, which tells her story in poignant terms.