What do mothers want? Not another Hallmark card. According to this infographic, Americans spend a whopping $671 million on Mother’s Day cards.
Why is it that mothers get just one day a year? Who gets the other 364? Kids?
Mother’s Day may be the one day when your children make you breakfast, walk the dog, put away their laundry, make their beds, brush their teeth--all without nagging, complaints and excuses. I often (half-jokingly) refer to motherhood as “volunteer slavery.” While it’s not exactly voluntary for everyone, it is unpaid labor.
What do moms really want? For Mother’s Day and every day?
Some of the answers can be found in the Motherhood Manifesto, a book and video by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, the founders of the advocacy group MomsRising. They have spelled out what moms want with this acronym:
Maternity & Paternity Leave
Open Flexible Work
Health Care for All
Early Care & Education
Realistic & Fair Wages
Sick Days, Paid
The Motherhood Manifesto details how poorly the U.S. compares to many other countries when it comes taking care of our No. 1 caretakers. For example:
“The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have paid [maternity] leave except for Australia (which does give a full year of guaranteed unpaid leave to all women, compared to only 12 weeks of unpaid leave given to those who work for companies with more than 50 employees in the U.S.)”
“Research reveals that a full 25 percent of poverty spells – times when a family’s income slips below what is needed for basic living expenses – begin with the birth of a baby.”
“The average cost of child care is higher than the tuition at a typical state university.”
“Child care providers earn a salary of just $18,060 per year on average.”
Source: Motherhood Manifesto
President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union call for expanding access to universal, high quality preschool in the U.S. will make an enormous difference in the lives of many families. A new report from the Center for American Progress, “The Importance of Preschool and Child Care for Working Mothers,” shows that more than a quarter of working poor moms pay for child care out of pocket, eating up almost half of their income. This is simply unsustainable.
While Obama’s proposal for universal pre-K is aimed at helping to close the achievement gaps between rich and poor kids, it also will improve the health and quality of lives for many families by reducing financial and other stress. What’s good for children is good for women and vice versa.
Do you think this new federal program stands a better chance of garnering political support if the arguments in favor emphasize the benefits to kids or to moms? Or will advocates have to position preschool as a key to U.S. economic competitiveness, or something that will help small businesses succeed? What does it take to tip the scales on a massive social change policy like this?
What do mothers want for Mother’s Day? Hold the candy and the flowers. We just want a simpler life. A life in which we can strike a better balance between work and family. A life in which we can provide for our families without the threat of losing our job (or in too many cases our multiple jobs) when we become sick. A life in which we can access affordable and excellent child care for our children. A life in which our children are protected from toxic products and violence in our homes and schools and streets.
Is this really too much to ask? Who says we can’t have it all?