Tired of all the commercials for flowers and diamonds for Mother's day? Mother's day has become big business. This year, US consumers are expected to spend $14.6 billion dollars on Mother's Day -- second only to the December holiday season.
But do we really value mothers in our culture? The true answer to that question is not to be found in how much money we spend on cards and gifts, but in examining the health, safety, and quality of life mothers experience every day of the year.
Sociologists for Women in Society, an international organization of sociologists and social scientists who work together to improve women's lives, publishes a series of factsheets that provide us some insight into the reality of mother's lives. For example:
*An estimated 41% of the wage gap is due to the different effects of marriage and children on men's and women's careers.
*Women often must choose between having a career and having a family, a choice men do not have to make.
*Intimate partners physically assault approximately 1.3 million women annually in the U.S.
*Black, Hispanic, and Asian women are more likely to die of pregnancy complications than white women.
*Daily, 1600 women and more than 10,000 newborns worldwide die from preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
*In 2008, the U.S. ranked behind 41 countries for its rate of infant mortality and behind 32 countries for its rate of maternal mortality.
If we as a society truly valued mothers and mothering, what would we need? I turned to some of my colleagues in SWS and asked them what they wish for mothers on this Mother's day:
"I wish that all mothers had access to affordable health care and medicine for their children."
"The US is the only country in the industrialized world that does not have state supported child care and hence the number of hours women spend in care giving in the US is completely off the charts in relation to countries in Western Europe. So for me a real conversation about care work, valuing it, counting it as part of GDP, and making it everyone's responsibility would be a start."
*"I wish that I didn't have to worry as a single mom about trying to pay for my children's college education at the same time that I have to save for my own retirement. Please give all custodial parents some social security "extra credit" for having spent time raising our children, instead of maximizing our earnings."
"My mother wishes for a society where she can be a grandmother. She wishes for universal child care, comprehensive health care, and paid family leave so that her two daughters, who are in their 30s, are highly educated and have promising careers, can manage to have children of their own."
"Mothers need clean water for their children: Millions of women spend several hours a day collecting water. The United Nations reports 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhea." ( take action )
"As a mother I would like to know that no mother should ever worry about being separated from her children due to poverty, violence, or hateful anti-immigrant laws."
"It seems that a lot of us moms find ourselves struggling to 'balance' work and family. It may not be easy, but it seems vital that we stop feeling guilty about needing to and/or wanting to compartmentalize these different aspects of our lives. For Mother's Day, I wish for all moms who are slicing up their proverbial pie charts of life to remember not just to divide our energy and time between family and work but also to reserve at least a little slice for our own, personal health, wellbeing, and joy...and not just on the second Sunday of May!"
"I wish we could pay tribute to birth mothers who are not 'counted' as mothers by most people...and the need as well to protect the right to choose whether or not to become a mother, rather than forcing it upon 'womenkind'...motherhood comes in a variety of contexts and definitions - be it the label, the identity, the concept, or simply the choice of whether or not one becomes 'mother'."
"I wish people didn't assume that a childless woman in her 30s is childless by choice or is reveling in her childlessness...I wish that we could talk more comfortably about infertility and un-chosen childlessness in general as much as we do about contraception, abortion, or single-parenthood."
"I wish all mothers could be free to marry the person they love, even if that is another mother."
"I wish no mother had to worry each day about whether her children would be stopped by the police because of the color of their skin."
"I wish no mother would have to worry about being deported and not knowing when she would see her children again"
"My Mothers' Day wish is that our culture would stop seeing the need for Work-Family reforms as a Mother's Day issue and start seeing it as an EVERY day issue -- for fathers as well as mothers and for single, childless individuals, who actually spend more time taking care of aging parents and kin than do their married counterparts."
(Stephanie Coontz )
Safe homes, healthy food and water, quality affordable health care and childcare, freedom from violence and fear, these are what mothers need. These are what we all need. Once these basic needs are met, then we can think about cards and gifts.
*The Council on Contemporary Families: www.contemporaryfamilies.org
*Moms Rising: www.momsrising.org/
*Girl w/ Pen: girlwpen.com
*Sociologists for Women in Society: www.socwomen.org/
Author/Historian Stephanie Coontz: www.stephaniecoontz.com