This is my first Mother’s Day without my Mom. So rather than celebrating with my Mom, I will honor her by trying to help other mothers who are struggling to raise and support their children.
My parents separated when my youngest sister was only 10. The next 10 years were a struggle my Mom was completely unprepared for. She hadn’t worked since she was forced to leave her job as a telephone operator at Bell Telephone early in her first pregnancy. Back then, even in traditional female jobs, women were fired when they began to “show”. She became a full time Mom and homemaker. Then 20 years later she found herself with no job, no skills, no money and 4 children to support.
She faced the incredible barriers many women sadly still face today.
My father didn’t feel my mom was entitled to any of “his” money. Trying to force my father to be compliant with his child support obligations cost my mother thousands in lawyers’ bills and lost wages. Even when fathers remain present in their children’s lives, mothers bear a disproportionate burden for expenses related to raising those children, like child care, food, education and medical expenses.
Pregnant women and mothers also have a harder time becoming and staying employed. There are very few legal protections from hiring discrimination and termination that address the unique needs of women. In fact, it’s legal in PA to fire a pregnant woman who is following her doctor’s advice to drink water or sit down frequently throughout the day. And too many mothers return to work too soon after giving birth because both medical and parental leaves are unpaid.
Millions of children in PA live in poverty because jobs that women dominate are paid less – even jobs that men traditionally occupied drop in wages when women start doing them, according to a recent article in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/upshot/as-women-take-over-a-male-dominated-field-the-pay-drops.html?_r=0), and women earn less than men even when they hold comparable or identical positions. There is a clear bias in the monetary value attached to jobs when the majority of people doing them are women.
75% of minimum wage earners in PA are women, many of them have children. Minimum wage was established in 1938 to insure that anyone working full time would not be below the poverty level. Today our federal poverty level is itself unrealistically low and STILL the federally guaranteed minimum wage leaves a full time worker at only 60% of that (http://bebusinessed.com/history/history-of-minimum-wage).
If we really want to celebrate Moms, let’s show our love by fighting to raise the federal minimum wage, to enact employment protections for pregnant women and parents, to mandate paid medical and parental leaves, and to insure that our county governments enforce child support orders and offer flexible hours.
Make your Mom proud, and join the fight.