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Laura Reyes Headshot

What Moms Really Want

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MOTHERS
CONEYL JAY via Getty Images

Mother's Day is coming up this weekend, so the airwaves are thick with commercials for greeting cards, department and jewelry stores, and flower delivery services all urging us to honor our mothers.

Much attention was paid a few weeks ago to one such ad, an American Greetings spot, in which a supposed job interviewer described for unsuspecting job candidates "the world's toughest job." They'd work 135-plus hours a week without a break, he said, before listing more overwhelming duties and then finally revealing to the drop-jawed job candidates what the gig was: being a mom. Send your own mom a card, the company suggested, she just wants your appreciation.

Fair enough, in theory. Being a mother is an incredibly demanding role, and thanks are always welcome. But it's time we muster more than just appreciation for our nation's 85 million moms. Cards and calls are touching, but you want to know what mom also wants?

She wants to get paid the same as a man for doing the same work. She wants the right to join a union, because she knows unions lift the wages of all workers. She wants safe, nurturing child care that doesn't eat up most of her day's wages. She wants to be able to take a sick day when she or her child is ill, without fear of losing her job, and paid parenting leave if she gets pregnant.

Now that she has quality, affordable health care for her children under the Affordable Care Act, she'd like the right-wing controlled House of Representatives to stop voting 50 times, unsuccessfully, to take it away. She'd also like politicians to stop barging their way into her doctor's office and declaring what's best for her body.

If she's the mom of school-age children, she wants to know they are safe when she sends them to school every day. If she's the mom of college-bound students, she wants them to get a sound education that won't be followed by a lifetime of debt. If she's a retired mom, she'd like a secure pension so she can pay for her prescriptions and groceries without anxiety and maybe even hop on a bus or plane to visit her grandchildren once in a while.

If she's a mom who's struggling to provide for her family, she wants an increased minimum wage, and for Congress to strengthen Medicaid and infant and child nutrition programs, not peddle budgets that slash them by billions to score cheap political points. Send mom a card, sure, but then send an email to politicians like Rep. Paul Ryan -- the architect of this scorched-earth budget -- asking what they could possibly be thinking with such attacks.

Finally, the moms of America want respect. Sadly, it's sometimes in short supply. I've been there, as a single mother who struggled to provide for my family in the face of considerable challenges, including a child with special needs, and it often seemed folks were more interested in offering me opinions and judgment than substantive solutions. Today, working moms in particular face a barrage of judgment, promoted by those with clear anti-worker, anti-women's rights agendas and bottomless funding.

Take Fox News, which last week ran a segment slyly asking the question, "Are female breadwinners a problem?" At a time when women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households -- including plenty of households that fall below the poverty line -- one wonders what Fox would have those women do so as not to risk being problematic. Go broke? Rely solely on the same social programs that Fox pundits are so fond of bashing?

When Fox host Clayton Morris wondered if there wasn't "some sort of biological, innate need for men to be the caveman?" it was clear the network that isn't so hot on the science of climate change isn't excelling at biology either. This is also becoming an annual Mother's Day tradition for Fox, where last May, then-host Lou Dobbs and his male colleagues lamented that female breadwinners were evidence of "society dissolve[ing] around us."

We moms are used to temper tantrums and irrational behavior. We get it from our kids, we get it from elected officials and we get it from the right-wing media. (At least one of those groups will grow out of it, we tell ourselves.) That doesn't mean we're going to put up with it.

The women of our union, AFSCME, are coming together and demanding better wages for all workers, more resources for the communities we serve, the right to join a union, and retirement security. We're supporting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's economic agenda for women and families. We're joining with other moms and allies to demand comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together and boosts our nation's economy. We are gearing up to be a force in the 2014 midterm elections, voting for the candidates who support workers and the middle class, no matter their political party.

We know that our issues are at the heart of how we support working families in America and how we must strengthen our nation's fragile economic health. So this Sunday, we'll welcome the thanks, the hugs and the cards. But come Monday, we'll wake up as determined as ever to make the "world's hardest job" easier for all moms.