After living on both the East and West coasts of the United States, as well as in Taiwan, Russia and China, I can genuinely say that Utah is one of the most family-friendly places I know.
With the unparalleled priority Utah places on the family and motherhood, one may reason that Utah would also be a “mother-friendly” place. Certainly, it is to some degree. Every mom who has been to the retail store Kid to Kid would surely nod her head.
But in some ways, Utah’s treatment of mothers isn’t up to par.
A friend of mine is moving to Utah from California. After years of struggling with infertility and trying IVF multiple times with no success, she was surprised to find that Utah does not provide better insurance options in regards to fertility treatments.
Another friend is moving back to Utah to raise her two granddaughters by herself. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to buy a house for many years until she can build credit and show a consistent paycheck. She feels “punished” for having chosen to be a stay-at-home mother.
One mother recently lost her husband in a car accident. Several days after burying her husband, through tear-filled eyes, she told me of the financial and legal burdens that are now heaped upon her. Utah offers no assistance in helping her navigate this tragic and complex situation.
After I gave birth to my fifth child last year, I experienced postpartum depression due to lack of sleep. My previous babies were born in Asia — a culture that highly prioritizes the care of mothers. Pregnant women are pampered and rest as much as possible. After labor, new mothers are required to do “zuo yueze” — a period of at least one month where new mothers rest in bed, eat nutritious soups and sleep.
Asia’s not the only place that treats mothers well. Norway, Croatia, Serbia and the United Kingdom provide up to one year of paid maternity leave. France provides a perineal re-education program which helps mothers strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. The Netherlands provides a nurse for at least one week after birth to help clean, cook and care for the mother and baby. Russia provides incentives and prizes such as cars, money and refrigerators to those who give birth. Iceland and Finland provide a parental leave package for both parents.
Singapore sends married parents a total of $8,000 for each first and second baby and $10,000 for each subsequent baby. Additionally, for every baby born after May 2016, the government opens a special savings account for each child for education and health costs. They offer $3,000 to each child and then will match parent contributions up to $3,000 for the first child, $9,000 for the second and third, and $15,000 for any subsequent child.
Mothers in these countries feel respected, rewarded and privileged to be mothers — not punished.
They also feel more able to focus on the development of their children — which is a paramount factor in stable societies. Controlling for socioeconomic factors, the strongest predictor of doing prison time is single parenthood, children from single-parent families account for 63% of youth suicides, 71% of adolescent substance abuse, 70% of teenage pregnancies and 90% of homeless and runaway children. Clearly, children need more parental attention, and working and non-working mothers need the support to be able to give that.
Utah could improve its treatment of mothers and strive to become the leading location in the world in promoting women’s rights and in supporting and rewarding both working and non-working mothers.
Christy J. Moore, Salt Lake City, is a lawyer, writer and stay-at-home mother of five active children and has lived in California, Washington, D.C., Russia, Taiwan and China.