Motherhood Manifesto: A Must Read for all Policy Makers, Employers

May 26, 2006

As I have mentioned in various threads, I finished Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner’s Motherhood Manifesto — and it really made the wheels in my head spin!

Despite both authors’ activism, the book was written in a non-partisan fashion — crammed with stats and figures and peppered with anecdotes about moms living under different circumstances across the country. It is also balanced in that it showcases the tragic side of living in a country with no safety net, but also lauds the businesses that have taken it on themselves to create flexible work environments for all their employees — not just parents.

The premise of the book is that family structures have changed since World War II. Yet, our workplace conditions have yet to catch up. Three-quarters of moms work outside of the home, yet they are paid significantly less than men, and women without children. Without universal healthcare — usually tied to employment — and readily available and affordable childcare, they are forced into a daily balancing act most of their foremothers did not have to endure.

Non-mothers with an average age of thirty earn 10 percent less than their male counterparts; mothers earn 27 percent less; and single mothers earn between 34 percent and 44 percent less…

But mothers across America are not just crying out for better (or at least fair and equal) pay; they are also yearning to live a life in which they aren’t cracking under pressure, a life in which they know that their children will be well cared for, a life in which it’s possible to be at home with their son or daughter even just one afternoon a week without worrying about sacrificing a disproportionate amount of their income and benefits — or simply losing their job altogether.

While motherhood always calls for some balancing act, surely we can do better as a country to make raising a family more manageable. I can’t help but think of all that money pissed away in Iraq that could have insured every child under 18 in this country. I can rant all night, so I will stop there.

But, if you are interested in ways to get involved in “mommy activism,” the book offers the names of many organizations and unions working towards workplace and federal policy changes. You can also sign up for Blades’’s newsletter. It works the same way as MoveOn’s e-mail alerts.