On Mother’s Day: Give me good policies, not pancakes in bed

By Lisa Frack and Andrea Paluso of Portland, Oregon. Lisa and Andrea are both on the board of Family Forward Oregon.

It's almost Mother's Day. A day to celebrate the mothers in our lives with brunch and flowers and small gestures of gratitude. But Mother's Day, in this country, started as a mother's call to action, all the way back in 1908. As it turns out, action by mothers (and others), on behalf of mothers, is needed again.

We all lose when mothers earn less – and they do

It is a sad and startling fact that in this country, MOTHERHOOD is now known to be a LEADING PREDICTOR OF POVERTY in old age. Why? Because when mothers take time out of the workforce to raise kids they suffer wage and promotion gaps that they never recover (not to mention a good bit less social security and 401(k) savings too). In fact, women without children now earn around 90-cents for every dollar a man earns (a pitiful disparity inherited from another era).

Mothers, meanwhile, earn only 77-cents for that dollar, and single mothers - who raise 1 of every 4 kids in the U.S. - average a mere 62-cents. In addition to significant wage disparities, our lack of access to paid family leave, paid sick leave, affordable child care and flexible and part-time work options make it all the more challenging for mothers to stay connected to the workforce while they're raising kids. Even when we want and need to.

American families look different now, our policies should, too.

Today, in the vast majority of families in the U.S., all available adults work (outside the home). And despite significant cultural shifts in work and family structures over the past few decades, we've taken mere baby steps to update workplace and public policies so they better support working parents.

Skip the flowers and do something!

Mothers, and the people who love them (that’s everyone, right?), must take action - NOW. We must demand improved policies at the state and federal level, because without real workplace and public policy improvements, economic insecurity among mothers (and their children!) will persist. Shifting cultural norms and passing strong family-friendly laws is a critical, and long overdue next step in the feminist movement.

Interested in joining this conversation? Join Family Forward Oregon tonight (Thursday, May 5th) for our Price of Motherhood event in Portland. You'll hear from Ann Crittenden, the nationally-acclaimed author of The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued. Crittenden's discussion of her national research and findings will be followed by a panel discussion with Oregon policy-makers and business leaders in order to connect the author’s national perspective to the efforts of a growing mothers' movement and on-the-ground advocacy work happening right here in Oregon. Our local panel will bring the conversation around to what’s going on here in Oregon to improve work-family policy. Panelists are: Rep. Ben Cannon, Rep. Michael Dembrow, Amelia Psmythe (Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon), Kim Graham-Nye (gDiapers co-owner), and Mary King, PhD (labor economist).

Find out more: familyforwardoregon.org.

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    I will be there tonight, and thanks for an awesome post!

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    If maternity leave is contributing so much to the gap, perhaps part of bringing about equality is to allow for paternity leave and encourage fathers to take it. It's just as important for dads to spend time with their newborns as it is for mothers. European countries recognize that and have both policies and cultures that encourage fathers to take several weeks off when their kids are born. Here, I think most guys wouldn't even ask for leave because bosses and coworkers would think they aren't sufficiently committed to their work.

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    Both of the women who are recognized as the "founders of Mother's Day", Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis can be heard spinning in their graves over the way Mother's Day has evolved. Anna Was particularly upset with the commercialization.

    A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment. —Anna Jarvis.

    Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation should be read in every pulpit and celebration this Sunday.

    Mother's Day Proclamation Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have breasts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

    Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

    We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

    From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."

    Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

    Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

    In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient. And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

    -- Julia Ward Howe, 1870

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      Julia Ward Howe is my direct ancestor and I had never read that or heard that she was involved with creating mothers day. Now I want to read up more on her. She seems like a vehement lady.

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