On Mother’s Day I noticed that a tiny hummingbird had built a miniscule nest on a wire in my backyard. She was snuggled into the tiny sack warming four little eggs, all the while being buffeted by the breezes. When people attempted to watch the sunset at the table near her nest, she had the nerve to buzz by our heads to get us gone. What brave dedication. Despite the odds.
This diminutive bird got me thinking of American mothers. The issues related to mothering, childbirth and childcare have always been used by conservative forces to stake out their political positions and build a political base upon. And this year it seems to be even worse. Access to birth control, abortion, gay parenting and marriage, and funding for child-care services are again being aggressively attacked — as if the politicians had any right to influence the way mothers choose to have and raise kids.
As a result of the intense conservative politicking around motherhood and its related issues, our country is far behind others in actually supporting moms. A recent New York Times review of Madeline Kunin’s latest book, The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family notes that the U.S. is virtually the only nation in the world that doesn’t provide guaranteed paid leave for families with newborns. And among the 21 richest nations in the world, we’re the only one that doesn’t require that employers provide paid sick leave. (See Frying Pan News’ “Just the Facts.”) Anyone who has raised or been around young children knows that they get sick. How do we expect they will get cared for?
Other countries are also way ahead of us in promoting flexible work schedules, networks of quality day care programs and universal health coverage for mothers and children. As Kunin says, these shortfalls represent a “dangerous economic policy that will impact the well-being of every American.”
At the same time the economic crisis is decimating many of the programs that working and poor women rely on, from health services to subsidized childcare, in-home health care and more.
American mothers are like the hummingbird mama on her nest, being pushed around by the political winds but determined to be the mother that her offspring need. Forget celebrating Mother’s Day next year. Let’s fight for the real supports that American mothers need to do their jobs well.