Summer is great for many activities, but perhaps the best thing about warm weather is the people-watching-and lord knows, there's a lot to see. The other day a friend of mine saw a bearded man on a bike wearing a baby-doll dress. Whatever else it may be, Montreal is definitely a city that isn't afraid to show off some skin. From the mini-est of all miniskirts to the bikini-top as eveningwear, most Montrealers aren't shy about letting it all hang out (or watching others do so). And unlike some places-say England, where it would be better if many remained covered-most half-clothed people here look fantastic.
Included in this group of great dressers is a new cohort: the hot pregnant lady. I don't know if it's me, Montreal, or just that it's summer, but I am convinced that there's a baby-making trend underway in this city. Even my boyfriend has begun to notice the tendency. "She carrying the baby low," he told me last week as we passed a pregnant lady in the park, "so it might be a boy." There are pregnant women everywhere-and what's more, they're young and hot.
But why are there so many of them in Montreal? One reason could be the Quebec government's incentives to get with child. Alarmed at the declining birth rate in la belle province (and, of course, the detrimental effect this could have on Quebec's culture and language), the government has made it positively attractive to get preggers. As of January 1, 2006, Quebec's new plan, said to be more generous than what the feds give for parental leave, extends even to those citizens that are part-time or self-employed (I can hear freelancers rejoicing already). Basically, new moms are offered either a forty-week leave at 75 percent of their salary or a fifty-five-week leave at 70 percent. The new plan covers insurable earnings up to a maximum of $56,000 (rather than the $39,000 under the present federal plan). Oh, and dads are entitled to five-weeks paid parental leave as well-yay for the stay-at-home papa! It's almost as good as Sweden.
In the past, a lot of Montreal residents (especially Anglophones) left their beloved city when it came time for life to "get serious." Usually, they headed west, down the smoggy 401, out of Quebec, and toward a smaller flat and better job in the vortex of Toronto. But things seem to be changing. A lot of my friends-Montrealers by birth or adoption-are buying property, settling in, and making long-term plans. Montreal doesn't have to be a bohemian pit stop on the way to money and security-the quality of life here is unparalleled, and with social services like parental leave and seven-dollars-a-day childcare, life in this city is becoming more sustainable. Two freelancer friends of mine just bought a house, and they can't stop joking about getting a bun in the oven.
I don't think it's simply the economic incentives-I have another theory about why there may be more pregnant women in town. Namely, the last hockey season was cancelled. While this may seem a little simplistic, I do think that there's a valid correlation. Hockey Night in Canada was off the air this year, and the CBC put on Movie Night in Canada in its place-all winter long, in lieu of heading down to the pub, slamming back brewskies, watching the game and coming home to pass out on the couch, guys were staying home, making sweet love to their girlfriends and maybe catching a bit of Pretty Woman. Perhaps I'm romanticizing this a bit (I've been know to do that) but really, I believe it's a logical point. Less hockey equals more dates equals more chances to score-the math is there. None of this is to say that hockey kills romance, of course-but beer does. Sure, I love a pint of blonde too, but we all know that too much beer, too often, leads to bad (or no) sex. And bad (or no) sex equals less (or no) chances to make a baby.
And so it's summer, and Montreal appears to be chock full of women with child. These women are getting pregnant and looking fabulous-they're not following in the stead of Britney Spears, who has clearly made some terrible fashion choices in her maternity wardrobe selection. Nope, in Montreal they are wearing cute capris and tank tops; they are flip-flopped, tanned, lovely and seemingly everywhere.