I made aliyah shortly before marrying my husband while studying for an MA at Hebrew U. So far I've raised two children here in Israel, God willing a third will arrive around Yom Ha'atzmaut (I'm so Zionist I coordinate my births with Israeli Independence Day!)
Though I've never raised children in the US, I read a lot of online and print discussion of the famous "mommy wars" raging over there, and it really mystifies me. (For anyone living in cave or not that interested in media-hyped social issues, the "mommy wars" pit stay at home moms (SAHMs) against working moms as to who is damaging/raising their children more).
I'm mystified because we don't seem to have that war here in Israel. Though we are far from a working-parent utopia, there seems to be a much better work/life balance here than in the US, due to a number of contributing factors . It's accepted and actually expected that women will return to work after the birth of their children, usually after our three month paid maternity leave, though many moms take longer then that, sometimes stretching out the leave to 7-12 months (the latter months being unpaid.) I know that this puts pressure on women who do want to stay home with their children, but it is a contrast to the US, where SAHMing seems to be the "in" thing and moms who dare to work are considered negligent or worse.
When women do return, there are many different childcare options both private and public. Though some options are subsidized, you still get what you pay for here- day care centers are cheaper but have a higher carer/child ratio. And women just recently won the right to have childcare recognized as a business expense for tax purposes.
Working mothers also get a subsidized "she'at hanaka" (nursing hour) for the first year. That's an hour that can be used for pumping breast milk, feeding (if you have your baby near your work) or for leaving work earlier. Which brings me to work hours- most careers and jobs have mom-friendly work hours here, which is usually 8-3:30/4. It is rarely expected that for women to work or even excel in their careers, they must work an 80 hour week. There are also many part-time/3/4 time jobs available that give moms added flexibility.
Moms are also not the only ones with flexible jobs. When I pick up my daughter from late day gan, I see many dads, in addition to the moms, picking up their kids. On the other hand, I barely ever see babysitters picking up kids at gan, even at four pm. Which tells me that many, if not most working parents have found a schedule that allows them to be with their children for a significant chunk of pre-dinner time at the end of the day, something that seems to elude working parents in the US.
Full disclosure: I work part time from home and enjoy an extremely flexible schedule. I don't have to worry about taking off when my children are sick and I make enough money to cover high quality childcare expenses. I've also been able to arrange it so I've never had to put my children in childcare before age 1, a luxury not all working families have.
As I said, things are not perfect here- I know there are moms who consider the expectation that all children be in a "misgeret" (childcare framework) by the age of one to be unhealthy for children, and this could very well be. (I have a theory that this expectation stems from kibbutz children's houses, but I've never had a chance to research this)
However, from what I've observed, Israel is a lot more supportive of working parents than the US, which is crucial for the simple fact that most families could not manage on one salary, even with free schooling and low cost healthcare. Which makes Israel that much more awesome! (Sorry LOZ, I had to get that in there).Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד