I recently spent part of my weekend free time reading and watching The Motherhood Manifesto, a book and DVD encouraging moms to fight for new laws and workplace policies that would benefit the lives of mothers and their kids.
Yeah, I know, I’m childree, but I have great respect for the author’s of this work: Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, an award-winning author and consultant on environment policy. Also, I was curious;
I wondered, is their initiative likely to further the divide between mothers and non-mothers in the workplace?In my humble opinion, the answer is yes, and no.
Most of what is advocated in The Motherhood Manifesto are changes that would benefit all: Flex-time, benefits for part-time workers, more paid vacation or sick time, minimum "living" wage, and equal pay for equal work.
Where it gets prickly is the instances where the push for maternal/paternal leave, after school programs, affordable childcare, and universal healthcare for kids (just for kids??) may leave childless workers with valueless benefits; benefits which, essentially, they pay for in sweat and are an important part of their compensation package.
The book exposes some very frightening facts, including the fact that families with kids are three times more likely to be forced into medical bankruptcy. But when you think about it, of course, it makes sense; the more people you have in your household the greater chance one of them will have a illness leading to catastrophic, impossible, medical bills. Parents by virtue of their choice to raise a family expose themselves to any number of risks, including sleep deprivation, severe stress, and—in the case of mothers who take time off to raise a family—loss of seniority and promotion opportunities, resulting in serious long-term loss of income.
I sympathize. The current U.S. work culture is not friendly to working moms, Americans pay far too much for health care and insurance, and I believe employers can do more to help the next generation and those who care for them. However, I think in the spirit of fairness and sound economics, benefits should be doled out in value units and the worker should have a menu of benefits and be invited to choose those which would benefit them the most. The parent might choose subsidized day care or flex time, the childfree and empty-nesters might choose affordable long-term health insurance, or paid time off to volunteer or tend to elder-care duties.
I once took a job which required me to travel state-wide. Some days it would take me two to three hours to get home. This situation forced me to drop my volunteer work as a tutor at an after school program. I would have loved paid time off for my volunteer work, but no dice. I was a part-time consultant. No benefits.
Clearly, there are shared objectives if these types of advocacy efforts can be more inclusive. So I was happy to see that on page 72 of the Motherhood Manifesto, in a sidebar titled It’s Not Just Mothers, John de Graff (who directed the Motherhood Manifesto film and is the National Coordinator of Take Back Your Time) acknowledge that moms, dads, singles, and couples are all suffering from "time poverty," pointing out:
"The average American works nine weeks—350 hours—more each year than the average Western European."Time…aaah; time for leisure, time for family, time for sanity and health.
Now that’s something we can all get behind.
Flickr photo by edtwilight77 (cc)
Technorati Tag: Childfree