Mother's Day is fast approaching, and although I'm certain the vast majority of us appreciate the indispensable contributions and sacrifices of our mothers, Americans certainly have a funny way of showing it.
Yes, we do buy cards, flowers, and a number of other deserved goodies to the tune of $14.6 billion total spent, last year.
But beyond the material gestures of love and respect, do we care about mothers in this country? It doesn't seem that way.
Maternity leave is atrocious in this country. The United States is one of only four nations (along with Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea) that doesn't mandate the right to paid maternity leave for workers.
In fact, only up to half of women in America have access to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
What if a couple decides the father will stay at home, and the mother will return to work? Same story: the United States (along with Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea) do not mandate paid paternity leave.
In either case, America is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't require paid leave be provided for new parents.
Which doesn't make sense. We have plenty of data to show it's better for the economy (and yes, even individual businesses) to give new parents paid time off to care for their newborns.
Another issue is that 31 states currently allow for rapists to have visitation and custody rights to children borne out of those rapes.
Could you imagine going through the trauma of being raped, the emotional agony of choosing to carry the child over exercising your right to an abortion, and then, being forced to share your child with your rapist?
Quick note to the "pro-life" community: wouldn't it make more sense to put your weight behind laws that bar rapists from visitation and custody rights in order to encourage women to carry their child and not terminate the pregnancy?
How about breastfeeding?
32 states do not exempt this healthy (and widely viewed as necessary) practice from public indecency laws.
26 states don't have laws that protect breastfeeding in the workplace.
And incredibly, five states do not have laws that protect women who wish to breastfeed in any public or private location.
And that's just the surface of stats on legalized breastfeeding. Pretty sad, huh?
According to the Census Bureau, 11.6% of mothers in the United States are raising children on their own.
To say nothing of the childcare burden, these women (and their children) are at a severe disadvantage from the gender wage gap.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is able to reliably compare the pay gap between men and women in 111 occupations. Of those, women make more on average in only four job fields, the highest being in food preparation and service workers (fast food), where they earn 12% more than men.
On the other end of the spectrum, men, on average, earn far, far more than their woman peers in some of the highest-paying occupations: physicians and surgeons (29% more), chief executives (27.9%), and lawyers (22.9%). The best it gets for women in the upper tax bracket occupations is with computer software engineers, where women are generously paid only 9.9% less than men in their field (heavy snark here).
And it's not as though single mothers (or really, mothers in general) maintain a heavy presence in upper-income occupations. These women are primarily struggling to make ends meet in the education arena, secretarial work, food service industry, housekeeping, etc.
Thank goodness the Federal government pays all non-leadership Members of Congress the same, or we might see Sen. Elizabeth Warren getting paid 23% less than Sen. Mitch McConnell.
The military is the same. Oh, wait... actually, it's not. Although women do receive the same base pay, their lack of access to combat positions (the recent repeal has yet to take effect) excludes them from equal operational experience, which prevents them from earning recognition and experience required for higher ranks, particularly general officers. Additionally, many of the bonuses available to combat positions and specialty schools clearly can't be earned by women, yet.
Basically, we should be embarrassed by how we treat mothers in this country. We should feel deep shame for not having the common sense that is on display with every other industrialized nation in the world that has the backs of their women.
And note: these are just a few of the issues affecting mothers in the United States.
We're lagging far behind, America. It's time to catch up, and give mothers their due.
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