I represented MomsRising this week at a press conference in New York City to debunk the media hype around the so-called ‘Mommy Wars’. No doubt, you’ve seen the term used everywhere, as though the idea that moms working outside the home are actually at war with moms working at home – on the morning shows, the talk shows, in the headlines – like it’s a real phenomenon. But it’s not. It’s a trumped-up battle that continues to gain media currency because editors think feuding mothers are sexy and will attract attention.
What a waste of breath. Moms across the country are pushing for more family-friendly policies, and the shift is actually starting to happen in Washington, in the States and in local communities, and still it’s about the ‘mommy wars’ in the press? Gimme a break. We are wasting time and valuable airspace on this charade.
Just this week, a new study came out with Harvard and McGill University researchers saying that “workplace policies for families in the United States are weaker than those of all high-income countries and many middle- and low-income countries.”
“More countries are providing the workplace protections that millions of Americans can only dream of,” said the study’s lead author, Jody Heymann, founder of the Harvard-based Project on Global Working Families and director of McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy.
Among the study’s findings:
—The U.S. is one of only five countries out of 173 in the survey that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave; the others are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.
— Fathers get paid paternity leave or paid parental leave in 65 countries, including 31 offering at least 14 weeks of paid leave. The U.S.: none.
— At least 107 countries protect working women’s right to breast-feed; the breaks are paid in at least 73 of them. The U.S.: no federal legislation guaranteeing the right to breast-feed at work.
— At least 145 countries provide paid sick days, with 127 providing a week or more annually. The U.S. provides unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act, which does not cover all workers; there is no federal law providing for paid sick days.
— At least 126 countries have laws mandating that employers give workers a day of rest each week. The U.S. does not have a maximum work week length or a limit on mandatory overtime per week.
But, here in the U.S., the media chooses to trump the mommy wars.
And that’s why MomsRising has a petition going for a CEASEFIRE in the mommy wars and the National Association of Mothers’ Center held the press conference to demand the same at the Women’s Media Center in New York.
As Ann Crittenden said, “This is a hopelessly anachronistic, 1950’s way of characterizing mothers.” She went on to say that for most women the clear-cut, homemaker/career woman divide isn’t real. Statistically, most mothers will work at some point, either full-time, part-time or volunteer.
Just like the rest of our lives as mothers, we don’t see this as a black and white issue with sides being taken. We’re doing our best for ourselves and our families, and as circumstances change so might our choices about where and how much we work. But, I’m preaching to the choir here.
Back to some of the great things that were said at the press conference. Valerie Young, the advocacy coordinator for NAMC, said, “For 70% of adults, both parents are employed outside the home. Finding good childcare is not a personal problem, it’s a national problem.”
Valerie is excited about developments in Washington that bode well for family-friendly initiatives, including the growth of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues that looks to become the 3rd largest caucus on the Hill. She’s thrilled that the term “universal” is back in play, since “for years, that term was the kiss of death.”
Talk turned to the need for healthcare for families, paid sick leave, paid leave for family care, affordable childcare, and for Social Security to account for women’s work at home (the incidence of female poverty in retirement is astronomical in part because women’s social security payments are miniscule.)
As the presenters answered questions from reporters, Rhonda Kave, the Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees of NAMC said that 56% of homeless women cite domestic violence as the cause of their homelessness, “If we cared about ending violence toward women, we’d give them a place to go.”
All in all, a powerful and eye-opening exchange for everyone involved. If you haven’t already done so, sign the CEASEFIRE petition.