Reflections on Mother’s Day
May 15, 2023
By Natalie Shaak, Operations Manager
This year was my first Mother’s Day celebrating as more than just a cat mom as I am expecting my first child in a few months. Over the past week, I observed the way businesses and individuals observed the holiday. Many posted social media thank you messages to the mother figures in their lives or highlighted the pain felt by the absence of mothers lost too soon. Others chose to give gifts of cards or flowers or take their mothers out for a meal. Businesses offered sales and free items for mothers. Strangers on the street wished women a "happy mother's day," not knowing if they were a mother or not. While it is great to celebrate mothers once per year, being a parent is a year-round, 18+ year commitment that brings to light many needs that are far from being met in our communities.
If we truly cared about mothers and valued the sacrifices they make, we would make a commitment to do more and use Mother’s Day as a time to not just thank them, but ensure they have the tools they need to thrive.
What moms really need this Mother’s Day is not a card or flowers but action to provide support and resources necessary for them to be the superheroes we say they are. Mothers need us to speak up and advocate for:
- Equal Pay - The gender pay gap is real, and it has not improved at all over the past few decades. While this can be attributed to outright sexism, research has also shown that it is also tied to motherhood. Women who take time off after having children see long-term impacts on their career progression, opportunities, and pay that is not seen in women without children and men. More effort must be paid around raising the minimum wage, pay transparency and equity, and we must change the mindset around employment gaps due to family care needs.
- Paid Family Leave - Paid family leave after the birth of a child or to care for a family member is necessary to ensure the mental, physical, and financial health of children and adults. Less than a quarter of private industry workers have access to paid leave. Without paid leave access, mothers go back to work before they are physically or mentally prepared to and cut short the necessary bonding time with their children. Paid leave for fathers is also essential to creating more stable family relationships and
- Affordable and Accessible Childcare - Childcare is the single largest expense for the average household in America with children, with more than half families spending more than 20 percent of their income on it in 2022. Oftentimes the cost of childcare exceeds the additional income received by working mothers and leads to mothers leaving the workforce altogether. For families that can afford quality childcare, it can be a challenge to find it in their communities as the industry struggles to meet the demand and balance the need for living wages for workers while keeping services affordable.
- Affordable and Equitable Healthcare - It is no secret that healthcare in the U.S. in largely unaffordable, and it almost always tied to employment, causing major challenges for mothers. More than half of U.S. adults say they have a difficult time affording healthcare costs and often forgo care due to cost. This can lead to maternal complications and longterm childhood health issues. Additionally, mental health issues are one of the most common complications of childbirth and the leading cause of death among new mothers. Yet mental health care is largely inaccessible due to cost and limited availability of services. Additionally, the U.S. has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate of any high income nation. The care received during child birth The rate of life-threatening maternal complications for women of color continue to increase. Black mothers and children are more than twice as likely to die during childbirth.
- Effective Public Assistance - Public assistance programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are essential to supporting mothers. Yet eligibility requirements and insufficient funding limit their impact. Income limits remain ridiculously low, leaving may families with need unable to receive any support. With the rising cost of food and role back of pandemic increases, SNAP dollars continue to be insufficient for the needs of mothers and their children at times when nutrition is the most important. While current SNAP work requirements do allow for exceptions for stay at home parents with a child under 6, efforts by lawmakers to implement more stringent requirements put that exemption in jeopardy. State prerogative on use of TANF funds continue to withhold funds from families with unmet need, while states fund programs that have no impact on families. These programs must be expanded and more funds must be put into the hands of families for mothers to successfully care for their children.
- Expanded Child Tax Credit - Raising a child is expensive, and any additional financial support to families shows a positive impact. Research highlights that the Expanded Child Tax Credit implemented temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic reduced poverty and protected children from trauma related to abuse and neglect. It especially supported the lowest income families who previously did not have enough income to qualify for the tax credit.
- Bodily Autonomy - Six of ten women who have abortions in the U.S. are already mothers, with more than half of those women already having two or more children. The choice when, if, and how to become a mother should be up to families with guidance from trained medical professionals, not politicians or courts. Each financial, medical, or personal situation is different and requires thoughtful consideration of those involved to make the best decision for their families.
If we truly value mothers, we must do more than just post on social media or buy a card once per year. We must stand up and advocate for policy change to ensure mothers have the support they need in doing one of the most important jobs.