Fascinating. It seems that a blog I wrote last week about supporting children is more of a Rorschach test than I realized. I made three numbered points in that blog post to avoid confusion about what MomsRising.org is advocating, since "Building a Family Friendly America" may mean different things to different people. That post hit a nerve and a multitude of comments from some very different perspectives streamed in.
THE REAL LOWDOWN ABOUT AMERICAN FAMILIES: By way of background, and to provide a factual basis for this important debate, there is pervasive, very real, and not well-known discrimination against mothers in this country. This bias inspired me to write The Motherhood Manifesto and to found MomsRising.org. (I only had my eyes opened to this less than 3 years ago.)
The fact of the matter is that mothers' are struggling disproportionately to others, and thus their families struggle as well. Few people realize that:
- a single mother will make approximately 40% less than a man with the same qualifications and position,
- and that married mothers will earn 27% less...
- that is if she can overcome the deep bias against hiring mothers and get a job in the first place.
This impacts a huge segment of our population since 82% of American women become mothers by the time they are forty-four years old.
This is one of the core reasons there are so many women and children in poverty in this country. In fact, a quarter of families with children under six live in poverty in our land of supposed plenty. And why is there so much wage and hiring bias against mothers? Many believe it is because by most measures we have the least support for parents of any industrialized country in the world. For example, out of 168 countries only four have no paid support for employed mothers after they deliver a child. That would be the United States of America, Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. I find this shocking. When mothers in America have to choose between feeding their children and caring for their babies, they sometimes go back to work days after giving birth!
Another data point: All other industrialized countries have medical care for their citizens. We have millions of children and parents with no medical coverage and millions more with inadequate coverage. In fact, medical bankruptcies have increased 2300% in a generation (and 76% of those who go bankrupt had health insurance when their illness started). We need to make it possible for parents in America to do what they want to do more than anything else, take good care of their children.
THE POSTS--WHO'S NAUGHTY, WHO'S RIGHT, WHO'S SELFISH, & WHO'S NICE: I wrote that parents are making an unselfish contribution to our future. Dang that was a hot button. (Let me clarify here and now that saying nice things about parents in no way diminishes non-parents. There are all sort of wonderful ways to contribute to our world with and without having children.)
Many of the replies to what I wrote about providing children with what they need so that our society will be vibrant and strong in 20 years were passionate, very personal, supportive and insightful....
"How is this even a debate? Who among us, ten years ago, realized that the cost of EVERYTHING was going to skyrocket beyond our ability to keep up? Who knew that many of us would have to get second jobs just to pay for the fuel to get us to the first one?"
"I've lost a job because I needed to take time off to care for a parent suffering with dementia, a long term and chronic illness (and that was only one unexcused absence). .... The false choice being argued is that single people and people with families have to fight each other for resources. They don't. But as long as they believe they do, these kind of resentments will keep the real problems from being solved."
"I don't have kids of my own and probably never will, but I totally agree with this post. Yes, on an individual level it's a choice to have children, but in the bigger picture society obviously cannot go on without creating the next generation, and in creating this generation, some will have means and some will not."
Others simply don't want to share any responsibility for other people's children no matter what:
"Are you serious? You have a right to breed if you lack the money to pay for the little critters?"
My response to a few common themes that emerged in the response posts:
THE "INDISCRIMINATE BREEDERS" CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Somehow a chunk of the replies were about indiscriminate "breeding"...writers who object to contributing to the wellbeing of children because they believe it rewards or encourages reckless child bearing.
Cost/Benefit Analysis: Neglecting the children of parents who are poor (or who as some would say are, "indiscriminately breeding"), might sometimes cause those parents to not have more children; but it will certainly hurt those children who lack quality care and thus also our shared future.
1 child or 10, once children are born, we as a society have moral imperative to take good care of them. MomsRising is not engaged in the debate about reproductive decisions, we are focused on basic family issues where there is deep agreement crossing partisan, cultural, and economic lines. We are advocating on behalf of parents that simply want the ability to take good care of their children.
TAKING THE LONG VIEW: Saying that parents are generally unselfish absolutely infuriated some writers. I admit this is a personal opinion, but I share it with many other people. It is my impression that most parents have their kid's welfare at the very top of their priorities. They struggle to do what is best for their children. They are no doubt imperfect in their efforts as are their children. That said, doing what is best for children and community is a core parental goal that deserves respect and support.
Engaging more parents politically will be good for our country in a multitude of ways. Parents take a long view about the environment and other issues in part because they care deeply about their children's future..
Ours is the first generation of American parents that expect our children to have poorer health, less economic success and less security than we have. As a citizen and a parent, I am deeply disturbed to think that my children, my country and the world face a diminished future. MomsRising.org is mobilizing and empowering Americans who share these concerns so that together we can work to create a vibrant future for all of us.