Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at PostGlobal

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff


Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit. Close.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff


Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. more »

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Motherhood Held Hostage

Germany/USA - The German welfare state keeps mothers away from the workplace.

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All Comments (37)


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I have never seen any evidence of women being treated unfairly by men. I think those women who complain to a disservice to women everywhere. If women just do what they are supposed to, all of these problems wouldn't exist!

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Fairfax, VA:

I don't think the American government has really succeeded when it comes to childcare.A 2months old baby is sent to daycare to be cared and loved by starnger.The reason, you have to return to work after 2months. And have you seen some of these daycares, not to mention all the cold food they serve, for 12hours, 5 days a week.

I am a working mother and lucky enough to have help at home. I can peacefully work for 10hrs a day (includes 2 hrs of commute). I have been to several daycares here and ready to leave my job rather than sending my kid to these high paid daycares. Not to mention they fall sick often, the kids are more stressed and look unhappy most of the times.

I agree there has to be a balanced work schedule for moms and especially new moms who want to spend time with their baby but sometimes are required to work.

I think the poilicies for mothers should be flexible, where you can come back to work after a year and allowed to work lesser number of hours for certain period.

Deiter, Germany:

The answer is simple: ANAL MASTURBATION!


Mike, NY:

When I was growing up in the 70's, my dad and all my friends' dads worked corporate jobs, and the moms took care of the kids. The rigid gender roles were one unfortunate aspect of this arrangement, but my point is that all of our families did just fine on one parent's salary.

Now I have a kid and my wife and I both have to work, so we underpay a nanny to look after our kid (luckily, she's great). The only peers I have that can manage a family and build any kind of a financial future on one income are bankers, lawyers or doctors, and they have to work 75 hour+ weeks. That means their kids don't know them and they have health problems from such a grind. For the rest of us, wages don't even come close to keeping up with housing price inflation (to say nothing of future college tuition costs, retirement, etc). Now, I never buy anything frivolous at all, but I realize I'll never enjoy the standard of living my parents could provide...and who knows how my kid(s) will adjust to having 2 working parents? One thing is for sure: me and my wife would be psyched for a German-style family leave system. The trade-offs you need to make in today's America are often just plain stupid. You can wait til you're wealthier to have kids, but then you're likely to be an old parent, and that has its own drawbacks.

Heck, maybe me and the wife should move to Germany. Or maybe I should apply for a job at an investment bank and give up on having any family time at all...

Bottom line, if you're not rich, you're screwed.


1950: 1 working parent (usually the father) + stay-at-home parent (mother) and 3 kids was the model "household consumer unit"

2006: 2 working parents plus 1 or 2 chidren (with daycare and public school) is the model "household consumer unit".

Price points are set to what households can afford. Conrats, we have created a model where everyone other than the superich either in poverty or perceive themselves vulnerable to being impoverished. We did it to ourselves and undoing it will require a revolution.

mcewen, cottonwood, usa:

As a father of two young girls Id love to stay home and care for them, they are the love of my and my wifes lives, instead of the 80 hr work week piled on top of caring for the outside of the house, doing all of the cooking and cleaning inside and caring for them as much as physically possible, but that is the life we have chosen. Maybe there should be a required course laying out all thats ahead for those who have second thoughts about children. Our grandparents, who built this country, and did a pretty good job of it,I don't believe, ever heard of such words as day care, pre school, paternity leave or govt. subsidies to raise children. Women and the author are just part of the free lunch bunch who want everybody else to support their lifestyles.


Family girl of Baton Rouge points out the many benefits of raising children close to their grandparents but forgets a big reason some parents do not choose this: earning a living to provide for their children. Not every profession offers a lot of jobs close to the extended families of each professional in the field. I know one man who had to choose between doing less-skilled labor close to his parents and using his engineering education far away from his parents because no employer near his parents was hiring engineers when he graduated.

AK, Fairfax USA:

To Atheist in Boston:

Are you saying that women are perfectly treated in our own society? Because I know a few women (and men) within our own borders who have been abused by their partners, sometimes to the point of hospitalization. As an Indian and an American born in this country, I take great offense at your generalization of societies based upon the hideous actions of a few. I suppose that as Boston has a huge Catholic population, all men there are child molesters. Perhaps we should deport you and all of your friends to protect our children.

Tina, USA:

I agree with the previous bloggers who noted that there are serious problems with childcare in the U.S. Childcare, whether provided by parents, teachers or nannies and sitters is under-valued. Only until raising children is seen as a valuable use of time will anything change.

Kay, Denmark:

I'm an American woman living and working in Denmark, where low-cost daycare provided by college-educated professionals is available to all. My daughter loves her day-care center, where there are lots of other kids to play with and not a single television set. She is healthy, happy and well-adjusted.

My point: Americans with a knee-jerk rejection of all forms of day care should get a life. A hundred years ago, kids lived on farms and villages surrounded by siblings and neighboring kids. The paradigm of one parent caring for one-kid (or two or three kids) all day long is relatively new, and in my opinion not particularly healthy for either parent or child.

Interestingly, there are relatively few women in executive positions in Denmark, even though the corporate culture here is extremely supportive of family and most parents (mother and father) leave work at 4 to pick up their kids. I can testify from my own experience that when I finally had my daughter - at age 40 - I just didn't feel like making the same committment to advancement at work as I once did. I work very hard for eight hours a day, and then go home and focus on her, and I love it.

It all comes down to priorities, I think. Each woman can make her own choice, but many seem to choose to focus on raising their families - as I did - and I think that's fine.


Whatever happened to the idea of community? Are you so selfish that you demand that not a measly $10 of your monthly tax dollars goes towards raising the people who will one day comprise your service people, teachers, politicians, firemen, nurses and doctors? Really, you're that selfish? Sad...


I find it very interesting that several people categorized giving birth to being selfish - in other words, don't have a child unless YOU can pay for it, it's not my problem! Where extactly, do you think your tax dollars are going? I for one would much rather my tax dollars go towards subsidized childcare than a war.

Another problem with this idea is that it creates a society in which only the wealthy are allowed to have children. Is your next suggestion to sterilize those under a certain income? Are you honestly suggesting that those people who, for whatever reason, are not at your ideal financial level should not be allowed to have a family? It's not possible for everyone to earn tons of money. Society needs janitors, and kitchen workers, and bus drivers (who, incidentally, make more money in my city than I do, and I do brain research at a major university...), and there are some people who just do not have the capacity to attend college. Do we have to right to deny these people families? I don't think so.

One of the things you hear new parents say so often is that having a child makes you look outside of yourself. So, maybe what our self-centered world needs is more children. So many people are worried about what's best for them right now, that they don't even blink when they take more than their share.

Finally, having mom stay home with the kids isn't the best for everyone. Just because you're female doesn't mean you have this burning desire to kill yourself working in college, and then pop out a few babies and spend your waking hours using your college skills to mop the floor and fold laundry. People are suggesting women stay at home, but why CAN'T they work? On the flip side, what makes men so incapable of staying at home with the kids? Besides nursing the baby, there is absolutely nothing the father cannot do that the mother can do (which I realize is a whole other topic).

family girl, baton rouge, la:

I think people are completely missing the third option that my parents and my husband's parents used to fulfill both. My husband and I live 15 minutes away from each of our parents and they have made solid committments to us to support us in our child raising. This means that we can both continue our careers and know that our children will be in the trusted hands of our family members, growing up learning about our family tradition and the history of our ancestors. Not only is this "free" and an expectation of our family (I myself spent many hours taking care of my nephew while in college) it is a way to keep our children connected to our entire family until they start school. Now, I do have to admit that both my husband and I had to give up stellar careers in places outside of our hometown to make this arrangement, but we've been able to grow fairly comperable careers in a place with a lower cost of living.

I think our generation has made great efforts to run far and fast from their nuclear family and "go out on their own." I think it's great to have those experiences away from your family, but returning to our hometown was the best choice my husband and I could have made for our children. There is less and less of a reliance on family these days and as our parents get older, they too will rely on the fact that we are financially stable as we are then able to provide for them in their old age, it's sort of the circle of family life.

It's not easy by any means, but it is easier, I think, than trying to do it alone as a couple, relying on strangers in a large metropolitan city. I know I grew up under the watchful eye of my grandparents, aunts, friends of my parents, and I had so many experiences that my parents never could have showed me. It is possible to have it all, you just have to work at it and make committments to your entire family, not just the one that you start.

Bertram, IL USA:

What is being ignored is the social cost to children and families of the "two working parent" model. When children are raised by daycares, television and the street. One sees the widespread ignorance which is the USA. The highest rates of STD's, teen pregnancies, homicides and crime in the western world are in the US. That isn't anything which I admire. I society which values parenting and supports mothers in spending time with their children is to be admired.

sleep deprived:

I am an ambitious professional with a PhD. I am also a new mother. My desire to live up to my responsibilities as a parent does not differ from my desire to live up to my responsibilities as a professional: I want to be able to raise my child in the best possible environment, and I want to pursue my rigorous profession to my maximum ability. What to do?

I visited a "good" daycare once. The infants were "warehoused" - either asleep in see-through plastic boxes (unbelievable!) or sitting catatonic in highchairs lined up in a row against the wall. No music, no toys in their hands, no one talking to them. Woo-hoo! Let's hear it for daycare in America! You would have to kill me before my daughter would spend an hour in such a place, let alone 40 hours a week. I also would never entrust the care of my infant to a nanny or private home caregiver of any kind. Better paranoid than sorry.

And yet, I worked long and hard for my degree, for my skill set, for the groundwork of a lifelong career that I have built - why would I want to throw that away? I certainly don't.

If my employer had forced me to choose between my child and my job, I would choose my child first. I can get another job, but I only get one chance with this child.

Fortunately, thus far, my employer has allowed me to telecommute nearly full time - an unusual arrangement in our office. I don't know how long it will last. But I would suggest that increased employer flexibility, for both mothers and fathers, could go a long way towards both keeping working moms working and towards children being raised in an ostensibly loving environment by actual parents rather than fairly indifferent "caregivers."

Obviously this is only an option for people with portable work. But it's an option that employers should allow employees to exercise more freely. Otherwise, professionals who are also mothers will continue to bow out of the workforce, not necessarily because we are any less invested in it, but because 1) some of us won't compromise on care for our children, and 2) women's salaries are still on average 30 percent less than men's - if one parent is going to leave the workforce to care for the kid(s), more often than not it's going to be the spouse who makes less money - usually the woman.

I also wanted to say that America has made no investment whatsoever in childcare solutions or ways to help working parents juggle their productive and reproductive roles (beyond that provided in association with welfare reform, that is). Once again, capital is pitted against the least powerful in society - women and children - and it is they who pay all of the costs in this regard. Makes me nauseated.


It is obvious that Mr. Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff has no clue concerning childraising and student loan repayment pressures in the USA [or Canada]. A student in Germany up to now [new law says tuition will be approx $1000] could go through university with very little side income/parental help. I know, for my second daughter took her second degree in Germany, and did not ever ask for financial help through the 4 years. Her First degree in Canada, including room and board, travel [to university], etc [in a state supported university] consumed over $90 000 [Canadian] Were she forced to repay this debt, she could not have any hope of rasing children, when even state subsidized childcare costs exceed $600 a month, and she needs a car, for lack of public transport, where insurance is approx $200 month, the car payemnt/costs another $300-400, then you have to rent [$400 -- for one room and kitchen use; $1400 plus utilities for a 2 bedroom apartment] and eat [$200] etc.
In other words, the female professional can not afford a child.

The other point Mr. Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff failed to analyze, was whether child care is more or less beneficial for the child as compared to the mother's full time care. Having been at home parent while wife worked, and comparing even our lower standard of living with others with two income and children in day cares [bouncing around] it is self-evident that the steady care our children received were advantegous for them over their babysat cohort.

So I respectfully suggest to MR. Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff that he analyze the issues in hios dreamland of USA/Canada, ere he criticizes the German system.

As an aside to:

James Schrumpf:

your census bureau's latest blurb on fertility rate puts your native born [of whatever color] at approx 1.75 fertility rate, and clearly states that the natural growth in population of the USA is exclusively due to the Hispanic legal/illegal immigrants, who still maintain a fertility rate above 2.1.

Elaine Meinel Supkis Berlin NY:

America's birthrate is 'high' ONLY due to immigration. France, ditto.

Japan, which has very little immigration, is the worst off of all industrialized nations! This seems to be the case in all industrialized nations: no one wants to be stuck with having more than one child, if that.

Since this is universal, one has to look at the relationship of industrialized nations and their education system and reward/punishment systems. Having children opens people to many punishments and restrictions. The education of these young is very expensive and long.

The distractions surrounding these children are very developed and very severe. Children grow up basically out of the control of the parents. Assaulted on all sides by businesses and government, any missteps of the parents can send them to prison or bankrupt them.

So most choose to not get involved in these difficulties. I am the mother of several children. I had to deal with all the headaches and hazards of these children and the vigilance and difficulties were very great. They are now all adults.

Aside from nearly dying, having one of them, the health hazards and the psychological difficulties were very great. It is a gamble. One can't tell if a child will make one proud or one spends the teen years in agony wondering if they will turn up dead.

In one family, all these options can happen.

Some of us have babies, anyway. But fewer and fewer each generation. Freedom means just that: try being free around a baby! Or worse, around a teenager! Indeed...


Re Katie's comment: "Excuse me! Why should my tax monies go to susidize someone else's child care?"

Well, personally, I would be happy to help subsidize the care of a child's first year or two by a parent. Not just for altruistic reasons - though there is an element of that as well, for both the parent and the child - but because I believe that I and the people I love benefit from living in a society in which children grew up well-attached to their parents. A lot of daycares - particularly less expensive daycares - don't meet many of the needs of small children nearly as well as their parents would if they were able to afford to raise them. The first couple years of a child's life is crucial in preparing the child for a life of emotional and intellectual health.

Looking at this from a purely selfish point of view, the stance you seem to be taking, having young children raised by loving, attentive parents benefits ME. Being surrounded by loving, empathetic people who were securely attached to their parents and are capable of forming healthy relationships with others is good for ME. Living in a society with decreased levels of violent crime benefits ME.

Of course, for some people, the appeal of having more "stuff" is greater than the appeal of being surrounded by emotionally healthy, intelligent people. I feel sorry for such people and have to wonder about the quality of their attachment to their parents - and just how they learned to value things over people. I think that they and the people they come in contact with would be happier were their priorities reversed.

James Schrumpf:

The US is the only Western country with a birthrate close to supporting population replacement levels. The required rate is 2.1 children per childbearing woman, and the US is right at or very near that level.

Europe, however is so far beneath these levels that demographers are stating that they have fallen below the "lowest low", which is the rate below which a population cannot recover. France's rate is the best in Europe, at approximately 1.7 -- which is still below the "lowest low", however. Russia and Spain have the worst rates, around 1.1 births per woman.

Therefore, the question one should be asking of these "family-friendly" welfare states is: if they're so "family-friendly", why aren't the people having families?

Katie, Phoenix, AZ:

"The best way the state could help working mothers is to provide good enough subsidy that women can purchase the kind of child care they deem best for their child -- be it a nanny or a nursery."

Excuse me! Why should my tax monies go to susidize someone else's child care? I am not your mother, father or big brother. Before you choose to have a child you should research the costs involved. If you cannot afford those costs, then don't have a child.

Fisch, BN, Germany:

Its not so bad in Germany....

I know no mother who is excluded from the workplace. The only problem seems to be for mothers, that work half week, to compete with their colleges, but compare childs with 3 days daycare and childs with 6 days daycare..

Betty, Los Alamos, USA:

I would hardly call the American plan for childcare a good one compared to the German one. Most working mothers must pay for child care out of their own pockets and few of them make enough money to afford it. Child care facilities are scarce and often poorly run. Not every family can find one they consider good enough for their children. If they can, many mothers stay home to protect their children from poor child care, not because they want to.

Germany does provide subsidies for child care for children and for health care for children making it easier for mothers to stay home. It should be the decision of the family whether the mother wants to work or not soon after a baby is born, not the state.

The best way the state could help working mothers is to provide good enough subsidy that women can purchase the kind of child care they deem best for their child -- be it a nanny or a nursery. Of course, a nanny would cost more than attendance at a day care center, so I assume the subsidy would be at a level of a good day care center. But if some parents wish to use the subsidy toward a nanny with some supplement of their own, that should not be a problem.

The government should also pay enough money that child care workers can be trained and high performing workers. In the US, child care workers make next to nothing so few caring women can afford to be child care workers. Many of the child care workers are simply people who couldn't get a better job.

Women's careers are impacted by being responsible for child rearing, but if men would take on half of that responsibility the impact would be the same for both. Perhaps both parents should cut their work weeks back to half-time in order to provide for their children themselves and to have an opportunity to enjoy their children. If the state were to subsidize such an arrangement, it would leave the child care responsibility on the young. A good subsidy for families with young makes a lot more sense than big salaries for the oldest workers who need less.
Given the number of people in the world, Germany should be proud of its low birth rate. I would wish other countries would take and interest in keeping their birthrates low.


It's interesting that this article is focused on women as being the obvious caregivers for children. My family has a very different situation - I am employed full-time, though I am able to work from home, and my husband takes care of our daughter. He is doing a wonderful job raising our child and I am doing a wonderful job providing money for our family as well as being a very involved parent (working from home really helps in this regard). I think that men and women would be well served by society having less rigid gender standards for raising children.

I wish that the U.S. was more like Germany in some respects - that primary caregivers would have the option of state support for a year or two when they choose to stay home and raise their infants, contributing to the mental health of the next generation rather than contributing to the bottom line of some company's executives and shareholders. I think that this would contribute to a healthier society in general - research has confirmed the attachment benefits of having parents raising young children. Of course, I wouldn't want any parent to feel that she or he had to stay home to raise kids - not all people are well-suited or inclined towards the task of caring for infants - and we should recognize that people have different skills, which are not always tightly coupled to their genders.

I think that as more fathers take greater responsibility for child-raising, any part of the glass ceiling that is caused by different "family/work schedules" between men and women will melt away. I am overjoyed to see many men in the U.S. becoming stay-at-home dads and feeling comfortable taking on a role that has traditionally been assumed by women.


I think a lot of the problem is age-ism. If you don't make a splash when you are young, you get written off for life.

There is no longer any biological reason why a woman (or man) couldn't marry at 18, raise children full-time for 5 or 10 or even 20 years, then go to college and into the workforce. A 40-year-old in 2026 will likely have good health until s/he is 80. That's a 40-year career. Admittedly, a 40-year-old won't have the energy of a 20-year-old, but then the latter won't have the former's wisdom and experience. But (and this is such a big "but" that I should use all caps, bold, underlined, and 40-point font), just try to raise a family first and then have your career. Age discrimination raises its ugly head everywhere you turn: college financing, college admission, scholarships, hiring, awards, promotions, training. Even those who have had a successful career for 20 years, then try to switch fields, can attest to this pervasive age-ism.

In fact, even those who don't switch fields can attest to it, which is why so many choose early retirement. Rather than respecting the age and experience of their older employees, managers often treat them like "not good enough for management" material. They will spend 2 years looking for the ideal 20-year-old new hire to meet a need, rather than spending 6 months and a few bucks retraining a 40-year-old current employee.

I could go on, but you get the point. We're backwards. Women work for 20 years, then try to have children at 40. Or else they try to have a career and raise children simultaneously. OF COURSE they only have one, or possibly two. Duh! Bearing and raising children is hard physical labor, and is best left to young bodies. But minds last much longer, and (on the whole) actually improve with age. Our ancestors knew this; we forget it at our society's peril.

David, Leesburg, USA:

I am sorry but I do not understand why child care should be subsidised by the government. In doing so a government is choosing to promote birth rates and thus population growth in excess of the existing rate. Surely the existing population growth does not need any extra boost regardless of how it is happening?

Promoting 'native' childbirth to keep American born citizens the growth group instead of immigrants makes me a little uncomfortable. I mean please if you dont want immigrants then that is one thing but this has nothing to do with childbirth subsidy.

If you choose to have a child then that is a life choice. You are responsible for that child and you should do what it takes to raise that child no matter the sacrifice. You have made that decision to have a child so suck it up and stop complaining. Give up your smokes and your booze and your 2 late model cars and your eating out every day - thats your choice.

If I choose not to work ever should I expect the government to provide everything for me? I think not.

Then in the same breath you have people complaining of the cost of child care. So you want to deny a child care worker the ability to provide a comfortable life for themselves so that you can consume whatever and whenever you choose? How is that fair.

Now I know life is not fair and that is a child care workers choice to be in that industry and yes I agree to an extent. However their wages are being kept low so that the families who are puting their children in the daycare can have more.

If its a choice between career and motherhood then make it and stop expecting everybody else to pay for your choices. If you cant afford it then dont do it. Yes it is as simple as that.

If a company chooses to provide childcare in order to attract the employees that they need then kudos to them but that is their decision. Dont try and force every company to follow suit.

The whole argument seems to me to stem from the fact that some people cannot afford to continue to live the life that they want and have children. Well welcome to the world. You cant have everything you want. Make a choice and stop whining already.


Children (amongst other things) are a matter economic opportunity costs. If you choose to have children, you necessarily choose to forego other alternatives.

The same holds true of child care. The most often cited choices are stay-at-home or daycare. Daycare costs money but frees a parent up to pursue employment. However, the parent then chooses to forego child-rearing in favor of a career. Vice versa applies to stay-at-home.

The question then, is which do you value more: your children or your career. It would seem that most women are choosing career over their children.

If taking raising your children is more important than your career, I might suggest living with older,smaller and more fuel-efficient cars, moving into a smaller home, dine at home more often, take fewer vacations, update your wardrobe less often and spend less at birthdays and Christmas.

BTW, everybody complains about the high cost of daycare but I still have yet to see anybody put forth a "generally accepted" reasonable amount. $1000/week? $800/week? $400/week? $50/week?

Free? Well, I suppose that we could just extend the public school system to birth instead of age 5.

There are two other free/low-cost alternatives: adoption and foster care.

Jeff, Boston, USA:

I agree with previous posts, America is not comparable to France when it comes to the support of working families. From my own recent search for daycare in the past month: childcare expenses for a 3 month old newborn around the Boston area range from 1,800 a month in Brookline to 1,400 a month in Natick. My wife's company offers 'subsidized' childcare at a facility in the prudential center in downtown boston, the subsidized rate is 1,900 a month. Tack this amount onto the cost of housing and student loans and the end result is not the American dream, but rather the American nightmare.


Childcare is first and foremost the responsibility of parents, not society. Traditionally fathers and mothers have worked this out with one parents working and the other providing the childcare. I support any arrangement, but I don't understand why working mothers are so shocked that childcare is expensive. It's a job!

Furthermore, two income families make it harder for one income families to compete for housing in cities where there's a shortage. And then they while about how oppressive the mortgage gets when someone stops working anyway....


In response to: "America has so much immigration that taxes from the dwindling middle class aren't missed yet, therefore our government doesn't have any incentive like France to enact more radical benefits for families, and they're sure as heck not going to do it out of the goodness of their hearts."

I could not agree more. If we halted immigration to this country immediately, we would see a huge difference in the way child care and families were supported. There is very little good quality help for the middle class at present. Consequently, our "native" population is shrinking rapidly.

Consider this example, I am one of 9 friends who all atteneded college together. We are now 41-42 years old. Every one of us is married (to a man). That is 18 "native" adults - and we have produced a total of 10 children. (I am the only one - and will be the only one - who has 2 children. All the rest have 1.) That is nearly a 50% reduction in population in one generation.

The reasons for this are complex, but most center on economics. We all live in on the West Coast (Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego). The cost of living is incredibly expensive. Additionally, nearly all of this went to gradutate school and have invested years in building careers and also paying off education loans. We can't afford to take 10 years out of the workplace to raise 2-3 kids to school-age years.

Instead, we have mostly scrambled to carve out a few precious years - mixed this with a lot of anxiety - and are left with small families.

Until this country values its own citizens more than a growing economy - we will have this problem and be left with importing millions of new citizens.

So sad.

Washington, DC:

I also disagree that the U.S. has invested in child care. Families find it terribly hard to find good, affordable care. And the public/government attitude is "it's not our problem."

Not yet, maybe

CT, Portland, OR USA:

"Both countries have invested in child-care facilities so that working mothers can actually work and pursue their careers." Um, okay. A middle-class American couple who has had to go through the ordeal of looking for affordable, trustworthy childcare in the United States might not agree with that. If you can find a place you can afford, it's probably either a corporate-owned kid farm or a stay-at-home mom wanting to make a few extra bucks. Either way you have to go through the agony of wondering what kind of care your child is getting there since childcare workers are notoriously underpaid and undertrained (notwithstanding those who honestly do love kids and are great with them). Those who work for companies with foresight who provide childcare in the same building or help out with the costs are lucky and very, very rare.

The American government doesn't invest in childcare and building families other than a small tax break and our pathetic excuse for a Family Leave Act. Before long the only people in this country who'll be able to afford bearing children will be the rich who can afford nannies or the poor who can just go on welfare (or who make so little to begin with that the mother's salary isn't missed). America has so much immigration that taxes from the dwindling middle class aren't missed yet, therefore our government doesn't have any incentive like France to enact more radical benefits for families, and they're sure as heck not going to do it out of the goodness of their hearts. At this point in time in this country, if there isn't some tangible benefit to the rich or the corporations, the government isn't interested. Or will just pretend there's no problem. It would rather believe gays are the biggest threat to American families rather than financial strain. I can't quite come up with any example of gay marriage breaking up a family but have known many couples where financial problems and everyday family stressors have torn them apart. Strange where our government's priorities lie.

I'm not saying those of us in the middle need to breed wantonly, since I find large families environmentally irresponsible and somewhat grotesque, but gee, being able to afford just one kid would be awfully nice.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, Munich, Germany:

I am an American mother who, by your standards, is being held hostage in Germany. With two kids, ages 5 & 7, I work for an American company from my rural home near Munich. Defying all categories of housewife and career woman, I believe we need to shift our thinking beyond the either/or paradigm that go us into this jam in the first place.

First -- the mental shift:

German mothers are the worst. They are the first to stamp you a 'Rabenmutter' the moment you leave for a five-day business trip. Why is this the case? Most likely, they've felt held hostage and, in an odd application of the Stockholm Syndrome, have come to relate to their hostage-takers more than with themselves.

Second -- a structural shift

The lack of adequate day care is the number one reason I work from home. There is no one to care for my children on a regular basis; and I certainly don't want to overstep my bounds with neighbors and friends who generously take my kids in for a few hours at a time when one business meeting overlaps with the children's (sorely abbreviated) school schedules.

When I tell my American friends that my children attend school roughly 3-5 hours a day, they panic. "What do they do for the rest of the day?" Scratch at my door while I have power conference calls with people eight times zones away. Yes, sometimes they do. But the organic nature of our approach leaves them feeling cared for even when I am taking care of business.

Third -- a pragmatic shift

I don't envy the working fathers of my host country. They're required to travel, work 12 hours, and attend weekend functions, too. Depending on the type of job, a working father is contractually expected to be present for his employer at least 45 hours per week (not including their commute).

You do the math.

I plead for a massive paradigm shift in which parents can work from home if they wish, but also have the infrastructure of child care to assist them to do so. Working from home does not always mean you are available for your children. It's not a bad thing for them to learn their limits this way. But the stress factor often makes me question if there isn't a better solution.

A tax write-off for in-home care would certainly be a nice start.

~Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of SAHM I Am: Tales of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Europe, writes a weekly newsletter for parents. To subscribe:

Atheist, Boston, USA:

One principal reason why the West has succeeded is that we Westerners treat women well. Healthy, educated women produce healthy, smart offspring. Of course, healthy, smart offspring produce a prosperous, comfortable society: e.g., Sweden, Canada, and France.

Unhealthy, uneducated women produce unhealthy, ignorant offspring. Unheathy, ignorant offspring produce an impoverished, brutal society: e.g., Syria, Pakistan, and India. Notably, "honor" killings of women is a national sport in India.

Thousands of Women Killed for Family "Honor"
National Geographic News, 2002 February 12
In India, for example, more than 5,000 brides die annually because their dowries are considered insufficient, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Crimes of passion, which are treated extremely leniently in Latin America, are the same thing with a different name, some rights advocates say.

National Geographic News does report that "honor" killings also occurred recently in both Great Britain and Sweden. Note that these killings were committed entirely by 1st-generation and 2nd-generation immigrants from India, Islamic nations, and other failed 3rd-world societies. We Westerners should prohibit immigration from such failed 3rd-world societies.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.