The Politics of Motherhood
Americans, or at least the chattering class, have gotten all riled up about motherhood, twice in the past few weeks.
First, there was the kerfuffle between Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney about whether Mrs. Romney, a stay-at-home mother, could truly understand the plight of working Moms enough to advise her husband on the subject. Instead of turning into a real debate about the struggles of parenting and working, it turned into a question of whether the left really hates stay-at-home Moms.
Then last week, thousands of people were atwitter about how long a mother should breastfeed her child. Not only is it a completely personal decision that not has no universal answer, it also very much depends on whether a working mom can take breaks at work to pump while she is away from her baby—a point that was decidedly missing from Time Magazine’s coverage.
While most people were distracted by these side shows about privileged moms who have real options to take time away from work for their children, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, convened a hearing, “Beyond Mother’s Day: Helping the Middle Class Balance Work and Family,” to shine a light on the problems faced by the overwhelming majority of mothers in the United States.
The fact is, working mothers, or at least those with limited education and lower-end jobs, have almost no employee benefits that allow time away from work when their children are sick or even when they give birth. Many of these moms have to work—with more than 6 out of 10 families relying on women to bring in at least one-quarter of the family income.