Support the moms who support us

Support the moms who support us
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In a tradition that dates back more than 110 years, we celebrate moms across America this weekend for Mother’s Day. As many of us can attest, moms are the backbone of America. We are the vessels through which the next generation enters the world and, in many cases, we are the primary provider of love, support, education and care for both the young and the old. We also work for our families inside and outside the home, and contribute to society and our economy in immeasurable ways.

From the first day of motherhood to the last day of caring for an aging parent, mothers today face unprecedented challenges that compound the pressures they feel to simultaneously nurture and provide for their families. Most women with young children are in the U.S. workforce, and more mothers are serving as their family’s sole or primary breadwinner. In the 1970s, only 47 percent of mothers with children under 18 were in the workforce, while today, over 70 percent are working mothers.

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Many American moms struggle to balance the pressure of work and desire to be an active, present, loving and nurturing parent during the formative years of their child’s development. About 85 percent of American workers do not have access to paid family leave, which is estimated to force as many as one in four mothers back to work within two weeks of giving birth. Having children ourselves, we know that two weeks is not enough time to recover from birth, regain hormonal balance, properly bond with our babies, establish a breastfeeding routine, or get enough sleep to be our best selves.

Many moms must also deal with a frightening opioid epidemic. In 2016, 3.6 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 reported misusing opioids in the past year, while 7.3 percent of young adults between 18 and 25 reported use. This has led to hundreds of thousands of young deaths, an absolute travesty requiring far more attention. As one of us can attest, addressing it requires mothers to have paid time off so they can be there for their children to ensure that they receive additional treatment as well as the love and care required to stick to the recovery process.

Our working moms are also sandwiched between raising young children and aiding aging parents. In fact, nearly 25 million American workers provide informal care for an elderly family member or friend. For those of us with living parents over 75 years of age, 33 percent say our parents need help managing their own affairs or health. While caring for an aging parent can be deeply rewarding, working mothers face unprecedented stress and hardship in an attempt to balance it all.

Motherhood is the greatest of blessings. As moms across the country are celebrated this weekend as the heroes that they are, we should look for better ways to give them real support. Women shouldn’t be forced to choose between caring for their families and working to provide their families basic necessities.

Whether a beloved mom you know is welcoming a new baby into the world, nursing a sick family member back to health, or supporting an aging parent in their final years, a new national paid family leave policy could be a solution to help her thrive. Paid family leave would benefit all working parents and their children, as it could ensure moms get the time they need and dads also have time to bond with a baby or take on the primary care responsibilities to support their partner and their family.

The United States is one of the only countries in the developed world without a national paid family leave policy, and yet paid family leave has a groundswell of public support from the American people. Nearly 82 percent of Americans believe moms should get paid maternity leave and 69 percent believe fathers should get paid paternity leave.

It is our hope that this growing momentum will inspire our federal leaders in Congress to work together to develop a paid leave policy that supports mothers and fathers. We need lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to step up and support the moms and dads who support us.

As moms are celebrated across the country this weekend, we hope those showering her with flowers and words of affirmation also think about the challenges she faces and works to overcome every day. With a national paid family leave policy, we could return the love and support for America’s working mothers that they so selflessly and endlessly give us.

Mary Bono served as a U.S. congresswoman from California from 1998 to 2013. Maria Contreras Sweet served as administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration during the Obama administration. Along with former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the authors serve as co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Paid Family Leave.