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Forget Flowers This Mother's Day: 11 Ways to REALLY Help Mothers

Recent battles against reproductive rights and unions, and the gender wage gap, make it clear that this country doesn't support mothers.

Photo Credit: Strong Families


Every Mother's Day season you hear people say, "Shouldn't every day be mother's day?" And those people are correct. There's nothing wrong with buying mom flowers and brunch, of course, and even the most Hallmark of holidays can be made personal and imbued with meaning. But to truly honor mothers -- not just the ones in your life, but all mothers -- we have to look beyond the greeting cards and start examining legislation and social services.

The reality is that mothers are not as supported as they should be in this country, and the recent, ongoing war against reproductive rights, unions, and legislation like the Violence Against Women Act have only made things worse.

Below are several ways (among many) that we, as a nation, could do a much better job of supporting mothers.

1. Require paid parental leave.

Unlike 178 countries, including virtually all of the developed nations, the United States does not have a federal law on the books requiring employers to provide paid parental leave. (The Family and Medical Leave Act covers only about half the U.S. workforce and mandates only unpaid leave.) The result? In 2010 only 42 percent of mothers were able to stay home with their babies for 12 weeks after delivery. Mothers and their partners should be able to afford to take time off after the birth of a child, for the health and wellbeing of everyone in the family. Even Fox News' Megan Kelly thinks "the United States is in the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave."

2. Support workplace flexibility and other leave policies.

Work-life balance is a challenge for mothers at all points of the economic spectrum, but that's especially true for women whose jobs do not provide paid vacation leave, paid sick leave and flexible work schedules. None of these issues is federally mandated, and all of them would help mothers, especially those who are caretakers. (Women are much more likely than their male counterparts to be caretakers of children or adult family members.) Mothers who work should also have access to a private place to breastfeed, which is law in only some states.

3. Address the gender wage gap.

Guess what? Nearly 50 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act and three years after the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, women still make 77 cents to a man's dollar. And that's for women overall; women of color and women in certain geographic areas fare much worse as far as the wage gap is concerned. Black women in Washington, DC, for instance, make just 50 cents to their male counterpart's dollar. That means that the average mother doesn't have the same earning potential as the average father, and that is a problem for mothers single and partnered alike.

The gender wage gap is a complicated issue that probably won't be solved with any one magic-bullet piece of legislation. But some ways to address the issue include raising the minimum wage, passing family leave policies (see above!) and addressing the broken career pipeline.

4. Stop trying to roll back access to birth control.

Family planning is critical to all women, including those who already have children. Anti-choice legislators, pundits,and some now-infamous Catholic bishops have tried hard to paint women who use birth control as morally bankrupt deviants and "sluts," but the reality is that the vast majority of women, including Catholics, have used birth control. For mothers, being able to control how many children they have is critical to protecting their health, helping them stay in the workplace if they choose to, and giving them a better quality of life overall.

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