Monday, June 4, 2012

Food for Thought at the Finnish Embassy

Living my monotonous suburban housewife life, I sometimes forget that I live just outside of the nation's capital.  Sure, I take advantage of the parks and museums and restaurants on occasion. But I forget that there's action in DC.  Politics and interest groups and lobbyists and embassies and a big white house.  A lot happens here.  I just feel so far removed from it, despite being so physically close.

So when I was invited by fellow blogger and lobbyist Valerie Young to a reception at the Embassy of Finland for the Caring Economy Campaign, I jumped at the opportunity.  I wasn't really sure what the campaign was for, who would be there, or the nature of Finnish hors d'oeuvres, but, knowing Valerie, I knew it would be interesting.

I got a babysitter.  I wore business casual clothing (which I seriously had not done in over a year).   I ventured out in a torrential downpour.  And I looked forward to feeling like I was a part of real DC, if only for an afternoon.

The reception wasn't overly crowded, but I noticed there were far more women than men.  I grabbed a glass of wine and some lamb on a crostini and found Valerie, who gave me the five minute overview of what the campaign was about.

I'll never explain it as eloquently as she could, so I won't even try (and click here to see it explained by the pro).  But here's how I think about it.  I stay at home with my children.  I spend my time caring for them, rather than working in a place of employment.  As far as economics goes, I add nothing to this society in terms of GDP.  No income.  No output.  Nada.

But what if I did go back to work, and I hired a nanny to care for my children instead?  Then not only am I adding something to the economy, but so is the nanny.  The nanny would earn money, pay taxes, and provide a service.

So how is it that me caring for my children is not recognized, from an economic standpoint, but hiring a nanny to do so is?

It's because of economic indicators.  And that's what the Caring Economy Campaign is all about - incorporating social wealth indicators - which would put a value on caring and caregiving - into measures of economic success.

And why would we do that?

Because "[t]he real wealth of our nation, and our world, is not financial:  Our real wealth consists of the contributions of people and nature.  Nations that support the work of caregiving - by offering caregiver tax-credits, publically funded child and elder care, and paid parental leave - consistently rank high in both UN Human Development Reports and World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Reports.  When the importance of caregiving is recognized and supported, citizens are happier and healthier, and society is more economically secure. Success in the world and a good quality of life for our nation's citizens require economic practices, policies, and measurements that give visibility and value to the most essential human work - the work of caring for people, starting in early childhood."
Caring Economy CampaignCenter for Partnership Studies

Do you know how cool it was to be in a room full of people that all felt this way?   That all think maternity leave in this country needs a major overhaul?  That all believe that families should have access to government subsidized childcare?  That all believe that employers need to offer more flexible work schedules?  That all think that what I am doing right now - staying home with my two children - is truly valuable?


I was really inspired.

And very thankful that there are people like this out there, devoting their time and money and careers to advancing the rights of families and caregivers.

It made me want to be one of them.

If you'd like to support the campaign or learn more, you can go to, or watch the video below.

Caring Economy v3


  1. very cool! thanks for posting and letting us know! glad you a good night out too!

  2. I learned about this is one of my classes recently, and it was so eye opening to think about it in these terms! Thanks for posting more about it!

  3. Thanks for sharing!

    I live in Ontario where there are one year maternity leaves. The government essentially pays you employment insurance while you are off on mat leave. You are paid a portion of your salary up to a max of $1600/month (which means lawyers receive the max). Plus your job is protected until you return. Many employers also pay you a "top up" in addition to the government amount so as to bring you to a certain percentage of your salary for a predetermined period of time (usually up to 75% of salary for 4-6 months). Most lawyers do not take the full year, especially those in big firms on a partnership track.

  4. Great campaign cause! It's about time!

  5. What you are doing IS valuable.

    It is really interesting to read and watch this as a Scandinavian. I live in Denmark, and when I had my 2 kids I had 1 year off on leave with both of them. 9 months with my salary (paid by my employer) and 3 month on governmenth income (50% of my income), and now both my kids attend government subsidized childcare (in Sweden a mom can have up to 1½ year on leave). It sounds good - and it is good! (however - we do pay 50% of our income in taxes...there is a price!). But when I hear about Americans who have almost none maternity leave I find it hard to believe!


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