Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Do you love your mother?

You never call, you never write . . . . Are you sure you love your mother? The United States doesn't. How can I tell? I look at the evidence, just like your mother does. And the evidence is plentiful right now, as the authors of the new book, "The Motherhood Manifesto" are busy letting us know just what US policy thinks of mothers.

The thesis of this book is that moms are in the workplace to stay, yet the workplace and our governmental policies regarding the workplace allow little flexibility in allow moms to adapt to the ever-changing needs of their families. Rather, the workplace actually penalizes moms simply for being moms. Employed moms already know this. Apparently we need a book to tell the rest of us.

It's called the family penalty. I call it the ghetto-ization of moms. We already know that women make less than men. Now, we learn that moms make less than women who aren't moms. Nonmoms make 90 cents to a man's dollar. Moms make 73 cents to the man's dollar. And single moms make as little as 56 cents to a man's dollar.

Is there any evidence that moms can't do the job or don't do the job? Nope. Businesses assume, wrongly, that it's good business sense to pay less to moms because they may need more. More insurance, more time off. In fact, there are many studies that show family-friendly business policies will help businesses, not harm them.

But wait. There's more. We all know kids get sick. Schools are pretty strict about keeping kids home if they have a fever. And who really wants to send a sick kid to school, anyway? Yet a sick six year old needs a parent home with them. But if mom (or dad) doesn't have any sick days to take, what happens to the sick munchkin and his parents? 70% of workers in the US will either lose income or lose their jobs if they take off to care for their sick children.

Then there's the lack of paid leave to care for newborns or address family emergencies. Everybody else has it. All over the world. OK. Not everybody. The countries of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States don't have it. Great company, eh? 84 other countries have at least 14 PAID weeks of leave available to mothers.

What kind of civilized nation are we, anyway, that can spend billions to bomb a country but can't figure out how to allow mothers to care for their newborn babies without falling into poverty, and can't find a way to allow sons to care for their dying mothers in their last days? Why is it that other nations have the resources to do this, but we don't?

Let's end with this quote. "The shame of the US is that for all our talk of valuing families, among nations the US workplace is almost uniquely hostile to motherhood." A great way to celebrate your mom this year might be to support progressive candidates and legislation throughout the US that are mom-friendly.

And, hey. A call and a card wouldn't hurt.



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