For many years, if you asked me where I live, I would say, "Oh, just outside of Washington, D.C." I would simply omit the name of the suburb where I live in favor of the Capitol City. Even now, after living outside of the city for nearly eight years, I'm sometimes reluctant to come clean about my suburban status even though I really like my town. I've always pinned my failure to fess up to my address on my unrealized (and perhaps, unrealistic) urban sophisticate aspirations.
Well it turns out, as a working mom, I may have been onto something. The National Partnership for Women & Families, in a newly-released survey of federal and state laws that help new and expecting parents take leave when a child arrives, gave the District of Columbia a B+ and Maryland a D-. The organization looked at at categories such as paid family leave benefits, flexible use of sick days and workplace support for nursing mothers in coming up with its grades. Clearly, D.C. is on the right track but Maryland needs to do a lot better!
Of course, although family-friendly leave and nursing laws are critical for pregnant women and new parents, there are other factors that can make a place better or worse for working moms and their families. These include job opportunities, earnings potential, average commuting times and, of course, child care costs. Based on these factors, the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area (which includes the District where I work and the Maryland suburb where I live) has consistently made the top 10 in Forbes' annual rankings of best cities for working mothers. (In 2011, though, D.C. fell from number 2 to number 9 because of the high cost of living - and the extremely high cost of child care - in the region.)
While I'm usually averse to lists, I agree with Forbes that the Washington, D.C. area is a great place for working moms if you're educated and earn enough income (either by yourself or with a partner) to offset high housing and other costs. (For low-wage working moms, especially single moms, the D.C. region is tough.) There are many different types of job opportunities (private sector, government, non-profit) that offer good compensation and lots of interesting, challenging work. (In fact, that might D.C.'s downside. All that work means that lots of people log long hours in the office!) But while laws and other objective factors play a large role in determining whether place is good for working moms, what's "best" is often subjective. For me, Washington (and yes, that includes my Maryland suburb) is a great place to live and work because its filled with lots of intelligent and interesting working moms who inspire me every day.
How does the place where you live measure up for working moms? What factors matter most for you and your family?