Activism


The Pew Research Center had a new study out yesterday indicating that mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40% of all households with children under the age of 18. This is a historic high in the numbers of moms providing the majority of support for their families.

Also outlined in the report is the finding that 74% of respondents said the higher number of mothers working outside the home for pay makes it harder to raise children, and 50% say it makes it harder for marriages to succeed. I would argue that it isn’t specifically moms working outside the home that necessarily makes raising kids and being married harder – it is more likely the low wages and poor treatment many mothers receive when they work outside the home that causes stress that affects other parts of a mom’s life.

The breadwinner moms are made up of two distinct groups. The first group (37%) is older, more educated, mostly white women who make more money than their husbands. The second group (63%) is made up of younger, less-educated single moms who are more likely to be African-American or Hispanic. The income gap between the two is vast – the first group makes an average of $80,000 in family income and the second makes $23,000.

I work at a federally funded university. As a result, we have been hit hard by the budget crisis and are now being hit even harder by the sequester. Staff has not had a raise in four, going on five, years. In addition to no raises, there have been cuts to annual leave carry over limits, healthcare benefits and on-campus childcare and many people are struggling, including a single mother I know who has to work two jobs to support her family.

To add insult to injury someone just figured out by looking at public tax records, that many of the top administrators on campus have been getting increases during the years the rest of us weren’t.

At the risk of coming across as a bleeding heart liberal (I know, too late) what the HELL is going on here?

Why is it ok for 63% of working mothers to bring in an average of $23,000 a year – an amount anyone would agree is not even close to enough to raise a family on? Why is it ok for someone working as a professional at an institute of higher learning to make so little that she can’t support her family and has to get a second job? Why is it ok that the people making more than six times what that single mother makes, at the same university, get raises year after year?

As President Obama showed us earlier this year, it is possible to return a portion of your salary – 5% in his case – in solidarity with others who are not given such an increase. I don’t exactly know what the answer is for our university, or for society at large, but I do know that we need to deal with these issues of inequity and find an answer. Maybe that answer needs to involve a little bit of hardship for those at the top.

People who make the least are affected the most by economic insecurity, and somehow they are the first ones on the list for any personnel actions. I am pretty sure that a furlough day for someone who makes $23,000 a year has a much larger and difficult impact that the same furlough day for someone making $300,000 a year.

When 63% of homes with breadwinner moms make an average of $23,000 a year, we have a very serious emergency on our hands. Children and families are being adversely affected by a consistently low minimum wage, ongoing sequester cuts and budget crises, not to mention a continuing wage gap between men and women, and it has to stop.

On the best day, being a mom is still a crazy hard job. We owe it to our children to fight for the rights of ALL moms to make a decent wage and to not be the first ones on the chopping block when budget crises hit.

This has to stop.

Today is Blog Action Day 2009 and the topic is climate change. This is a post I have been wanting to write for a long time and today seems like the day to do it.

In February of 2008, I accidentally-but-also-out-of-some-morbid-curiosity clicked on a PETA link in my gmail window. It was a video, narrated by Alec Baldwin, about how animals are treated and ultimately slaughtered before they end up on our plate. I made it two minutes into the 10-minute video about chickens before I slammed my computer shut and started sobbing. Of course, it was too late; the horse was out of the barn, so to speak.

So Mike and I started discussing, again, whether we wanted to become vegetarian. Our discussion centered around whether we could give up the occasional steak we loved, or our local Peruvian rotisserie pollo that we ate on a regular basis. Of course with the images that were now in my head, I wasn’t so sure I could ever enjoy pollo again.

We were on the fence about it, until I saw a quote from an article on climate change. It said something to the effect that you can do more for the environment by not eating meat than you can by not driving your car for a year.

Wow. Seriously? This made me curious about the environmental impact, so I did some research and learned amazing little facts like this one:

An acre of prime land can produce 40,000 lbs. of potatoes, 30,000 lbs. of carrots, 50,000 lbs. of tomatoes, or 250 lbs. of beef.

And this one:

A 2006 United Nations report summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

Now we had two really compelling reasons – being nicer to our fellow creatures AND helping out the environment. Then we thought about how much healthier we would be without meat in our lives. Lower fat and cholesterol in our diet, less chance of food poisoning – what’s not to love about that?

So we decided to take the plunge and go vegetarian. We switched to soy milk and stopped buying and eating meat at home. We decided to continue eating eggs and cheese, but started buying eggs from free range chickens, from local farms whenever possible. Now I am obsessed with raising our own chickens – 2 or 3 would provide all the fresh eggs we would need.

From time to time we do miss our pollo, and I can’t say that we haven’t eaten ANY meat in the last year and a half. We joke that what we actually are is “freegan” – if someone else offers us meat, we are allowed to eat it. What we have found though, is that when we do eat meat now, we usually regret it. We miss it less and less and find that the good things about being vegetarian have outweighed the occasional cravings we might have.

Part of our hesitation in becoming vegetarian was considering it an all-or-nothing decision. What we have learned is that actually we are grown-ups and we can do whatever we want. Most of the time what we want is to not eat meat. We feel better physically and know we are making a contribution to the welfare of our world – and the world our children will inherit someday.

Here is a great blog post on going vegetarian in case you want to find out more about it, or if you have even considered it but just need a little push.

Liza Sabater just posted over on Personal Democracy Forum’s Tech President about Dear Senator Hillary Clinton, Please Step Down — a post written a few days ago by mommy blogger Erin Kotecki Vest, on her blog Queen of Spain.

My response to this is twofold – the letter to Senator Clinton is a heartfelt and well thought out argument for why the Democratic party and the country need Senator Clinton to end her run for President. Go read it. Right now. Seriously, go. Clearly I am an Obama supporter, but I have felt ambivalent/conflicted/sad that I am not more excited about the first viable woman candidate for President (even while I have been annoyed that so many think I should support her just because we have the same body parts). Erin’s letter puts into words how I have felt about Senator Clinton since she first got into the race.

Liza’s post at Tech President makes some great points about the power of mommy bloggers. The “Step Down Hillary” post has 146 comments and counting — many from mommy bloggers who are paying attention to the candidates but aren’t seeing that favor returned — and its popularity and the traffic it has generated on Digg has completely overwhelmed the Queen of Spain’s hosting company.

Blogher has been trying for months to get the Presidential candidates to sit down for interviews, to share their views with the 7.6 million women in the Blogher network. As far as I can tell, they still have not had any success. Which blows my mind. 7.6 million people. Voters. Right here, waiting for the candidates to come tell us why we should vote for them. Erin’s letter and Liza’s post make it clear why political campaigns and consultants need to start paying attention to mommy bloggers.

And now that there seems to be at least a burst of interest in us and what we have to say about this election, kudos to Erin for saying what so many of us have been thinking. We are a demographic that is paying attention, we are politically savvy, and we have a lot to say.

This week is the 11th Annual Freedom to Marry Week. In support, The Other Mother has asked bloggers to post on the themes something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue throughout the week. Today is something new. (Thanks to Doodaddy for letting me know about this, who heard about it from an amazing and powerful post by LesbianDad, who heard about it from The Other Mother.)

Today also happens to be Mike’s and my anniversary. Which is really quite ironic, as I will explain.

Mike and I almost didn’t get married. There were various reasons we weren’t interested in nuptials, but the biggest was that we were, and are, disgusted by the lack of equality in marriage in our society, and we felt strongly about not getting married until our gay friends could. We also felt strongly that our relationship was our business and a little piece of paper from the state wasn’t going to make it any more “legitimate”, and it sure wouldn’t protect us from the fate of just over 50% of all relationships the state labels “official”. So thanks but no thanks, not for us.

Then we bought a house together, and started talking about having kids, and we were suddenly faced with the same legal issues our partnered, and parenting, gay friends deal with all the time. At that point I didn’t even know that there are 1,138 legal rights accorded married couples that non-married couples do not enjoy. I just knew it didn’t make sense that as a non-married couple Mike and I, and all of our gay friends, had so many more hoops to jump through if we were even allowed to jump at all.

We talked about this issue with our friends, gay and straight, and several of our gay friends told us they thought we should get married. They told us if they could, they sure as hell would. Still we resisted. Finally, we decided three days before a business-trip-turned-vacation to the US Virgin Islands that we should just go ahead and do it. But, we told ourselves, we wouldn’t tell anyone. We didn’t want a big deal made of it and, frankly, we were a little ashamed. We felt completely guilty that it was so easy for us and so difficult for some. So even though it didn’t solve anything, we would just pretend it hadn’t happen.

So we got married on this day two years ago, on a beach in St. John. And it was very nice and we didn’t tell anyone. But then we got pregnant a few months later, and realized we hadn’t really thought our plan through to the end. We suspected that our families would be upset at the idea of us having a baby without being married, and we were right. Although they didn’t put it this way, they were upset for precisely for the same reasons we are upset that our gay friends can’t marry when they have kids. Because, like it or not, in our society, marriage affords a protection to the family unit that being unmarried does not.

So, long story short (too late!), we told them. And there was great rejoicing.

And so, it is ironic that the anniversary of our non-wedding is the same week as Freedom to Marry Week. Actually I don’t really know if it is ironic or appropriate or nothing at all or what. I do know that Mike and I still feel chagrined that our family is protected in ways that other families aren’t. Until they are, we will keep trying to make some change by voting for folks who can make a difference and supporting our gay friends and their families and making sure the issue doesn’t go away.

Emma is fired UP.

So for the something new theme today I give you a picture of Emma holding her first political sign. Here’s hoping that we are entering an era of new hope and new equality and that our politicians will do their job. Maybe by the time Emma decides to become someone’s partner and have a family of her own, everyone will have the chance for equal protection under the law.

To learn more about why equal rights are so important, especially in emergencies, go here, and to learn what you can do to help, go here.

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