Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Does America Love Its Children?

This is part two of a conversation on Women and Mother's rights, How Far Have We Come?

Rose Kennedy, mother of 9 children, including President John F. Kennedy said, "I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was as fully interesting and challenging as any honorable profession in the world and one that demanded the best I could bring to it."

Mothering is a most honorable profession, more important than sending men to the moon or even leading a country. After all, does not the future of our country rest in the hands of our children? So then, mothers should not (have to) apologize for putting the profession of mothering at the top of their priority list.

It is time to stop lavishing superficial praise on mothers for taking time out of (or canceling entirely) their careers to give birth and raise children. Society has pushed its skewed work ethic onto mothers so heavily - that they end up apologizing for mothering or end up being pushed out of the workplace (or from mothering) entirely.

Case in point - a colleague of mine (to remain unnamed) - recently sent me an email. In it she apologized for not being able to multi-task well enough to keep up with her workload during her pregnancy.

The mother of 1 (with a second on the way) writes, "I am feeling guilty about contacting you without a plethora of attachments filled with work for our project, but I need to let you know that I have been unable to make headway yet. I have to admit that my priorities have shifted more than I expected with this pregnancy ~ being only 6 weeks away from delivery. I just need to accept that this (having to slow down and take care of myself and my unborn baby) is how it is and it is okay. I certainly hope I have not made life more difficult for you. However, I cannot take on the project at this time. I will look forward to it in the future. My focus is on being a mom and keeping my small business running..."

My response to her, "First of all. Relax and enjoy. You did not have to write the email to me. I would absolutely expect nothing different from you right now. You may have to defend your priorities and family dedication to the rest of the world, but not me. Being a fellow mom, business owner, and therapist who holds similar root values - I empathize and understand.
This time in your life you are exactly where you need to be. You are a wonderful, dedicated, intelligent woman and professional. - and when you are ready, I know you will be perfect for the project.
In fact, what you are doing now (mothering) is creating the perfect experience(s) for you to become a master at your professional specialty in the future. Society may not recognize this Truth - but you are becoming an expert in your profession BECAUSE you are a mother, NOT in spite of it.

Is the United States a country which loves its children? Not if the current system remains the way it is.
We must:
  • Empower mothers to be mothers, not harass them for becoming mothers. For example, instituting 12 month paid maternity leaves like other countries do - which have higher numbers of (happier) mothers working outside the home, ironically.
  • Invest in America's families by creating resources to allow mothers to stay home or work part time with children of preschool age. We cannot and should not force mothers to fit the "man's mold" of business - which means working without breaks for family. It is physically (and otherwise) impossible for women to work their entire lives without taking breaks for family needs - unless that is, American women stop having children.
  • Excuse all women from jury duty who are pregnant, nursing, or who are stay at home care-givers with children under school age or home bound elderly parents to care for.
  • Praise and value the Mothering Resume, or "time taken off to rear children" instead of keeping women out of the corporate office because of "lack of experience from mommy gaps" on the resume.
  • Enable those mothers who choose or must work outside the home with options for quality, affordable early childhood education resources.
Society needs to put its money where its mouth is.
  • Stop giving "lip service" to women about their great role to humanity as mothers - and start supporting and enabling them to actually do the job.
  • Kill double standards. Women are expected to put off and cancel careers in order to birth and raise children, while men are never asked or expected to let their careers slow down at all. Men are praised for having a family and a career (& for making it to the occasional PTA meeting or sports event) while women are berated for trying to have both (& if they are not there for every event and meeting). Women are encouraged to get an education and establish a career, but are frowned upon by others (and other mothers) when they put their children in daycare in order to keep their job.
Our society has become a "2 income culture", forcing women back to work and displacing our children into the hands of daycare workers - who are under-paid and under-appreciated. As a result, staff turnover can be high and workers with degrees in early childhood education can be difficult to find and keep.
  • We need to encourage young people to go into early childhood education - but who will pursue this honorable work if it pays nothing and is not respected?
  • Start paying early childhood education specialists/preschool teachers what they are worth.
  • Invest smartly in the future of our country by offering compassion and understanding. Offer options (and support) for mothers to be 'stay at home moms' or 'work from home moms.' Telecommuting is eco-friendly, business friendly, and parenting friendly - and it works.
  • Enlist the "village" to help raise their children. Mothers cannot do it alone. Other countries offer year long maternity leave, and options to return to work at 50%, 75%, and full time, for example. They provide preschool and daycare options, and also give dads an opportunity to take part in the year long "paternal" leave as well.
  • We must reduce and prevent poverty of mothers in America. If you are a mother and you stay home with your children, statistically you are MOST likely to live at poverty levels during retirement years. Why? Because the government does not recognize your years of sacrificial service as having monetary value. In other words, for all the years you stay home with children, your social security statement reads "zero" or no work done. You get no retirement, no support, and no thanks from the US government for having raised the Next Responsible Generation. Asking mothers to continually work for free must change.
Love and sacrifice is not lacking. Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that parenting or mothering is not rewarding or wonderful or that mothers should get "paid" to be parents. As mothers, we love our children. Through all of time and history women have made the sacrifice to put everyone first - children, husbands, families, even communities. We do it out of love.

The real Truth, and where the problem lies is - society has long taken advantage of a Mother's Love. It is time for American society and government to love our children enough - to create equitable rights for mothers.

Rose Kennedy was right - mothering is the most honorable profession, as honorable as any other. Mothering is the ultimate service we are able to render to God and country. Let all mothers stop apologizing for working in this most honorable profession - and start demanding the resources and remuneration to do the job well.

*my oldest son, with a flower he picked for me

No comments:

Post a Comment