Moms are running on empty, but hungry for change

Moms are running on empty, but hungry for change
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Moms are running on empty. 

This pandemic is exposing just how urgently we need wide sweeping, national workplace protections like child care, fair pay, health care, paid family and medical leave, earned sick days and emergency solutions to improve access to nutritious food, housing and K-12 education. 

Individual moms are trying to do everything — work, raise children, educate children and more — and we simply can’t. 

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We’ve hit a wall. There’s no other avenue forward than transformation. Decades of insufficient investment in our caring infrastructure (child care for infants and toddlers as well as eldercare) and in workplace protections (paid leave and sick days) have left us out of fuel. 

Due to structural inequality and direct discrimination, women and moms, particularly women of color, were already struggling when the pandemic started. Studies show moms do most of the unpaid work of caregiving even as we’re also in the paid labor force. The unpaid work of caregiving has been so significantly devalued that it’s fueling unfair wage gaps. In 2020, Latina moms are paid just 45 cents to a white dad’s dollar; Native American moms just 47 cents; Black moms just 50 cents; White moms just 69 cents; and AAPI moms earn just 89 cents.

This is impacting a huge number of people. Most women in our nation become moms and a majority of them are in the paid labor force. At the same time, moms have also been putting in a massive amount of unpaid and unaccounted for caregiving labor that’s worth trillions of dollars per year. The burden of this invisible unpaid overtime is growing fast as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced so many schools to close their doors and move online, and so many child care centers to shutter, often permanently.

To add insult to injury, women and moms are also now being disproportionately pushed out of the labor force. This is especially harmful, considering moms’ wages keep families and the economy afloat.  

When women and moms lose, we all lose.

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Moms are disproportionately paying the price for President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE’s economic and public health failures. His failure to listen to experts has extended shutdowns of businesses, lost lives and provided no clarity, resources, or plan to safely reopen schools and child care centers. He has failed the moms of America. Already, as many schools are stuck online, others are reopening and then having to close due to the spread of COVID-19. 

Now as families and the broader economy need to be lifted, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally The Memo: Dems face balancing act on SCOTUS fight MORE (R-Ky.) refuses to budge — to invest in programs for our schools to open safely, to stabilize our child care infrastructure, to advance paid leave and sick days, to make pay fair and invest in other programs that lift our families and our economy. On top of all of this, Trump is suing to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which brought health care to tens of millions and ensures coverage of essential maternal health benefits. Let that sink in for a moment.

We know the policy solutions that will lift families, essential workers, communities, businesses and even our economy. It’s time to make them happen. 

One way to start is for the U.S. Senate Republican leadership to listen to moms across the country and reset its priorities. That starts with following the lead of the U.S. House and passing COVID-19 relief — immediately — including investing significant sums in our child care and K-12 infrastructure. We also need funds to be redirected towards school nurses and social workers and other student supports instead of for police in schools. We need paid leave and sick days for all, funding for state and local governments, expanded Unemployment Insurance, Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, as well as direct payments to families, improved access to health care including testing and protections for essential workers, regardless of immigration status. 

We see what’s going on in our nation and in our homes. Moms are on the front lines of our crisis. We are the vast majority of essential workers and health care workers. Women of color and immigrants hold most of the essential work positions and, sadly, also face the most fatalities from COVID-19. 

So we’re rising to take action. For instance, at MomsRising, where I serve as executive director, we’re seeing unprecedented levels of engagement. MomsRising had a goal for our volunteers to write 1 million handwritten postcards by Oct. 1 to encourage low-frequency moms to vote in November; as of this week, volunteers have over 2.2 million handwritten postcards in process. Our volunteers have also made over 460,000 direct contacts with congressional offices supporting essential COVID-19 relief and the USPS.  

The Senate took a summer break without extending the critically necessary expired COVID-19 relief that moms, families and our economy need. They aren’t doing their jobs, while we’re more than doing ours.

Leaders take note: Just as moms are the invisible force fueling our country, we’re also an invisible force that’s rising toward November 2020 with an eye on advancing structural change to lift our families and our economy — and moms may be running on empty, but we’re hungry for change.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner is executive director and co-founder of MomsRising.org, an online and on-the-ground organization of more than one million mothers and their families. She is the author of "Keep Marching: How Every Woman Can Take Action and Change Our World."