Volume 14, Issue 19 ~ May 11 - May 17, 2006


What Mothers Really Need

Flowers, brunch and a box of chocolates on Mother’s Day are great. Every woman can use a Sunday of sweetness.

But what mothers really need can’t come to them in a day. Indeed, hasn’t come to them in the century that women’s rights has been a political issue. Certainly isn’t being talked about by politicians lining up to run for office.

First, the reality: Today’s women balance career, child-care, home management and, if they’re lucky, a personal life. No longer are their incomes a luxury. Their check is essential to keeping wheels on the family bus.

And let’s not forget women in the military. These days, mothers and wives are fighting our wars, dying and returning home missing arms and legs.

The extended family has dispersed, making each family’s survival a mom-and-pop (and often mom-or-pop business) — unless, of course, they’re a family who can afford hired help.

We don’t need to remind you of the added pressure on households from spiraling gas prices and the 72 percent hike in our electricity rates that politicians in Annapolis haven’t stopped.

What mothers really need are public policies that put meat on the bones of the platitudes we hear when the subject of motherhood comes up. If we value motherhood, support for mothers should be enshrined in public policy for every mother, including our poorest — about whom Maria Bellos writes in this week’s lead story.

• Child care: Tax incentives and government support for child-rearing need to be part of a culture that professes commitment to life, even life before birth. That includes available, affordable child care, with quality guaranteed by paying a living wage and benefits for child-care workers, on a schedule similar to that of our valuable public school teachers.

• Health care: As it stands, nearly the entire salary of many women goes to a health care industry that poisons the well of alternatives with scary talk about “government-run health care.” As it stands, staying home with her children is a choice many a working mother cannot afford, because it costs her family its insurance. Yet with costs and the masses of uninsured growing, we continue to elect politicians who refuse to support some version of state-supported or national health care.

• Maternity leave: A mother and her new child need precious early months together. A generation ago, many European nations proved they valued motherhood by supporting six months or more maternity leave for each new child. In America, parental leave is still tied to employment.

• Public schools: As costly as public education is for all of us, many parents don’t dare send their kids to their neighborhood public school. That’s clearly a problem money alone won’t fix, but with some of the supports we’re talking about, mothers could be part of the solution.

• Coordinated scheduling: Schools both private and public make their schedules as if mothers were still homebodies. That’s a problem that could be solved by a public policy that recognizes today’s realities and meshes schooling and child care.

Yes, but where will new money for mothers come from, you ask?

The fathers in Washington seem to find plenty of money to spend on war — $1 trillion on this one, so far. National security in our view starts at home.

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