It’s Not a “Mommy War”, It’s A War On Moms

There is no question that Hilary Rosen should have chosen her words more carefully when she said that Ann Romney, mother of five sons, “never worked a day in her life.” Raising children is work. It’s immensely rewarding work, but it’s work just the same. Ann Romney is justifiably proud of the work she’s done raising her children.

Now that the spotlight is on motherhood, rather than fanning the false flames of a “Mommy War” that doesn’t really exist, it’s time that we as a nation recognize that regardless of whether or not mothers’ work is paid or unpaid, the work of caregiving is important to us all and should be valued.

That’s right: Mothers’ work should be valued.

But too often it’s not.

We see this devaluation happen over and over again. From Rush Limbaugh falsely attributing gender pay gaps to maternity leave, to sensationalized headlines where a mother of five is dismissed as having “never worked a day in her life,” to the all too common experience of wage and hiring discrimination against mothers, the devaluation of mothers is at a crisis point in our nation.

Take, for example, the wage cuts that women endure simply for becoming moms: Women without children make 90 cents to a man’s dollar, mothers make 73 cents to a man’s dollar, and single moms make only about 60 cents to a man’s dollar. Women of color experience increased wage cuts. Further, a recent study found that with equal resumes and job experiences, mothers were offered $11,000 lower starting salaries than non-mothers (Fathers, on the other hand, were offered $6,000 more in starting salaries than non-fathers).

Since over 80 percent of women in our nation have children by the time they’re 44 years old, this means the majority of women in our nation are disadvantaged by discrimination at some point in their lives.

Every day, moms around the world are doing the hard work of raising children. This unpaid work involves making sure that children get the nutrition, care, education, and health care they need to grow up to be healthy, thriving adults who are part of our nation’s economic success. In fact, there is an enormous amount of untracked, unpaid labor done by women that’s fueling our economy. According to a 1995 U.N. Human Development Report, “If more human activities were treated as market transactions at the prevailing wages, they would yield huge monetary valuations–a staggering $16 trillion… Of this $16 trillion, $11 trillion is the non-monetized, ‘invisible’ contribution of women.” The work of moms–both of moms who are in the labor force and those who are not–is significant.

It’s an understatement to say that this unpaid work is much easier to do when families are economically secure.

That’s why it’s so important that when the mom rhetoric starts flying, and everyone starts grandstanding about how much they value moms, we also must talk about how important it is to advance public policies that allow all families to thrive.

Ann Romney had the financial resources she needed to be able to decide to stay home to raise her children while remaining fiscally solvent. This isn’t always possible. In fact, families with a stay-at-home parent are seven times more likely to live in poverty, and millions of moms don’t have the option to choose to stay at home because their wages are needed to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of their families. With the cost of raising a child to age 18 (not including college) these days at over $200,000 per child, mothers’ wages are increasingly needed to make ends meet.

Not surprisingly, with the cost of raising children so high, three-quarters of moms are now in the labor force. And many moms go in and out of the labor force at different times in their lives, sequencing their careers, thus making the distinction between moms who are in the labor force, and moms who are outside of the labor force nearly irrelevant. Many moms have been both. The “Mommy Wars” of old no longer describe the reality that most families are living today.

Ultimately, whether mothers’ work is paid or unpaid, all moms are concerned about their families’ well-being and economic security. That’s why we need strong policies that reflect the composition of our nation’s modern labor force, and that reduce discrimination against mothers and women. With women comprising 50 percent of the modern labor force for the first time in history, with a majority of moms now in the labor force, and with many families requiring the wages of moms to stay solvent, it’s critical that family economic security policies that most other nations take as a given now move forward quickly:

  • We need equal pay laws to ensure that moms who work outside the home are paid the same as their male counterparts for the same work, so they can support their families.
  • We need earned sick days laws, so that parents who do work outside the home don’t have to choose between a paycheck, or possibly losing a job, and staying home when they or a child are sick.
  • We need to have paid family leave after a new child comes into a home, so that parents can take time out of work to recover and to care for a new child.
  • And we need affordable, enriching childcare opportunities so that parents can get to work and children can have a safe, educational place to be while parents are working.

Without family economic security policies like these in place, and with the pervasive discrimination against moms, families are struggling. This has rippling repercussions on our children, with nearly 1 in 4 children in our nation experiencing food scarcity due to family economic limitations. This lack of policies and ongoing discrimination also has repercussions on moms and entire families. For example, right now, having a new baby is a leading cause of poverty spells in this country, and nearly a quarter of young families live in poverty.

It’s not a “Mommy War” between paid and unpaid moms; it’s a War on Moms.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Mothers and families should be able to work hard and get what they need — a good job, food on the table, good health care, and a safe place to call home.

To be frank, children are not only our hearts, they are the economic engine of our nation’s future. And when we devalue the paid and unpaid work of moms, we devalue our future.

Let’s take this moment when the eyes of our nation are focused on moms to recognize the value of all moms’ paid and unpaid work–and to urge our elected leaders to support policies that allow both our families and our economy to thrive.

Let’s end the War on Moms and stop adding fuel to fire the fake, and divisive, “Mommy Wars” between moms who are in the labor force and moms who are not; and instead come together to stop the discrimination against all moms, both paid and unpaid.

After all, the success of our families and our economy are intertwined.

It’s past time for the war on moms to stop, for the war on families to stop, and for the war on women to stop. It’s time to move forward together. For the good of our children, our economy, and our future.

Photo from Flickr user peterme via Creative Commons 3.0.

This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Comments

  1. I’m curious, where are you getting these statistics as to what men vs. women vs. mothers make? I know when I was hired recently, mother or not, I started at the same salary as my male counterparts, fathers or not. In fact, I was not asked whether I was a parent, nor have I been at any stage in the hiring/employment process. Are you suggesting that if they find out later that I’m a mother, perhaps due to insurance, since no one asks, that they will somehow lower my pay? I’m sure there is still some truth to the idea that women are paid less, but I think it is due to the type of work women choose to do/can do due to education, etc. more so than to motherhood…

    • I can’t speak specifically for the statistics in this article, but usually these statistics are derived by surveys. No one is saying your employer found out you were a mom and now pays you less because of it. It’s that they surveyed moms & non-moms, dads & non-dads, and the results show moms are paid less. I think most of the time it’s not driven by out-right prejudice from workplaces, rather that moms can sometimes be less focused on their careers because of their added responsibilities at home and also the PERCEPTION that moms don’t value their careers as much because of the added responsibilities at home. Also general cultural differences between moms, non-moms, dads, non-dads in teh workplace that sometimes unintentionally divide people (ie it’s a fact men outnumber women in higher positions in corporate america, and they can’t help but relate best to other men, which sometimes might mean a woman who is equally qualified gets passed up in lieu of a man who is in the “in” crowd with the management). As women, we just need to work harder to get noticed and accepted in the inner circles in our organizations, and men should be educated on these instances (because I don’t believe they do it on purpose so they just need to be reminded that it happens).

    • Jan Rodak says:

      This is not the case. When adjusted for type of work, level of education and years on the job, women are still paid less than men. I don’t know what you’d like to chalk that up to.

    • How do you know that you started at the same salary? Lilly Ledbetter got rave reviews and big bonuses and was shocked when she found out that her male colleagues were making more money than she was.

      You don’t know if you are paid equally until you see the evidence.

      • Agreed. A lot of companies only post pay “ranges” rather than actual salaries so it can be very hard to prove that a man was offered a higher starting salary than a woman. Another problem that is rarely addressed occures down the road, not just if/ when women take time out of the workforce, but also on applications where applicants are expected to list previous salaries. Employers use previous salaries as a way of determining how much they are going to offer during salary negotiations. If a woman made $60K in her previous job and the man made $75K, he is likely to be offered a higher salary, simply based on no factor other than his previous salary. So, if a woman experiences pay discrimination early in her career, that can easily set the precedent for compensation in the jobs that follow.

    • The statistics can be found in Cordelia Fines book “Delusions of Gender” starting on page 57. She calls it the “motherhood penalty” and it’s appalling. She cites numerous studies done in which fake resumes were sent out to companies or reviewed by college students. mothers compared to non-mothers were found 15% less committed to the job and worth $11,000 less, and then they also found that there is no “fatherhood penalty”. They also rated the non-mom as more competent than warm and the mom as more warm and less competent. It’s a great book nonetheless.

  2. I love this article so very much.

    I’m a stay-at-home mom of three, and a graduate student in NYC. I love being home with my kids. It’s what I wanted. It’s also a catch-22. Because I have young children and a baby, I can’t afford to put them in childcare, and there are barely any licensed day-cares that take children under the age of two in NYC. I also can’t afford to stay home on my husband’s (who works for a fantastic non-profit) salary, so we’re taking on more debt through cost-of-living student loans. I’m also now far less attractive to employers now that there are scourges of younger twenty-somethings without children who will work longer hours for less pay. It’s a shame, because I’ve got the best time management skills of anyone I know and a breadth of work experience from my previous days in paid employment, and an unbeatable work ethic. That’s not to say that I’m better because I’ve had children, I have no desire to pit myself against fellow women trying to make it out there. It’s just to say that I am also valuable, even though I have children.

    It’s hard being a mom. It’s hard staying home, it’s hard working. For a country that’s constantly talking about what we can do with our wombs, there’s little available for what we can do once we do have babies. Women are damned when we don’t want babies and damned when we do have them. There’s also this rhetoric about the sanctity of the family in the U.S. and almost no public policy to back it up, and it’s harming so many.

    • I love this article as well, especially because it finally makes the point how much laws would have to change to benefit moms, kids, and ultimately the world’s future! Every time I tell someone the story that my mom friends in Europe receive 75% of their salary for 2 years while they are at home caring for the baby I am slammed with a defensive reaction and disbelief. But the truth is having a 75% salary while you’re at home with your baby, and then having a job to go back to 2 years later is exactly what American moms need, too. Not a barely two months non-paid FMLA leave, this is an embarrassment to our society and another example how corporate America brutality.

  3. You’re right, Aleda: “It’s hard being a mom. It’s hard staying home, it’s hard working.” Being a mom began for me long before our sons showed up and will go on10 weeks after I’m dead. And it constantly changes. Staying home is hard because you dread the ubiquitous question “What do you do?” Making a home

  4. (continued:) barely constitutes a vocation anymore. And work’s hard because even if you love what you do, you’re usually doing the work of at least one other person as well becuase of budgets.
    Looking back, my biggest wish was to combine the three, not as in 1+1+ 1 but as in one-third, one-third, one-third. For instance, my husband would have to have had decent working hours instead of 14-hour days. And my salary should have met a justice standard in the parochial system where I’d worked. With some diversity in my days, I’d have had the energy for genuine home-making, (not to be confused with house-keeping.)I. ache to see this balance achieved today

    • Yes Rossanna, I agree with the work demand at work and having to work for more than 1 person. If there wouldn’t be so much greed and/or budget issues at our work working mothers wouldn’t be so exhausted after 8 hours worth of work. I remember working in a pharmacy as a tech and after 8 hours of work (never able to take the breaks/lunches properly because we never had enough people to take over) I went home staring at the wall from exhaustion and when my daughters told me that they were hungry (having to pick them up from the after school program) I literally started crying because I had no more energy to care for them. These corporations suck every energy out of you every minute they can, and then when you complain that you’re tired (also because of the responsibilities at home) that’s when you become a disadvantage to the company. This is why they like to hire non-mom workers.

  5. What the h*** is that Romney woman thinking, having five children in this day and age? (And by the way, doesn’t she have a name of her own?)

    • Jessica Ann says:

      It is comments like these that are lame and seperate women more. What the heck? The whole article is about women protecting women and standing up for eachother. What business is it of yours how many children she had or chose to have? Who do you think you are telling a woman there is a cap on how many children to have or what name she should or shoule not have? It is just as bad as telling a woman she should have children if she does not want them and making her feel like less of a woman for that!!!!

  6. Bravo!

  7. I am a working mom because I want to work and enjoy working, not because I have to. This article makes it sound like all moms want to be at home with their kids but due to financial reasons are forced to work for money. It is illegal for someone to ask if you have a family, kids, married, etc during an interview or before giving you an offer! I also make more money than others in my field and make more than the other managers I work with.

    Not only do I work 8-9 hours days, Get my child ready for school, make them breakfast, lunch (and pack it too), and dinner. I help her with homework, we play, take her to doctor appts, dance class, go on field trips, meet with teachers, etc. I also clean my house, do laundry, teach my daughter about money and the importance of having a job. I am saving for retirement, her college and while paying all the bills including medical, clothing, food, housing, etc. I also pay into a programs called Social Security, medicare and federal/state taxes.

    My taxes help pay for federal/state programs, which people who don’t pay into taxes can use. I pay into Social Security and medicare hoping that one day it will still be around for me to use. I pay into it, I should get it back when I am old. But then again, people who never pay into it also get it. You can thank all of us working moms for your medicare when you get old and need insurance.

    You say that stay at home moms are valuable to society? How? Do they pay taxes? Nope, they are a deduction. Making a home? I do that that too! I am sick of hearing how hard stay at home moms work! I work over 40 hours a week at a paying job and STILL do all the things you do at home! So stop bitching and get a real job. I am sick of paying into YOUR retirement when you don’t!

    • I say with all sincerity that you’ll always be in a great position to never need any help with anything, I really mean it. But god forbid something every happened to you, those same programs would be there to back you up.

      The article isn’t about how stay at home moms work harder. It’s just about how all moms work hard and sacrifice in some areas. We’re not enemies. I think it’s great that you enjoy working, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a mother that does. And that you do all of that by yourself is seriously and truly commendable.

      But you shouldn’t just sling around abject rage with broad strokes. I’m sitting here trying to think of different reasons women stay home, but then I realized that those women don’t owe you an explanation any more than you owe them one for wanting to work. Life is complicated. There’s no reason to project blanketed anger.

      I’m not just a stay at home mom. I’m a graduate student, I’m earning a solid technical degree so that I can get a career that I’m passionate about, pay my bills, retirement, my kids’ 529 plans, etc etc just like you. My family gets by on my husband’s hard earned non-profit salary. We live simply. I have student loans, which I will pay back. We make it work. Most of us are busting our as to make it work in some form.

      And for the record, up until two years ago I was also working 40 hours a week, getting them ready for daycare, taking them to appointments, volunteering on political campaigns, playing etc. etc., but had to stop when it became apparent that my middle daughter needed a lot of attention and physical therapy as a baby. It wasn’t because I wanted to steal your taxes or play house or whatever else you seem to think we’re all doing. Two years later and she still has special physical needs, extra appointments, pain. I take care of that. It doesn’t make me a whiny bitch, as you seem to think. And I can promise you that it is a real job.

      Good luck with all your endeavors. I wish you the best. Moms should stick together.

  8. I’m pretty sure most, if not all, of the 7.3 million Americans affected by infertility would trade a cut in pay for just the chance to build their families. Why not, when infertility treatment is costly, scarce, and seldom covered by insurance?

    You don’t have to be a parent to work hard at it.

  9. valuablemother says:

    I currently stay at home with a small child. Someone in my husband’s family has chosen to be deeply critical of this decision. He thinks SAHMS are worthless, that what I do in the home has no value. Yet when he comes from out of town to visit in our home, he has a clean bed to sleep in, a clean bathroom to use, and food on the table, because of the work that I do. So next time he comes to visit as a guest, I will tell him to clean his own bedsheets, shop for and prepare his own food, and clean his own bathroom. I am sick of the disrespect being served up to me by people like him, who think only career women have any value in the world.

  10. michele marino says:

    Thank you for this article. I wish more of us would promote this idea because we really need to promote the idea of the need to INCREASE THE VALUE OF WOMEN’S WORK!!! This is such an oppressive and damaging myth and we need to promote this change in the public thought process. We need to find a way to end the many ways that women are “punished” for being moms. We suffer on far too many levels. Single mothers are not the downfall of the economy as corrupt politicians who are embezzling our money would have everyone think. When politicians use the poor as a scapegoat, one has to wonder, “what is really going on here?” Give Mayor Scott of Florida a full audit. Since he is so enthusiastic about drug testing welfare recipients, there must be a reason why he is trying to divert the attention off of his accounting books. The welfare process is the most abusive degrading humiliating and corrupt agency, next to the child support enforcement legislation and laws. The people are mislead by the language in these policies. They falsely represent that the money is being collected and distributed to poor mothers and their children. They need to untangle the child support from the welfare. How logical is it for the state to require the poor to pay the state back the welfare it has received? They steal the child support from anyone who has received welfare, and have the nerve to falsely represent that they collect this money for the children to whom this money is truly owed. Please start a class action lawsuit to have the child support division forgive the debt so that the domestic violence rates will go down because this is perpetuated by the child support arrears and the men take it out on the mothers of the children for having received welfare. Return the money to the mothers and children and give the men their licenses back. Its time to smash the lie that is the entanglement of welfare and child support. It is a lie. It doesn’t lift children out of poverty. It is a scam and the state uses the children so it can steal everyone’s money.. We want out money back. WE’ve got a runaway government that is full of thieves and liars who continue to perpetuate poverty.

  11. Article Quote: “With the cost of raising a child to age 18 (not including college) these days at over $200,000 per child, mothers’ wages are increasingly needed to make ends meet.”

    *************
    Agreed. Although for moms of special-needs children, myself included, it isn’t always possible to work outside the home, especially if some of those moms are single or divorced. When there’s only one parent around to care for the child, that child care becomes the parent’s full-time job.

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