Ann Romney, A Mother Just Like You
"It's the moms who always have to work a little harder to make everything right." Ann Romney , GOP Convention, August 28, 2012
Of course, Mrs. Romney is exactly right about that and we appreciate the shout-out. But it's going to take a whole lot more than a stronger economy to do right by moms. Lowering the unemployment rate ain't even the half of it.
Mothers already face many hurdles. Would less state and federal regulation, reduced taxes, and fewer public programs put moms in a better position? It might be a feasible plan for a woman who is economically dependent on a well-employed man, or even a very rich man, like Ann Romney. But how good is it for a woman who wants to have a decent job, make her own way, be self-sufficient, economically independent AND have children? Fuhgeddaboudit! Divorce, disability or death - yours or your husband's - could sink you and your kids unless there are policies to keep you on your feet when the chips are down. And we don't have those policies in this country. Yet.
Mothers in the U.S. are hit square in the face by bearing and raising children in a country without paid maternity leave or paid sick leave. Workplace discrimination against mothers (and most women in this country are mothers) is the most common kind of gender discrimination. The unemployment rate won't matter at all if women can't find reasonably priced and safe child care in order to show up at work. If she can't take a sick day when her kid is too sick for school, her job security comes at the cost of her child's health. If health care reform is rolled back, she can't take her child to the doctor if she doesn't have insurance, and employers don't offer it the way they used to. If she works part-time because she has to be home in the afternoons for her kids, then she's likely making less and less per hour, and lacks the workplace protections federal legislation makes available to full-time employees.
And we haven't even gotten to a woman's ability to control her fertility, the number of children she has and the space between their births. There is no more serious financial decision that a woman makes in her whole life, ever, than the decision to become a mother.
An economic policy that lacks a paid leave program only works for people who are never ill, never pregnant, and never have to take care of a sick child, spouse, or parent. An economic policy that lacks a childcare or early education program only works for people who have no children. That rules out women. About 80% of American women have at least one child by age 40, and in spite of our superior academic credentials, we still do far more unpaid family carework than men. A plan for business invigoration that doesn't account for that inevitably favors men over women.
As a mother myself, and (I hope!) a future grandmother, I want the same thing as Ann Romney - for my children to be successful. It matters to me that both my son and my daughter have an equal chance at success. My daughter is willing to work a little harder. But she shouldn't have to work against discrimination that's built into our workplaces, our economy, our health care delivery or our culture. That's not fair.
It's not even American.
'Til next time,
Your (Wo)Man in Washington