It's Mother's Day, Spring grass is growing, and soccer balls are flying. I love soccer. I love watching both my son and my daughter run like the wind as they dribble the ball down the field. I love standing on the sidelines rooting for their teams.
This doesn't, however, make me a "soccer mom," a term political commentators regularly use to define me -- and tens of millions of other moms.
Why do I so dislike being labeled as a "soccer mom"?
The very idea of soccer mom, when used in a political context, conjures up an image of a mom standing off on the sidelines of an important game. That's misleading. Modern moms are most definitely in the game. With new technologies at our disposal, we are now powerfully networked and politically active.
We are "Networked Moms."
Women are now networked together in ways unimaginable just a decade ago. By the end of this year, more than 90 percent of moms with kids under age eighteen in our nation are expected to be online. And, more than 36 million women are now active in the blogosphere, either publishing or reading blogs.
There's a very different landscape now than 1996 when the "soccer mom" moniker was coined, but many politicians seem not to have noticed that times have changed and they treat women's and mother's issues like political footballs in a stadium that they assume is full of passive spectators.
They're playing with that football at their own peril.
In order to win a national election, the mom vote (married and single moms) is most definitely needed. Eight in 10 American women will become mothers by the time they're 44 years old. Those moms are a powerful political force and a critical swing vote.
Here's some advice to politicians: Don't play games with -- or worse, ignore -- the issues that matter to women and mothers. Don't try to ply us with meaningless platitudes.
Don't talk at us. Listen to us.
Moms are struggling. With three-quarters of moms in a labor force -- and nearly half serving as primary breadwinners, we have a modern workforce with family economic security policies from the Dark Ages.
Here's what's really going on with moms: Childcare now costs more than college in many states. Nearly a quarter of young children live in poverty. Nearly 80% of low-wage workers--and nearly 40% of private sector workers -- don't have access to a single paid sick day. More than 177 other countries have some form of paid leave for new moms but the U.S. still doesn't. And not surprisingly, without such policies in place, having a baby is a leading cause of "poverty spells" in our nation. On top of this, women, particularly moms, still don't get equal pay for equal work. Discrimination against moms is rampant.
In our nation, if you work hard and play by the rules -- then you should be able to put food on the table and a roof over the head of your family.
Too often this isn't the case anymore, particularly for moms. We can do better.
Moms want candidates who listen, who speak to the issues that we face each day, and who work toward real solutions for real people. And they'll tell you so. A poll recently conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research found 57% of women voters (including 75% of Hispanic women and 80% of Black women, as well as 65% of women under 50) say they are more likely to support an elected official who supports paid sick days.
Yet moms rarely hear these issues brought up in presidential campaigns. In fact, in the over a dozen debates for the Republican presidential nomination, moms heard little, if anything, about access to sick days, affordable childcare, family leave, and other high priority topics that parents deal with every day on Main Streets across our nation. This is a huge mistake for any candidate seeking to win the support of moms.
Networked moms are powerful and we're everywhere. My experience as the co-founder and executive director/CEO of MomsRising, a network of more than one million politically active moms, bears that out. Moms are blogging, they're connecting on Facebook and Twitter and they're taking online action to support issues they believe in every day. They're sharing both messages of support for each other, like this 2012 Mother's Day "mom fantasy" video, as well as ways to take action on priority issues. MomsRising has mobilized moms around paid sick days, environmental health issues, access to affordable childcare, fair pay and access to health care. We've done it successfully because moms pack a powerful political punch and our political power is growing. We are most certainly not on the sidelines, we are online and we are active.
Are these new networks changing our political landscape?
Take, for example, the Komen Foundation's announcement that it would stop funding Planned Parenthood to conduct breast cancer screenings. There was such an Internet storm of protest from women and mothers that grew exponentially as friends told friends online, that the Komen Foundation was forced to reverse its decision. Women care about health care and they're prepared to act to defend it.
The recent Internet furor over the absence of women's voices at the Congressional hearing on contraceptive coverage is another good example of this power. The photo of an all male-panel on birth control spread like wildfire on Facebook, on Twitter, on blogs and through email, and ignited the outrage of women across our nation in an instant.
Women and mothers are networked and engaged like never before. Candidates who don't listen to women run the risk of losing our votes -- and thus their elections. Right now, because of his vocal support of women's health and economic issues, President Obama's support from women is increasing, especially among women under 50 (those most likely to have younger kids). In contrast, Governor Romney lost 15% of his support in that same age group.
It's time to listen to moms. After all, we all lose out when candidates fail to address issues like sick days, affordable childcare, fair pay, and family leave which are important for moms, for businesses, and for our economy.
Modern moms aren't Soccer Moms standing on the sidelines; we're Networked Moms working on the front lines. This year we're in the game and we're playing to win!
Follow Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rowefinkbeiner