Reason Number 718 Why I Love France: Paternity Leave!
Babies: who knew they could be so
There were many, many reasons that my younger, more baby-having aged self never got involved in hatching younglings, but one of them was certainly the outrageous amount of money one has to spend in order to bring a child to adulthood in the United States. For an American who tended to look at work as an unpleasant subplot to the rest of my life, this was a serious concern.
Almost as serious as the fact that it's considered socially unacceptable to raise a child on Black Label and frozen pizza.
But time passes, things change, yada yada yada and, to make a very long story short, my wife gave birth last week to a charming little being who is going to go through life with the somewhat questionable credential of being my son. For our purposes let's call him Little Baron.
In any case, my wife and I are going through all the usual stuff that new parents get to deal with, nothing especially blogworthy about all of that...except that, in addition to my wife's maternity leave, I'm being paid almost my entire salary to stay at home, helping out the real hero in this story as much as possible and bonding with my spawn.
Do I work for a super-generous company with progressive-minded HR policies? No: paternity leave is a right in France. Dreaded Big Government tells my employer that they have to give it to me. To make things even better my wife, who is the owner of the small business to which this blog is linked and as such does not have a boss, gets her maternity leave pay from a special pot of money into which French auto-entrepreneurs pay in lieu of a portion of the usual health care deduction: in effect, we don't have to worry about income for the dawn of Little Baron's life and are free to concentrate on more crucial things, like breast pumps, diaper rash and the sleep we're not getting.
Hopefully, the government reasons, fathers will take advantage of this time, not to watch more soccer and hang out at the PMU but rather to help bring stable, healthy children into French society, saving health care costs down the road: Little Baron is hopefully going to be using the French health care system for a very long time, and the healthier he is the more he'll pay in and the less he'll take out. This is something that private health insurance, beholden as it is to stockholder expectations and quarterly results, will never be able to take sufficiently into account: investors don't care about what a client will cost the system 40-60 years from now: a single-payer government plan has to.
Additionally, the whole birthing experience cost us practically nothing out of pocket (the optional private room and the epidural being the exceptions, which ran us about 80/night and 300, respectively). My wife was able to stay in the maternity ward for four nights, learning the ins and outs of newborn life from a dedicated pit crew of midwives, available 24/7. We also have access to a public facility nearby where we can have the kid weighed and put questions to a baby-centric nurse, all without an appointment (babies not being known for their punctuality and all) or a bill. Once again, this is not simply humanitarian interest: every healthy baby that grows up and enters the workforce starts paying into the system, allowing the whole cycle of affordable health care to help pay for itself.
Very clever. And once again, very impossible in a for-profit system where short-term cost management has to, by definition, be the top priority.
I don't know anything about babies that I haven't learned in the last twelve days so I don't want to judge, but these people sure do seem to have a pretty good system for dealing with new humans.
Somebody remind me of this the next time I whine about the French bureaucracy: as it turns out, it is not without its charm.