For Mother’s Day this year, I don’t want chocolate or jewelry.
For Mother’s Day this year, I want us to finally focus on making this country a better, safer place for mothers.
We’re coming up on the first Mother’s Day since a variety of draconian restrictions on abortion access have gone into place, which means this will be the first Mother’s Day for many who never wanted to be mothers in the first place.
Some of those pregnant mothers may be trying to leave abusive relationships or marriages.
More common than gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, according to the NCADV, 20% of mothers experience violence while pregnant. Additionally, homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women, the vast majority of which occurred in the first trimester.
Unfortunately in Missouri, you also cannot legally finalize a divorce while pregnant, whether or not the child is your spouse’s.
For those individuals who did want to be mothers, here in the United States, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, we have the highest maternal mortality rate of the 10 wealthy countries studied.
They found that Black women are almost three times as likely to die as a result of complications from pregnancy. A study by NPR concluded that “more American women are dying of pregnancy-related complications than any other developed country.” This means, in the United States, more mothers than any other country don’t live to see their first Mother’s Day.
Now take a moment and think about the current employment crisis and think about how many mothers never returned to work after COVID because they didn’t have access to safe, affordable care for their children while they worked.
I’d love, for Mother’s Day this year, for mothers to be able to return to work because they won’t have to choose between earning a living and earning just enough to pay for child care – to the point that it’s not even worth working.
Child care costs a typical family about a third of its income, if a family can afford it at all. Here, in the United States, out of the 193 countries in the UN, the United States is one of only seven that does not guarantee paid leave for new parents.
According to UNICEF, the US ranks at the bottom in terms of access and affordability of child care among wealthy nations. Here in Missouri, almost half of all children in Missouri ages 5 and under, or about 202,000 kids, now live in child care deserts.
Think about how many jobs could be filled, if women didn’t have to give up their entire paycheck to pay for childcare. Young adults say that they’re having less children than they intended as a result of child care costs.
Unfortunately, a seemingly large swath of Americans still don’t see childcare as a necessity because they prefer women stay home and remain reliant on the incomes of men. The fear is that increased access to childcare will be detrimental to the family, because women will no longer need men to make ends meet, and as a result, will no longer need to pursue their favor. This, despite numerous studies that show that early childhood education increases positive lifelong outcomes for children.
For Mother’s Day, I’d like you to think about how we’ve increased the workloads and stress of mothers by actively choosing to not adequately fund and protect public schools. Families, especially those who cannot afford private education and supplemental tutoring, feel forced into homeschooling situations as a last resort for making sure their children are in a safe and supportive learning environment.
Schools can’t keep teachers on staff, leading to increased class sizes and reduced quality of education, in part because we refuse to adequately compensate them. Bus driver shortages lead to missed school days, or missed work. And if we’re lucky enough to send our kids off each morning, we fear for their lives every time we watch them get on a school bus and head to the front lines of America’s war against gun control.
The reality of motherhood in the United States is that it’s needlessly harder because we don’t value and invest in the people who are raising the next generation of our country’s citizens. This country survives and has survived on the backs of mothers. It’s time we acknowledge the sacrifice mothers make to keep this country afloat. It’s time we listen to their cries for equity and justice and safety.
So this Mother’s Day, I’m asking you to please, keep your cards. Bring us change.