Real Family Values: Honoring Mothers Year Round - Women's Foundation California

By Shailushi Ritchie, Former Development and Communications Officer at the Women’s Foundation California

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Cards were given, flowers were delivered, and cries of “Happy Mama Day!” peppered the day—making it impossible for me to forget that Sunday, May 9th was the day that mothers are supposed to be recognized, honored, and loved.

I certainly felt that love from my partner, my child, and my friends and family. I am grateful to have a spouse who shares the workload with me, a child who is healthy and happy, and an employer that supports my dual role as parent and employee. I am lucky, I know. Other women are not so fortunate—a fact that was underscored by the release of the Mother’s Index, a report by Save the Children. This year, the US came in 28th—down one from last year and below Croatia.

Really?! REALLY?! After Croatia!

Once my shock subsided, I began to wonder, “Why so low?” For a country that appears to care so much about the sanctity of life and the importance of women giving birth, you’d think we’d at least be in the top 5.  When I researched the Mother’s Index, the answer was obvious.

The report uses 10 key indicators, including maternal and infant mortality, access to modern contraception, maternity leave policies, and health care access for pregnant women, to determine country rankings. The #1 country was Norway, which provides healthcare, childcare, and generous paid maternity and paternity leave for all of its citizens.

Given the competition, I didn’t need to look any further than recent news to know that the US is not doing a good job on any of these indicators, much less all of them.

How ironic, then, that the Governor’s budget revision should come out on the heels of a report that puts the US last for healthy motherhood among developed nations? If the new budget was enacted, California would completely eliminate welfare programs and subsidized daycare, and reduce spending for home health care by one-third. Women, who make up 62% of welfare recipients, will bear the brunt of this awful solution. And considering that California is one of the largest economies in the world, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the US fall further down the rankings in the coming years.

What are we to do, then? We need to put our money where our mouth is, especially when it comes to our values. The term “family values” was co-opted some time ago and has come to represent views that are politically, socially, and economically conservative; it means opposing abortion, homosexuality, and immigration.  But if we truly want to promote family values, we should start supporting all families—single or double parents, straight or gay—in their attempts to raise healthy, safe, and happy children.

Family values mean that we provide health care, education, and employment supports for women and their families and create systems that help families and communities, not harm them. California should find ways to close the budget gap by raising new moneys, not just slashing expenses. If we believe, as we say we do, that life really is precious, then let’s start treating mothers with the respect they deserve by putting good policy in practice all year long, not just with cards and candy on Mother’s Day.

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