Thursday, May 04, 2006

Suiting Up for the Mommy Wars

I'm exhausted by the mommy wars, to tell you the truth. If you stay home with your children, why aren't you working and using your valuable education? If you go to work, why aren't you home with your children who need you? As though society didn't put women into enough no-win situations, we have to do it to ourselves and each other.

But it's getting even more interesting lately, with all this talk of family values in our conservative-again political climate. As you might have suspected, it's mostly talk rather than, say, action. The wage gap between mothers and non-mothers in actually wider than the gap between men and women. (Of course, this could have been because the wage gap between men and women had narrowed to zero. That's not it.) The pay gap between mothers and non-mothers actually expanded from 10% in 1980 to 17.5% in 1991. Non-mothers make 90 cents to a man's dollar; married mothers make 70 cents to a man's dollar. Single mothers earn about 60 cents to a man's dollar. Mothers are 44% less likely to be offered a job, given the same resume and experience. In many states a woman can explicitly be denied a job just because she's a mother.

Can you imagine what would happen to the poverty rates if we just paid mothers and non-mothers the same -never mind having women's salaries equal men's? Back-of-the-envelope math suggests that it could go down by about half. Actual numbers are forthcoming. I need to have more available brain cells to do the calculations.

It seems clear to me that we have to do something to make parenting children easier and less isolating. Wage parity alone won't do it, I'm afraid. It's necessary but insufficient, to borrow math-man's phrase. In spite of what some conservatives want us to believe, it really does take a village. It takes day care and schools and after-school care and wage parity and flex time and parental leave and health insurance for everyone and.... more than that, I'm sure. In some sense, Moms Rising is just another in a long line of mothers' groups that have existed since time immemorial. This group, however, is mostly on-line and has more or less the political agenda I've outlined above. If these issues matter to you -and I'd argue that they do whether or not you ever intend to have children- go check them out.

No comments: