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Moms deserve more – including equal pay

May 6, 2022

As I think about Mother’s Day and buying cards and flowers and gifts, I find myself wondering – is this the best we can do for our moms? One day of appreciation? Mother’s Day generated over $28 billion in 2021. How much of that went to moms? 

Did you know that the United States offers zero paid leave after someone gives birth (or adopts, or needs to care for family)? For any parent. Work schedules are often inflexible to mothers caring for children or other family members. Childcare is unavailable, unaffordable, and assumed that women will handle it without help. Consider the COVID-19 pandemic when the expectation was that parents would become full-time teachers with zero support or pay.

The motherhood penalty is the cost a woman bears when she decides to have a child, and it is punishing. Mothers are paid 58 cents for every dollar a father makes. Black moms earn a mere 54 cents and Latina moms only 46 cents.

What’s more, fathers have more access to leave than mothers do. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, while more than 9 in 10 employed parents reported access to some form of leave (paid or unpaid) through their jobs, a larger share of fathers had access to paid leave – 76% vs. 67% for women. (The data do not provide detail on how much leave these respondents had, nor how difficult it was to actually make use of the leave.) Put another way, 33% of mothers did NOT have access to even a single day of paid leave, and the same was true of 24% of fathers.

For mothers of color, especially single mothers, unequal pay is worse as they have to manage higher expenses of running the household single-handedly, while fighting against dual social injustices. Often these women of color may have to choose between putting food on the table, educating their children, or saving for an emergency fund. 

So, what then is the purpose of Mother’s Day? If the way we show our moms that they are valued, respected, and appreciated and that we understand and honor the sacrifices that mothers – and all birthing people – make with their bodies and minds in giving life to each one of us. The question becomes how can we truly support them and value care work? 

We’re not saying don’t celebrate mom on Mother’s Day. Rather, extending that gratitude to every day and expanding it to include actual structural support and compensation for all the work they do.   

What are some of those things employers and infrastructure can offer? 

Source: Data analysis from the Center for American Progress based on data from “Where Does Your Childcare Dollar Go” available at costofchildcare.org 

Offer flexible work schedules. Ask employees who are moms what they need.  

In addition to salaries not covering expenses, workplaces were not designed for mothers or the family. School times do not match work hours and trying to fit in doctor’s appointments and last-minute crises eats up time off or means unpaid hours.  

Provide paid leave. 

Advocate for fair pay and check that employees are compensated fairly.   

What can you do as a mom-lover?