A newborn baby is the most needy creature you’ll ever see. Their stomachs are tiny, so they need to be fed at least every 3 hours. Their bodies are undeveloped, so they need to be dressed, changed and carried everywhere. Their hearts and minds are brand new and easily overwhelmed, so they need the constant comfort of loving arms around them – usually their mother’s. In short, parenting is a full time job, a fact most employers recognize by allowing maternity leave for new parents. This gift of time is much appreciated, but it doesn’t pay much, so that’s where the federal government steps in. Or at least, that’s the theory.
I live in Canada, where the federal government gives my family $100 per child, per month. Since I only have one child, the math is simple. My husband and I get $100 per month, apparently to make up for the fact that I’m not currently working as I care for my little daughter. It sounds good enough on paper, I’ll admit – but a hundred bucks is nothing to sneeze at. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, exactly, but the government could do more to help out families like myself.
To be frank, a hundred bucks is a drop in the bucket for a single income family with a new baby. Think about how much you would make per month if you were working full time. Even at minimum wage, it would be a great deal more than a hundred dollars. When you consider that many people who work full time are struggling to get by in our current economy, that monthly $100 cheque starts to look awfully small.
And there’s more to it than that. Anyone who has spent any time in those parts of the internet where babies are discussed, you’ll know that breastfeeding is strongly recommended by most health care providers. Actually, ‘strongly recommended’ doesn’t begin to cover it. The push to breastfeed is so strong that, had I not already chosen breastfeeding on my own, I would have felt corralled into it. And let me tell you, breastfeeding is a full time job all on its own. Even if you had the time to work, you wouldn’t have the energy because early breastfeeding keeps mothers up for hours each night. And that’s assuming breastfeeding goes smoothly. For me, it didn’t, and I had to buy a breast pump, which cost $400. Using my child tax benefit cheques, it would have taken me a third of a year to buy something I needed on the third day of my daughter’s life.
So basically, that cheque doesn’t go very far to begin with, and when you’re hit with surprises like medication and unexpected nursing paraphernalia, you start to wonder just what the government thinks they’re accomplishing. I’m one of the lucky ones because my husband works full time and brings in enough to get us by most months. I don’t know how single mothers manage it; I’m beginning to think I ought to bow down in awe before every single mother that I meet.
It’s not that I want to stop getting my monthly $100. I’m not trying to be ungrateful here. It’s just that if the government’s stated goal is to help families, you’d think they’d provide enough money to live on. They do it for prisoners, after all… why not for innocent babies?
And did I mention that I have a teenage stepson, for whom I get no money at all, but who lives with me more than half the time?
Maybe the Canadian government should put their money where their mouth is. Or rather, their future.