Parental and Other Caretaker Roles

Since Hungarian marriages have begun to occur at later ages, the age at which women are having their first child has also increased recently, from 23.1 in 1990 to 25.4 in 1999 (Kamaras, 2000). The primary reasons for these increases are financial instability and increased opportunities for female education and career development.

For both men and women in Hungary, the birth of a first child is the final step in the attainment of full per-sonhood. In recognition of this most important of roles, the Hungarian state allows parents (or even grandparents) with permanent jobs to take 2 years of maternity and childcare leave at 70% of their salary and a third year with a flat amount of 20,000 forints per month. While these kinds of benefits were initially provided in the 1970s to boost Hungary's falling birthrate, they have been maintained despite their failure to affect the birthrate significantly (Lobodzinska, 1995). Today, almost all Hungarian women take at least 6 months of paid leave after the birth of a child in order to breast-feed their infants. Unfortunately, the guarantee that a parent's job will remain after their leave has been eliminated. Therefore, generally the only parents (primarily, but not solely, women) who take advantage of the 2-year leave are those who are fairly certain that their jobs will be eliminated anyway (Jakus, 1993), those who are well to do, or those who have received a guarantee that their jobs will remain available to them.

Since 1989, childcare centers have also been cut way back, forcing more women to rely upon their parents or in-laws for childcare (Lobodzinska, 1995). Because some Hungarians live in extended families anyway, due to housing shortages and a significant lack of nursing homes (Buss et al., 1994), this is not always difficult. However, the contributions of active grandmothers in the household may also encourage the lack of participation of many Hungarian fathers in childcare, particularly with very young children (Vajda, 1998). The presence of multigen-erational households may also add to women's workload, since older family members may need a significant amount of care.

Although more fathers today, particularly those with more education, are participating in child-rearing activities than in the past, motherhood and fatherhood continue to be two very different social roles in Hungary. Mothers have historically been seen, and continue to be seen, as central figures not only in households but also in the nation as a whole (Huseby-Darvas, 1996). In addition to providing most of the household labor and childcare, Hungarian mothers also largely determine the cultural level of their children by exposing them (or not) to museums, art, literature, music, etc., while Hungarian fathers largely determine their economic level (Toth, 1993). Mothers also tend to determine their children's religious affiliation and activity (Tomka, 2000).

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.

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