Lawyer Anne Horn and her family have a busy household: three kids, different schedules and working parents. It's a familiar tale, but Sheila MacVicar reports that because they live in France, Horn and her family get help from the government's very family friendly policies.
"Maybe we won't have anymore desperate housewives in France," Horn says. "It's changing a lot."
One hundred and sixty three countries around the globe offer at least some subsidy to new mothers. In America, federal law entitles some working mothers to twelve weeks unpaid leave. The rest get nothing.
But French families are entitled to up to three years paid maternity leave with a guarantee that mom's job will be there for her when she returns. There is also subsidized child care and a whole host of tax credits.
And baby number three brings twice the government allowance of baby number two.
"For the third child I was able to take a long maternity leave, and I think it's a great opportunity because I was sure to find my job after this," Horn says.
Most of Europe is going gray, and there are worries about a future where the number of people on pensions outnumbers younger workers funding those pensions through taxes. That kind of imbalance could be a disaster.
But that's not the case in France, where fertility rates are up. France's booming birthrate is now the second highest in Europe. It's such a resounding success that officials from Germany, Thailand and even Japan—all fearful of their own aging populations—are studying the French model.
In a policy borne out of hundred-year-old fears that a declining French population would be vulnerable to military attack, the government now subsidizes family life in France to the tune of forty billion dollars a year.
The goal now is to help women work—eighty percent of French women do—and have babies.
"We really focus now on reconciling babies and bosses, and that means we put more and more emphasis on child care facilities," says Vincent Mahe of the Health and Benefits Ministry.
And that may be the key, say the French. Not only take care of working mothers, but convince families that their children will be well cared for from a very young age, and they'll have more babies—and maybe a little less guilt.