- It is not a country for mothers ...
“It is not a country for mothers of children from 0 to 4 years old” is what a friend of mine kept telling me about the USA but I keep hearing the same about Canada.
Canada is undoubtedly for many aspects an ideal place to start a family: it has got green spaces, sustainable cities, many places organized to let children spend their free time and play sports, it offers great benefits for families and it has an affordable healthcare system.
But, there is a “but”, a really big BUT that really surprised me when I learned about it since I didn't expect it from such a civilised country. Here there are NO public schools for children aged 0 to 4, so no nursery schools, or whatever you call it.
Not only that, but the private schools that are present are very expensive, we are talking about in the $1200-1500 dollars a month range per child who would choose to go 5 days a week.
In Italy, where I’m originally from, I would pay about $100 a month per child in a public one (for the food) or up to $400 maximum for a private one including food.
What does this entail here in Canada?
I asked some friends and they answered.
First of all, the growing phenomenon of ‘stay at home moms,’ (and in some rare cases also ‘stay at home dads’), that is, women (or men) who have young children and decide to leave their careers to devote themselves to them until, at the age of 4, they go to the kindergarten.
Especially those families who have two or three small children (and here it is common) hardly find it convenient to work to pay two or three such expensive fees at school, it would be a matter of receiving a really high salary, something that few professionals of a certain level can get.
An alternative to private school is to hire a babysitter.
But even in this case the costs are high.
Keeping two children between 2 and 4 years old during the weekdays can cost up to $2000 dollars a month.
It seems unfair to me having to choose between having a career or having a family and the government does not help its citizens here.
An economic and social gap is widened here between those who can and those who cannot afford childcare.
Most people here also do not have grandparents available to help them like back in Italy where I’m from where the family (aunts, grandparents, even neighbours!) are a good network of support for working parents) so preschool support for parents is a serious matter.
Some women with children ask me if I would advise them to move to Europe.
Well, not just for that…Europe has tons of other issues than Canada doesn’t have to deal with…first and foremost a high unemployment rate.
At least, here in Canada the employment rate is very high so even parents ‘abandoning’ work for a few years will be able to find work again once they will jump back in the job ‘world’.
When it comes to educational institutions in Canada, the parallels with the US show a disturbing similarity.
Here too, in recent times, quality education, with the due exceptions, has increasingly become the prerogative of private schools.
Fees for elementary and high school are generally lower than those for nursery schools (competition with the public ones keeps the fees at a reasonable level) so many parents can choose these private ones, which have special music, art or math programs.
There are fewer students, the professors can follow them with greater attention and, a bittersweet consideration that I hear more and more often saying is ‘the social environment is better.’
So, I don’t know…I just report what my friend Rachel says and leave you with a consideration “It is not a country for mothers…” (…or fathers? Or children?)