When I left for work today, the sofa cushions still had stuffing

Summer vacation is a powerful reminder of the Israeli labor market’s bias against the parents of schoolchildren

When I got home from work the house was suspiciously quiet. Then I heard a rustling from the bathroom. There I found the kids, happy as could be, next to a portable heater going full blast, though the ceiling air conditioner was running full blast. The bathtub was packed with fiberfill fluff and there were scissors on the floor, the empty throw cushions from the sofa, and a few animals which, when I left for work that morning, still had their stuffing.

“We’re making cotton candy” was all they said.

Much has been said about discrimination and the lack of inclusion of women in the Israeli labor market. Countless studies on this topic have been written in Israel and around the world. But what about discrimination against mothers? Actually, not just mothers, but also fathers. I’ll call it “discrimination against the parents of schoolchildren.”

In the Israeli education system, there are three months of vacation a year. Two months in the summer, and nearly an additional month when Sukkot, Pesach, Hanukkah, election days and other days are added together. That’s a quarter of the year. In standard workplaces, employees are allotted one to two weeks of vacation, depending on their seniority and how long they’ve been employed. What do they do with the kids the rest of the time?

It is true that in recent years, “summer and holiday school” has been established, and that’s a huge and welcome change for the better. But there are still many vacation days left when those not employed in education have to go to the office or to their businesses while their kids are enjoying themselves at home.

According to a non-scientific survey I conducted, there are very few mothers of school children who manage to integrate into the Israeli economy in senior positions. In the business sector there are almost no women CEOs who have school-aged children at home, and the same goes for the Knesset and the government: at the elected and other senior levels I’ve found almost no mothers with school-aged children at home.

These mothers are doubly challenged in the job market. Apart from the inherent discrimination against women in key positions in the economy, they also have to deal with the impossible challenge of school vacations – 25% of the year.

There are over two million families in Israel, over half of them have at least child of school age. That’s more than a million mothers. How many of them are represented in the Knesset? In the government?

Perhaps the reason for the nonexistent representation of these mothers at senior levels of Israeli politics and business is that it is not possible, in Israel, to meet the impossible challenge of advancing at work while the kids are running loose at home!

First published by ‘The Times of Israel’.