Celebrating the DIY Mom on Mother’s Day

Although I feel it’s my duty to write a celebration of mothers on Mother’s Day, every time I think about what I might write for this post, all that comes up in my mind is a kind of lament.

Becoming a mother was definitely the best thing I’ve done in my life.  When I look at my two big, handsome, talented boys, I am thrilled beyond measure with the knowledge that I nurtured them in my womb for nine months, I gave birth to them, I did all the loving labor a mother must do to successfully bring children up from helpless infants to strong, independent young men.

My boys setting sail

So where does the lament come in?

Shift to a small, smothered voice: I just wish I hadn’t had to do so much of it all by myself.

I suppose I am writing the lament of the single mom, or the “do-it-all” mom, the mom who doesn’t get much help or support from her partner in bringing up baby.

Even when I was married, I did the lioness’s share of the household and child care labor, while also bringing home a paycheck that grew in time to be the larger portion of the family bacon.

My marriage foundered on my partner’s inflexibility when it came to the idea of a man doing housework, and my exhaustion and resentment over having to do it all.

In addition to working two demanding jobs for nine years straight, while also publishing two books and organizing a major annual conference and doing all the other extra labor of being a fulltime academic, I also did all the shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning and yard work; all the supervising of homework and staying involved with my children’s schools through parent-teacher meetings, volunteer work and car pooling; I made sure all the medical appointments were taken care of, I did all the bill-paying and taxes, and if there was anything left over for a small vacation or a purchase for the house, I handled that too.

I am sure this is sounding very familiar to all those single and DIY moms out there, right?  We know the list could go on and on.

My own mom did all that household stuff too, but without the added pressure of bringing home the paycheck.

It’s probably my traditional upbringing, where my dad went out to earn the money and my mom stayed home to run a smooth, highly functioning household and do her creative work on the side, that makes me feel like having to play both roles myself is somehow too much.

I should be able to do it all with grace and good cheer, without getting crabby with my children or frustrated when things don’t go quite as planned.

That’s what a mother does, right?

At least I can take some comfort in knowing I am not alone.

There were some 10 million single moms in the U.S. as of 2010, and the number keeps climbing.

This Mother’s Day, I want to give a big shout-out to all of us single moms, and the DIY moms who may someday decide that enough is enough, and go down the single mom route.

We need to keep our chins up and not let the pressures, obligations and yes, sacrifices of our position get us down.

We have to just do our best, and not beat ourselves up when we get overwhelmed.

We must remind ourselves that we are doing the most important work in this nation, bringing up the next generation to take their place responsibly and soberly in the difficult social and environmental landscape we must confront together.

I love this picture of me because I look the way I feel: as weathered, but as solid, as the rock behind me

Give mothers the respect–and the financial compensation–they deserve

Hilary Rosen

It truly is disheartening to hear a supposedly progressive woman proclaim that a fulltime mother “never worked a day in her life.” Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen deserves all the flack she’s been getting since she made that statement yesterday on national media.

On the other hand, it’s also disheartening to see how the male-dominated Democratic and Republican campaigns have wasted no time in turning Motherhood into a political football.

The truth is that American motherhood has never been more demanding, or more complicated.

Romney married a rich man and settled in to raise five sons. She had the enormous privilege of not also having the responsibility of earning money to put food on the table.

Today there are fewer and fewer women who can afford to stay at home as fulltime moms, especially if they have big families.

More kids mean more housework—but also mean more mouths to feed, shoes to buy, college tuitions to pay for.

Mitt and Ann Romney with their 16 grandchildren

As part of the 1%, Ann Romney got to choose to stay home with her children.  For the rest of us, this is just not an option.

Especially the many of us who are single moms, or whose husbands have been out of work for months and years.

But the firestorm over Hilary Rosen’s miscalculated remark speaks to an even deeper issue that remains unaddressed in our society.

Mothers still do more housework and child care than fathers.  Housework and childcare still remains not only unpaid labor, but labor that is not recognized as having any monetary value in our very commercially oriented society.

A recent NY Times article interviewed some nannies who work for the 1%, whose labor is valued in the high six figures.

But the labor of a mother who stays home is not even deemed worthy of accruing social security.

At minimum, all mothers, whether they stay at home fulltime or struggle doing the second shift at home after the day job, should be entitled to accrue social security and expect some retirement compensation from the nation in their old age.

At minimum, all mothers should have the right to subsidized maternal health care.

At minimum, in a rich country like ours, no mother should have to worry about whether her children are going to have enough to eat.

Instead, our country is going in the opposite direction.

We are making it harder and harder for mothers to qualify for welfare assistance.  We are cutting back on public education, and failing to create incentives for doctors to work in public health clinics.

And many, many states are actively working to curb women’s access to contraception, while at the same time demonizing abortion.

So what’s a poor woman to do?

The media controversy over the non-issue of whether Ann Romney’s “work” as a fulltime mother qualifies as such is entirely misplaced.

What we need to get worked up about are the circumstances of the millions of American mothers who work hard, both in and out of the home, without the household help that the Romneys undoubtedly enjoyed, and who are not fairly compensated or recognized for their efforts.

It may sound corny, but it’s true: without the hard work of mothers to bear and care for children, our great nation would simply cease to be.

We need to cut the political chicanery and not only give Motherhood the respect it deserves, but put our money where our mouths are, too.

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