A Bill of Rights for American Mothers?
As mothers, it is imbedded in our very nature to take care of others. What mothers should know is that society has taken advantage of this fact for centuries. And while they continue to take, mothers continue to give.
How does society take without giving to mothers?
I think the National Association of Mothers’ Centers Advocacy Coordinator Valerie Young says it best,
“Alone among industrialized nations, we (mothers) have no guaranteed paid leave policy for childbirth, adoption, illness, or even the occasional sick day. Our federal pension system only accounts for paid work, leaving women with the short straw after time out bearing and raising children, tending to ill parents, spouses, or other family members. We do most of the unpaid work in the home, and when we are employed outside the home, our income trails men’s by as much as 40%. We lack anything near equitable political representation, we don’t occupy our fair share of board room seats, CEO suites, or participate proportionately in the distribution of financial assets around the world.”
A Harvard study firmly places America at the bottom of the barrel for mother support. The study found:
“Out of 168 nations in a Harvard University study last year, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave, leaving the United States in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.1”
Society gives lip service to the value of parenting, motherhood, and child rearing. After all, the children are the future of our country; yet, childcare workers typically earn at or minimum wage. Further, if you are a mother working from home to raise up the future of our country, you get nothing. Not even a social security credit. You must depend entirely on your partner’s wages and retirement. You in effect become a financial dependent, unable to qualify for credit or loans.
This poor show of support must change. Women have historically banded together to fight for their rights. Now mothers need to do the same. Mothers need support urgently or else the well being of our children and the future of the family unit in the US will be jeopardized.
But wait, our children’s health already is being jeopardized by this lack of support.
Women and mothers suffer from depression at nearly twice the rate as men.2,3 The CDC reports women suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) between 10-30% of the time, but that over 85% of mothers suffer from some type of depressive or mood instability in the postpartum period. Further, studies support that PPD occurs, and may even be worse, during the toddler years, and is (PPD) now not only pulling fathers into its grip but also responsible for adversely affecting toddler and teenage academic performance and psycho-emotional well being.4
Are you a mother who has felt depressed, alone, tired even exhausted, overwhelmed, and unable to cope with the mountain of responsibilities? Mothers do have more responsibilities than ever with more mothers working both outside and inside the home. We live in a two income society now where it has become almost impossible for a family to get by on one income. In addition, 75% of household management and child rearing still falls to mothers who also work outside the home.5
Further, families members often no longer live in proximity to one another because of job availability, choices in education, personal, or professional decisions or requirements. This means mothers can’t drop their children off with a relative to run important errands, go to work, go to a doctor’s appointment, or even to get a moment of silence to deal with existing problems or trauma. The FMLA may be in place in the US, but it is for a finite amount of unpaid leave and is reserved only for employees of large companies.
Where does that leave those women who own or work for small businesses?
When will there be change in America to support mothers, parents, and all childcare givers?
Change usually starts at a grassroots level with the persons who are being adversely affected by the situation. That would mean mothers organizing themselves to become active in policy by:
1. Joining together and supporting one another through our own local, global, and digital communities.
2. Entering the political arena to create change. This is difficult to do if we cannot garner any support to re-enter (and remain) in the work force. I often say that the best I can do, failing aspiration to a political office where mothers’ rights was high on my agenda, is raise sensitive, intelligent sons who will fight for their mother and the rights of all mothers. (I currently have three sons who are already learning the ropes.) The bottom line is, we must find (and fight for) a way to be agents of change.
3. Getting involved with existing organizations who are already working for mothers’ rights. See below for more information on depression, postpartum depression, and the movement to create what could be called a “Mothers’ Bill of Rights.”
What would be included in a “Mothers’ Bill of Rights?”
There is not enough space in a blog forum to discuss discrimination against parents (both mothers and fathers) in our workplace and social forums today. However, a mothers’ bill of rights might just as well be named the “Parental Bill of Rights” because it would help eliminate workplace and social discrimination against American families. It would implement a paternal leave policy, breastfeeding rights, inclusion of caregiving (for both the young and elderly) social policies (such as Family Friendly Jury Duty Laws) and include caregiving in the GDP (gross domestic product) as put forth by Ann Crittenden in her book, The Price of Motherhood. It would implement policies suggested in Dr. Riane Eisler’s bestselling book, The Real Wealth of Nations, and in her Caring Economics Campaign. Lastly, it would set up social security credits or related policies to safeguard those who have sacrificed to spend a life in caregiving.
As it stands now, women and their children are the poorest segment of society.4 They unfortunately have to depend on the handouts of others (usually their spouse’s retirement). In fact, just being a woman means you are most likely to be poor in your old age, based on the number of “zero income” years that women have on their social security statement compared to men.6
It is time for change. Value must be given to parenting objectively instead of forcing us (parents) to be deafened by the continual din of empty lip service that rises from the streets of our hometowns and inside the political beltway of Washington D.C.
It is time for change. Value must be given to parenting – objectively – instead of forcing us (parents) to be deafened by the continual din of empty lip service that rises from the streets of our hometowns and inside the political beltway of Washington D.C.
1. USA Today, July 26, 2005.
2. Regier DA, Narrow WE, Rae DS, et al. The de facto mental and addictive disorders service system. Epidemiologic Catchment Area prospective 1-year prevalence rates of disorders and services. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1993; 50(2): 85-94.
3. Narrow WE. One-year prevalence of mental disorders, excluding substance use disorders, in the U.S.: NIMH ECA prospective data. Population estimates based on U.S. Census estimated residential population age 18 and over on July 1, 1998. Unpublished.
4. Science Daily, 1999.
5. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD, Fifty-second session
Geneva, 3-14 October 2005.
6. US Office of Social Security Administration: Office of Policy. 2000