This week, French Minister of Justice (which is the equivalent to the American Attorney General) Rachida Dati came back from her maternity leave a little early. That's if you can call five days after the birth early.
Yes, let that sink in a minute - five days after the birth she was filmed walking through the courtyard of the Elysée in high heels and a form fitting black dress that showed that she has nearly gotten her figure back.
This is not the first time that Ms. Dati's pregnancy has made people talk. The 43 year old is not married and has not publicly acknowledged who the father of her daughter is. Now imagine Condoleeza Rice doing the same thing. You could make the argument that the French regard private lives to be just that, but you could certainly say she is pushing the envelope, even by French standards.
Now. My first reaction - no wait, my second reaction, because my first reaction required picking my jaw up off the floor - was that I felt an enormous amount of sympathy for her. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of political pressure the woman is under, especially since President Sarkozy has just announced some major changes to the French law system.
On the other hand, what message is this sending to women, French or otherwise? It's all very "passing off the baby to the nanny" super upper class, isn't it? Here I'm feeling guilty about being home with Fry after two months when most mothers back in the States would have been back to work by now (of course, I have no work to go back to but that's another story altogether). I am in no way suggesting that she should have quit her job, but in a world where the extremely high cost (and, especially in the France, the availability) of child care leaves many families trying to figure out if both parents working is even feasible, what kind of message is this sending?
I don't have the answers. As I said before, I'm sympathetic to her situation but I find it a bit shocking all the same. What do you think?