Theresa Giarrusso is taking a few days off of blogging to tackle a couple of family and school projects. Keith Still, a mother of three, will be filling in this week.
While I absolutely love “best places” lists when it comes to traveling, I tend to get skeptical when I read articles that rate places as “the best countries in which to be a mother” – mainly because the idea of what makes a location good for mothering seems to me pretty subjective and often, political.
The lead paragraph in this Agence France Presse article yesterday grabbed my attention:
“The United States has scored poorly on a campaign group’s list of the best countries in which to be a mother, managing only 28th place, and bettered by many smaller and poorer countries.”
The 2010 “Mothers Index”, published by the Save the Children organization, listed Norway as the best country in the world in which to be a mother, followed by Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Here’s what the AFP article reported on the United States’ ranking of 28.
“Even debt-plagued Greece came in four places higher at 24.
“One factor that dragged the US ranking down was its maternal mortality rate, which at one in 4,800 is one of the highest in the developed world, said the report.
“…It also scored poorly on under-five mortality, its rate of eight per 1,000 births putting it on a par with Slovakia and Montenegro.
“…Only 61 percent of children were enrolled in preschool, which on this indicator made it the seventh-lowest country in the developed world, it said.
“…And it added: ‘The United States has the least generous maternity leave policy — both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid — of any wealthy nation.’
“…Save the Children compiled the index after analyzing a range of factors affecting the health and well-being of women and children, including access to health care, education and economic opportunities.
“…Thus Norway came top because women there are paid well, access to contraception is easy and the country has one of the generous most maternity leave policies in the world.”
High marks seem to go toward countries with lengthy, government-mandated or subsidized maternity leaves. Points also appear to go toward nations with universal or government-run health services, high preschool enrollments, high levels of maternal education and economic opportunities.
While the report shows areas in which the U.S. clearly needs improvement, I’m just not sure you can really quantify a country’s “motherhood quality” this way. There seem to be too many other factors at play.
Are long maternity leaves, economic opportunities and access to health care good for mothers? Sure, as long as these programs are sustainable. But many of the countries that rank higher on the list are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy or in the process of being bailed out.
“Debt-plagued Greece” which comes in four places higher than the U.S. is not exactly a model for stability and quality of life – for mothers or their children — at the moment.
What does it really mean to be “the best place in which to be a mother”? What do you think of rankings like this one? Is it possible to make a concrete assessment about something as subjective as the best countries for mothers?
Have any of you lived in any of the top-ranked countries for mothers? How did mothering life there compare?
If you were ranking countries on “motherhood quality”, where would you put the U.S.?