Now I’m Mother Goose and Knesset MK Rachel Azaria gets it.

Mother Goose figures out the way.Recently, I made a conscious decision to give up.

It was a few weeks into my return from maternity leave, talking with younger mothers at work who were looking to me for answers.

I didn’t really have many. I gave some tips, some words of advice. I thought, maybe I could just be the Mother Goose. Come under my wing for a minute, have a seat, feel unjudged. Feel vulnerable and supported. Know I don’t have the answers. I don’t have solutions. I only have some acquired, coffee-stained wisdom wrapped in my daily insane struggle to keep up. 

That goes for coworkers, for friends, for younger moms, for my kids one day – who may have it even worse.

After that, I let out a long sigh, reached into the universe, and decided to be ok with the Struggle. Because I have no choice.

I had given up the last shred of hope hunt for a working parenting life mentor and decided to be an imperfect substitute for others.

Israeli MK Rachel Azaria (JPost)And tonight, Israeli Member of Knesset Rachel Azaria verbalized why: this is generational. This is fairly new. This is indicative and caused by a few concrete reasons she could list after having done her studies on the topic of differences between our generation’s parenting styles versus our parents’.

The following are my notes from tonight’s meetup with the MK via the Ima Kadima group, an organization run by a team of local Anglo-Israeli parents working to support and campaign for working, career-oriented mothers.

Difference between how we grew up and how we’re raising kids:

  • The public space was ours vs now.
  • The food was homemade vs now.
  • More mothers took off during early years.
  • They could live off one salary, at least for a few years.
  • We work more hours today.
  • The standards became unstable, smartphones, being available at night.
  • More cars in the 90s, more traffic. Kids used to play under buildings, now they are parking lots.
  • Everyone walked to gan… less cars.
  • Food is given to kids somewhere else, so we are not in charge.

In the meeting, Azaria covered three areas she’s been working on included in the list above:

  1. Food
  2. Public spaces
  3. Time

1. ADRESSING FOOD IN TZAHARON:
Azaria has worked on the legislation to make the food given healthier.
Also in two days they will pass committee as legislature that puts the food under the national standards and jurisdiction of the health ministry.
And then next week should pass for next year’s academic year.
Note the new law about no sweets in schools, ganim.

2. PUBLIC SPACES:
Azaria is working on urban planning better organized for children.
Trying to make it better for kids to walk to school, foster independence.
That we shouldn’t have to drive our kids to school all the time.

3. TIME:
Azaria is also tackling time. Being in the workforce with young kids. Three key questions:

A. How do you give parents more time?
B. How do you make it possible for both parents to be involved with the kids?
C. Where does the government take more responsibility for the kids?

A. How do you give parents more time?

1. Azaria extended vacation days from 10-12 recently. That was a big job.

2. Trying to meet with histadrut morim. Trying to work on yemai histaglut.

B. How do you make it possible for both parents to be involved with the kids?

1. Sha’at hanaka can be split.

2. Yemai machala for kids… so parents can switch off without penalties for having to pay for taking the days off. Now it’s combined. View it based on the child and family unit and not individual employee.

What else do we need to change so we view the child and not the parent? Something to split between two working parents? Azaria wants more suggestions of legislation.

C. Where does the government take more responsibility for the kids?

1. Prices of Tzaharon

Once ganim became subsidized, the iriyot jumped the prices of tzaharon… depends on city size, less in Jerusalem. More kids, price drops. “We will only be able to combat this after the budget.”

2. Maonot yom

Next term… too big. Need too much money.

3. Maternity leave

  • Maternity leave – People want to handle it but it’s very expensive. That’s the main problem.
  • No one has thought about it in a holistic way.
  • Not just number of weeks…
  • How do you bring in fathers?
  • How do you bring in employers? They pay chafifa… there’s a lot of choser vadaut.
  • It’s hard for employers. They need to plan, not allowed to ask but need to practically ask to manage your company.
  • What if you had an in between option where you can come back partly for a phase, easing for both the employer and the employee.
  • A few days for men at the least – to build it in… it’s significantly more expensive.

Challenges: 
**Giving flextime is hard to make a policy. It has to be up to workplaces.
**Tav chavrati for family friendly workplaces… again not policy… very hard to do.
**Changing perspective of employers… and what is the incentive for them? The research exists about productive employees…
**Hatavot for employers also hard… expensive… where do you start and end?
**Big companies versus small companies – harder for small companies to work it out and they need the hatavot more than the big companies.
**Daycare at company is a good idea but doesn’t work practically unless you live next to your work. Most people want daycare close to home.
**Tamat you are in between if you make too much but not enough… also Tamat is hard to find in many places.

Fun fact:

Azaria once hired a consultant who was pregnant at the time, to the shocked reactions of colleagues at the Knesset. As if she didn’t know what that could mean.

A favorite quote:

”I don’t like legislating laws that won’t be followed.” AKA, laws without practical meaning.

Catalyst for change:

Azaria’s video campaigns are the most watched in Israeli politics – more than even the Prime Minister’s (bless him for trying). And the reason is clear: she’s addressing one of the largest struggling demographics in our country: WORKING PARENTS.

Koala update: You have an American mom.

I grew up with this perception of the Israeli kids in school being pretty laid back, coming to school with their lunch packed casually in plastic bags. I thought it was really cool… because I was a kid, and anything I didn’t get to do was cool. Even if every year my mom took me to pick out whatever Hello Kitty, Lisa Frank, or My Little Pony lunchbox I wanted.

Fast forward to 2012. My son is three years old and starting his first year of official gan (gan trom trom). It’s the first year I’ll have to pack an ‘aruchat eser’ for him every day. That’s the 10am meal 3-5 year olds eat at gan because they don’t get a lunch until they leave at 2pm. I know right? I wouldn’t make it that long, either.

In so many ways, I’m already ‘that American mom’ since my kid always comes to gan dressed in clothes some of my neighbors go to work in. I make my kid say ‘please’ all the time. And I plan to send him in with peanut butter and jelly at least half the time.

Anyway, despite Koala’s abba bringing it up several times, I forewent the lunchbox option because I knew in my bones he’d only be starting out at the extreme end of Americanness. And any day now, that would start to matter more. And I remembered those chilled out Israeli kids with their plastic bags.

So I sent Koala to his first day with his Emek cheese sandwich and apple slices packed in a plastic Mister Zol bag.

When I went to pick him up, I was thrilled to hear he had a great time (!איזה בוגר). I was less thrilled that he was munching on a piece of sour apple taffy, his teeth highlighter green. But he was happy to show me around, and where he had eaten his aruchat eser.

“One thing though, Ima…” started his ganenet. “It’s not good to keep the lunch in a plastic bag, tied so tight… the food starts to go bad… So maybe tomorrow,” she added reluctantly, “keep it open?”

“Oh, sure…” And then I followed the ganenet to where she was taking his plastic lunch leftovers off the coat rack, where it had hung between a dozen… tiny backpacks.

“So… everyone brought tikim?”

“…yes.” She smiled kindly. Of course they did. And I immediately understood I’d be sending my kid with a backpack tomorrow, too.

As I took Koala’s hand and led him to the car, my mind wandered to the fact that, despite  my ability to be adaptable and flexible – after all, I attribute my aliyah success to that – despite it, when we get home, the first thing I would do – as a proud American – would be to brush his neon green teeth.

The cost of having kids in Israel.

We ‘have’ kids. Sounds so passive, doesn’t it?

Isn’t it more like, we find someone to have kids with, settle in with them, work at it for a few months to a few years, attempt to save money to cushion the initial shock, bring forth a baby into the world with extreme amounts of energy, and work every single second of our lives thereafter to ensure their health and safekeeping?

Costly KidsHere’s an infographic courtesy of Early Childhood Education. It’s absolutely addressing data based in the United States. Which blows my mind, just to see the college figures.

Israel runs a totally different show; not to say raising kids here isn’t costly, it’s just costly in different ways. Our salaries are lower, our cost of living is higher (our standard of living is high). Import tax makes goods more expensive than they’d be elsewhere. Small population, less choice/less supply/higher prices. I’m no economist, and I can’t really, ahem, afford to wax philosophic about it all.

But I feel like shedding a little light.

There’s a good breakdown of costs for a family of four in the context of what to expect when you make aliyah. Note: I take no responsibility for how off this is in Tel Aviv. That’s your fault for living there ;)

But these are relevant to where I live, Tzur Hadassah, a 1500-family yishuv 20 minutes outside Jerusalem.

Numbers in Israeli shekels:

  • Housing (rent or mortgage): 4000-5000
  • Arnona (annual property tax): 300-500 (roughly 5,000 a year – very dependent on where you live)
  • Water: 120-250
  • Electricity: 250-500

…and so on (cell phone, gas, car, petrol, TV, va’ad bayit). But I digress. Children-related expenses, on a monthly basis, look a little like this – for my community, anyway:

  • Daycare for babies until 3: 1500-2500 (lower number reflects range in Beitar Illit, an option)
  • Gan 3+: Free as of 2012/2013, but parents provide ‘aruchat eser’
  • Tzaharon (after 2:30pm): 800+
  • School fees: up to 1050 a year
  • Tin of formula: 50+
  • Acamol/Nurofen: +/- 30-40

Clothes are expensive unless you shop at deep discount stores like Bazaar Strauss and whatnot. Toys are ridiculously expensive – look at mamibuy.co.il for what a deal is here, and then consider the everyday price. I paid for a toy at Shilav with gift certificates equaling 350nis that costs about $36 in the States.

Books are actually decent; I find book stores here hold sales like 3 for 100nis quite often.

Then there’s the issue of weekend activities… A movie ticket is about 35nis. A museum entrance for a kid can be 25nis and up. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo costs 38nis for a kid above the age of 3. A fast food kids’ meal runs between 25-40nis.

Considering chugim, like swimming lessons or music class? That can start at 40nis a lesson.

Know Hebrew and want to get a sense of food prices? Check out Shufersal’s online storefront. Prices here can be on the higher side, but it’s pretty much reality if you live in a city or popular area (non-charedi).

Keep in mind the average salary in Israel is around 9,000nis (as of March 2012).

I’m not painting a complete picture here, but I figured I’d give a start to the way of thinking when it comes to children expenses here. But it doesn’t stop us from having them: in 2010, 28% of Israel’s population was aged between 0-14. The average size of the Israeli family is 3.7 persons… which I actually find hard to believe while looking around here.

I haven’t included a lot. Add whatever comes to mind in the comments.