Feb 22Liked by Kevin Maguire

In Canada, we don’t have to pay for the delivery of the baby, and depending on income, you get a little money a month. We also have parental leave, which isn’t perfect but did allow me as a father to stay home for 3 months with my new born.

What I’d love to see here is for the government to pay one parent a yearly income to stay home with their kids. I think it’s so important that the first few years of a child’s life are with their families. Daycare is just not the same.

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Feb 22Liked by Kevin Maguire

"This is the single most important and recurring question we've been asking ourselves in our little family of four. We've been living in London for 12 years now, after we left Italy. Our kids were born here and they've lived in Bermondsey for their whole lives.

I admit I dream about moving again. Moving to another country has been the most exhilarating experience I've ever had. The prospect of endless possibilities invigorates me, and the idea (probably flawed) of New York or Tokyo energizes me.

But I'm not a single person anymore. I'm a father, and my choices will have a huge impact on my kids' lives and futures. Is New York the right choice? Is London the right choice? Definitely, Italy is not the right one anymore for us.

I don't think there's a definitive answer. As Italo Calvino wrote, “You take delight not in a city's seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.”

What are the questions? Are these questions forever, or are they forever changing? The needs of a family with a newborn are dramatically different from those of a family with two teenagers. Should we move forever? What is home anymore?

I don't know. But I really look forward to drinking another coffee with you the next time I'm in Barcelona."

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Feb 23Liked by Kevin Maguire

Deeply moved reading these stories. Thanks for this one, Kevin.

This is a question my wife and I have been talking about for years. She is dual US/Canada, I am US. Our son is dual. We live in Portland, the so-called 'promised land', and it's true in many ways. So much privilege here, but public schools are shit and alternatives expensive. I run two businesses and I'm grateful to have scraped just enough together, but financially we're sinking into debt with a 2 year old and possibly another coming, wand the question comes up again and again: north, with healthcare, or south, where things are cheaper, perchance easier...

and the thing that flies in the face of all of this for me is the disconnection inherent in these considerations:

what does it mean to live in a place, to raise kids on land (city, rural, wherever) and in community (proximity to family and extended networks, education and healthcare systems, etc) that they can get to know and be in relationship with over time?

and, if i may go 'there' for a moment, what does it mean to heal the wounds of colonialism, which landed so many of us, across generations, where we are?

the desire to re-connect to place in a healthy way underpins this conversation for me. as someone who attended 17 public schools across many US states, i want to model an ability to root in a place for my son, that he may know a place with his bones and blood, that he can call home.

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Feb 22Liked by Kevin Maguire

Here in the US, I have almost every conceivable advantage and privilege.

Health care? A university hospital that is one of the top-rated in the Midwest.

Insurance? Probably better than most Americans. Other than a $60 ED copay, I don't think we've paid a cent, even when we spent nearly two weeks in the hospital before our twins were stillborn.

Parental leave? While it wasn't paid (except for the portion for which we chose to use sick leave), our employers were extremely flexible.

Childcare? Free. Our parents watch our son every day while my wife and I are at work.

But, this is not the norm. Every parent should have access to these things (though, depending on how close you are to your family both figuratively and literally, they might not be your source of childcare).

One of the most galling things here in the US is that nearly every politician self-identifies as "pro-family." Yet, we're the richest country in the world (and in history), and we don't guarantee any of these things for parents.

And it's not impossible - our peer countries do it. There's nothing stopping Congress from passing a bill to help parents. But they don't. And it's a choice they make every day they don't, and it's appalling.

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Feb 22Liked by Kevin Maguire

The relevance of the questions raised in the article and posts is profound. I fall into the category of being a father with little to no choice. My son’s mother and I became parents in high school, and while we made very intentional and informed choices about how we navigated parenting, everything was affected by location.

We were initially forced to remain in the town we lived in simply because of proximity to relatives at a time when we couldn’t afford childcare. And while we were fortunate to have relatives able to do this, that also meant working with people that were available as opposed to people who were fully capable.

We divorced after college and co-parented from then on, building our respective careers and families. We also moved out of the town and into a city (Portland, OR) where we’d have more work opportunity and our son would have more opportunity for schools.

We raised our son through the late 90’s and into the twentieth century, and as a college professor, I feel like we got the last generational opportunity before the gun violence became a fabric of reality.

If we had been financially able, we would have moved to a different country when our son was a young child, but we weren’t, and our ages left us largely unaware of the paths we wanted to take.

While I think we succeeded as parents, I would say it was in spite of our location, except for times when we were able to choose neighborhoods for their proximity to preferred schools and lower rates of violence. We didn’t experience that “choice” until halfway through his childhood, and then it meant constant compromises about how we lived in order to afford where we lived.

But now that my son is grown, I see this all largely from the perspective of a teacher. I teach at colleges and universities and for the last ten years I’ve had weekly dreams of school shooting happening in my classrooms. I can’t imagine why anyone would intentionally have children in the United States. Some of my students reach college after attending multiple schools where shootings have occurred. It isn’t abnormal for them. It is frighteningly normalized. They have no control over it, and they know that. Many suffer from collective trauma they have yet to understand.

If my son had been born in this past decade, I’d have done whatever it took to relocate out of this country.

He faces the burden now of being a young adult in a time of intense economic inequity. We had to force him to live at home through most of his 20’s just to save up so he’d be able to afford living on his own.

Location is a powerful factor that influences our children’s lives and our own access to support as parents. I’ve deeply appreciated reading all the posts inspired by this column, and I empathize with the challenges faced by parents who are navigating raising children today in the U.S.

It’s also refreshing to read about so many people striving to do better and to do right—parenting is the ultimate responsibility in my view, and the depth of consideration in the posts is inspiring and humbling.

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Feb 22Liked by Kevin Maguire

In the USA there isn’t much in the way of authentic culture. Thrte are lots of cool things going on in pockets. But it’s all subject to rapid change. Then you end alone. There’s a heartlessness to it. An absence of connection. I’ve always found Mexicans happier than U.S. people even the poor in Mexico have a pride in themselves, in their Mexican-ness. They have their own music. Being poor in America you’re just a loser. No connection to anyone but other losers. America is dragging the rest of the world down this same path of materialism, pop culture replacing real expression of people technology replacing learning. The cult of success means someone’s else’s failure.

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Feb 22Liked by Kevin Maguire

My wife and I are navigating this right now, as I'm from the USA and she's from Iceland. We currently live in USA, but have thought about (and almost did) move to Iceland. There's plusses and minuses to living in each country, which I'm not going to bother listing out. But to us it feels like a toss-up. However, lately the scales have been tilting to staying in the USA at least for while longer.

We were about to move to Iceland when my wife got pregnant. Due to insurance reasons (even though she is Icelandic, she can't move back and instantly and be covered by the national system - there's a waiting period and no private provider would cover pregnant women). We ended up deciding to wait until after our baby was born to move. And we're lucky we did.

Our first child was born with a Congenital Heart Defect that will require open heart surgery to repair. I'm from Boston and work in tech, so thankfully we have good healthcare and world-class doctors nearby at our disposal. It still blows my mind that there's multiple people within 30 minutes of me who decided to devote their career to studying and helping pre-natal and pediatric hearts. Children from Iceland with Congenital Heart Defects sometimes get sent here (nowadays more often to Sweden, but some still Boston), since they don't have the surgeons to handle that in Iceland.

We've decided to stay here for awhile. Although the odds are low of having another child with a Congenital Heart Defect... we think we'd like to be here in Boston just in case. After having incredible care here so far, it would really annoy me to be in Iceland and then have no choice but to go to Sweden for heart health care. Or have to travel internationally at all for care, when it is so close to us now.

All that being said, we're not sure if staying is the right move. There are a lot of negatives to living in the USA, even though we've got it pretty good. We have lots of friends from Europe (Denmark, Iceland, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden) and it feels like we certainly are having a harder time. And not just because of the medical issues.

Honestly, in an ideal world I probably wouldn't pick the USA or Iceland. I always have wanderlust in my mind and lately I'd really love to move back to Melbourne, Australia where I lived doing working-holiday for a year in my 20s.

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Feb 28Liked by Kevin Maguire

Dear Kevin,

The first thing I read this morning was your newsletter. I have to confess that I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since then and, now that I've had a break, I've decided to write to you. I don't know if you'll read it, but I'd like to give you another perspective on where to raise our family.

I always enjoy reading debates about whether the "individualistic society of the USA, with its possibility of great wealth" is better than the "European style, less wealthy but with more well-being". What if I told you that there are societies where we have neither (or a worse version of both)?

I am a very privileged father in an upper middle-income country (according to the World Bank) called Brazil.

First of all, I must confess that I sympathize with your concerns about mass shootings in schools, but I live in a country where more than 40,000 people are murdered every year. As far as I know, the US has a murder rate of 7/100,000. Brazil has a rate of 40/100,000. So our children aren't killed in mass shootings in schools, but they are killed on the streets or inside their homes.

Secondly, we do have public healthcare and public education. However, I think you can imagine the quality of our public services when surveys say that Brazilians' top three desires are: 1. education, 2. home ownership, and 3. private health insurance (https://veja.abril.com.br/saude/plano-de-saude-e-3o-maior-desejo-dos-brasileiros-diz-pesquisa#google_vignette). The monthly fee for a private school costs between 1 and 2 minimum wages per month, per child, for just 4 hours a day. If you want your child to stay at school during the usual Spanish hours, just double the tuition fee. A basic private health plan for a family of 4 (2 adults + 2 children) costs at least 2 minimum wages. To give you an idea, the salary of a Google engineer here in Brazil is less than 10 minimum wages (I'm using minimum wages because simple conversions wouldn't reflect cost of living and I'd have to do a lot of math to explain these details using the World Bank's purchasing power parity data).

Thirdly, we relied heavily on family support networks. However, this is becoming less and less common for three reasons. Firstly, many adults migrate to larger (and more expensive) cities in search of better salaries and careers. Secondly, the need for pension reforms means that people are increasingly working until older ages, reducing the role of grandparents in childcare. Thirdly, the individualistic culture seems to be growing in Brazil, and even many grandparents who would have the time or money to help with their grandchildren prefer to live their own lives. I follow some parenting profiles on Instagram and whenever they make a meme about sending the children to stay with their grandparents, there are lots of comments saying that "children are not the responsibility of grandparents" or "whoever gave birth, let them take care of it".

We have 4 months of maternity leave and 5 days of paternity leave for those in the formal labor market (according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, this represents less than 60% of the economically active population. The rest have to work as freelancers or not at all. Source: https://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/economia/noticia/2020-11/ibge-informalidade-atinge-416-dos-trabalhadores-no-pais-em-2019). However, there are not enough public nurseries available. Private nurseries cost more than a private school. It is therefore quite common for women to stop working after the birth of their first child (https://www.economist.com/interactive/graphic-detail/2024/01/30/how-motherhood-hurts-careers).

On the other hand, nannies are much cheaper here. It's not uncommon for high-income families to hire full-time nannies so that both parents can pursue their careers. One female friend even told me that she thinks it is easier for high-income women, such as executives or doctors, to pursue their careers here in Brazil than in the United States or Europe, precisely because nanny labor is much cheaper. Obviously, this reality doesn't apply to middle- and low-income families.

(I'm always talking about women leaving the job market because that's our reality. I've never heard of a stay-at-home dad. They must exist, but they must be very rare).

I think I've said too much. It's just an outburst from a very privileged father, who, like the readers of your newsletter, cares a lot about being present and doing the best for his two daughters. However, a father who is always thinking that he would prefer his country to be more like the USA or Western Europe, whatever.

Congratulations on your wonderful work.

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Feb 26Liked by Kevin Maguire

At the risk of sounding un-American, I'll say there are a number of things that are paradoxical in this country--even when it comes to becoming/being a parent.

My wife and I struggled for years to conceive, and in hindsight, this was a bit of a blessing. It gave us plenty of time to grasp just how badly we wanted a child, save up, mature and work out some of our own issues, but also learn just how difficult and exceedingly expensive it is to be a parent in this great country of ours. I still cannot fathom how people manage when they conceive young or unexpectedly, but that's a whole different issue.

The struggle of parenting here shouldn't be surprising. America is the same country where we push children to take on mountains of debt to pursue degrees, which they may or may not need for their desired job/career, that they will likely struggle for their first decade or more of adulthood to pay off. We then expect young people to find a partner, and throw a nice wedding and settle down, but we do nothing to prepare these people for the work of marriage even given the country's staggering divorce rate. Just look away from those numbers, your marriage will be different. It just will.

There's a societal expectation for couples to become parents--because only a self-centered and heartless monster wouldn't want a kid--but little transparency into the challenges of parenting here. Traditional hospital births, even when everything goes as planned, often come with a sizable out of pocket expense, and that's even with "good health insurance". If your locale or lifestyle requires both parents to work, you better have researched, budgeted for, and reserved quality childcare months before you bring your baby home, because most places--the "right places", if you know what I mean--have long waiting lists and the zombified 12 weeks of FMLA (if you qualify for FMLA) will be over before you know it. Moms are still routinely judged for working--often by the generation that can say, "I never had to work, your father and I were able to get by just fine"--but two incomes are now simply a requirement to thrive in so many places. The first 3-4 years of a daycare-kid's life will be marked by virus after virus, requiring an untold number of pediatrician visits and days off of work (each with their own associated cost) until your child has developed the immune system of a veteran garbage truck driver by the time you need to determine if your local public school will be sufficient, or if you'll need to take on a side hustle to afford a private option (assuming one is even available/in your price range).

In true American style, we don't really talk about these things. We keep our heads down, processing the nauseating expenses (financial and otherwise) of parenting here in silence, looking up occasionally to share carefully curated photos of our shining parenting experience and to encourage naive newlyweds that "parenting is the best, you're just going to love it."

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Feb 23·edited Feb 23Liked by Kevin Maguire

My son was born in San Francisco in 2020, a week before shelter in place. On top of struggling as first time parents, we were trapped inside a small apartment with very little access to the 'outside' world, let alone helpful resources like family being readily able to visit due to the fear of spreading Covid to ourselves and our son. Because of the pandemic, and the closure of most daycares, we were forced to go the nanny route - which costs upwards of $45,000 a year (after tax). Once schools opened up, and my son was about to turn 2.5, we were able to enroll him in daycare, but that price tag was still going to be something around $25,000/year.

Before he started that school I took a job in Stockholm, Sweden, and while I took a 65% paycut, and my wife quit her job to help my son adjust to our new life abroad, we were able to enjoy nearly the same standard of living. The government here, regardless of income level, provides $250/month as a child allowance, automatically deposited into our bank account. The children from age 1 are guaranteed a spot in a school within 90 days of applying (you provide a list of 5 wishful schools and they place you into one within 90 days - it only took 35 days in our instance). My son now goes to school 5 days a week, from 830-430 and we pay $165/month. On top of this, even though my son wasn't born here, my wife and I still were awarded the entirety of parental leave (490 total days shared between the parents, with each required to take at least 60, with 390 days paying 80% of your salary, up to $3,600/month - our jobs provide the difference up to 90% of total salary) - and 90 days of very little pay, but job protection). This is in addition to the 2 weeks you get fully paid from the day the child is born.

With the fear of sounding braggadocious, a few additional tidbits, but the culture here is centered around parents as well - most, if not all, workplaces acknowledge that children are to be picked up between 330-430 everyday, and so leaving to do that is never whispered about among co-workers. The leave time can be spread out over 4 years, and so there are constantly people being out of the office for months at a time, and it's not only not disruptive, but is encouraged. Restaurants and museums are VERY kid friendly, and there is a playground on nearly every block in the city.

From a healthcare perspective, there is never a charge for kids under 18 for any medical care. They are quite hesitant to prescribe medicines, but this is also a benefit in that the kids all develop healthy immune responses to common illnesses. For adults, the national healthcare system is truly remarkable. I came down with pneumonia last year and spent a night in the hospital for IVs and antibiotic treatments. The bill i received was for $25.

I haven't even mentioned the safety piece of living here. There is a nearly zero chance of a threat of shooting, or other mass casualty event. It's amazing how little thought goes into attending large scale events or gatherings, where when being in he states it was always accompanied by nerves.

I have little to no desire to return to the difficult ways of raising kids in the US, and I would encourage those with the opportunity to raise their kids elsewhere to do it, if not only to expand your child's experiences/exposures, but to truly get an opportunity to parent outside of the grind that is life in the US - and be somewhere that values the work that is required as a parent.

Thanks Kevin for facilitating this discussion.

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Oof, this hits home for me. My wife is Bulgarian, and our two kids have Bulgarian citizenship through her, so we can easily move anywhere in the EU instead of living in Silicon Valley. In fact, if we moved anywhere else, we could probably get by on just my salary so she could stop working if she wanted to. And with how crazy America is getting, we are considering it far more seriously than we did a few years ago.

At the same time, we have all the advantages to make it work here. We are a two-income household, and I am self-employed so can change my schedule as necessary to accommodate family obligations. We have family and friends nearby we can call on for help. We have good health care through her job, and great schools available to us (and yet we are still considering private schools because we are falling prey to Silicon Valley insanity).

It comes down to the hardest question to answer: What do we really want for ourselves and for our children? Yes, we could go live in a village in Italy, and we would probably be happier, but would our kids be well prepared to have a future in this capitalistic world? I resonate with another comment that people in Mexico seem happier than most Americans, because their expectations are more aligned with their reality. As a high achiever, it's hard for me to accept that it's okay to "settle", even if it might make me happier.

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Feb 22Liked by Kevin Maguire

I live in Sydney where house pricing is ridiculous and life in general is expensive (even more so this year) so we've often talked about whether we move away from the city for more value for money. Not to mention I'm a Brit who moved over here and married an Australian. This means we only have one set of family to help out while we're here. For me, support and your quality of life is key. We recently moved to a different suburb to be closer to my wife's sister and parents so that we have more support and can actually go on date nights and enjoy ourselves while also allowing our two boys to see their cousins more frequently.

We still talk about moving out of Sydney - prices can severely drop if you go about an hour drive or more away - it would mean no support but everything is cheaper so could afford a babysitter and better schools for the boys. It's definitely a balancing act but where we are works for now and the boys are happy. Family support is good but it comes with an emotional cost at times. All I can recommend is to go with your gut and what works for you to give you the things you want to see in your life - big yard for the kids/near the water/close to family etc and back yourself.

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Feb 22Liked by Kevin Maguire

Such a great piece and so true about how you can live somewhere that on paper looks amazing can turn out to be anything but- Geneva was the same. More money than I’d ever earned but sky high rents and cost of living

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"Widely accepted insanity" is indeed the right phrase, one I've been using lately as well.

Living in Barcelona, I pay €900/month for a private high school for my 13 year old, which I'm really pleased with (next year tuition goes up slightly).

Meanwhile, in the U.S., specifically in Washington D.C. and surrounding suburbs where I lived for 10 years, private school tuition starts at around $35k, even for middle school, and none of these are schools I would be particularly excited about for my child. I think this is the height of insanity, and it continues right on through College, where even in-state public universities can be $20k/year, and private universities are $50k.

What I find amazing—insane, even—is the number of upper- and upper middle class U.S. parents perfectly willing to craft their entire lives and careers around being able to afford this, and for multiple kids! I mean, I just cannot fathom the mindset that says, "I will work another 20 years, I will take jobs I don't like, I will live in places I don't like, I will sacrifice hundreds of thousands of dollars at the altar of U.S. education in order to send my child to these private schools."

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I'm not a father, but I am living in Scotland right now (South Ayrshire) so I absolutely love learning that it's doing such a great job for parents. Pretty much every other aspect of living in Scotland has been an improvement for me, sometimes a revelation, since I moved here just before the pandemic - I was previously in northern England - and I'm continually so immensely grateful for what I have available to me here right now.

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Eyeing Spain for these reasons 👀

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