Why we should put moms in charge

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I am exhausted by the pandemic. I am tired of waking every morning to feed my kids and send them to virtual class in the dining room, only to walk a few steps to my home office to start constantly interrupted work. These days, like so many other working parents, I work side by side with continual distractions. I am also once again sad over the gun violence in this country which results in so many senseless deaths.

This new chaotic and tiresome life has stirred enough emotions that I am left wondering about this. Why is this so hard? I do not mean why it is so hard for me and others in my situation. Why is this so hard for our elected officials and corporate leaders? Why is this so hard for society to do right by moms, women, children, and victims of gun violence?

If moms were in charge, we would have enacted stricter gun control two decades ago after Columbine. Anne Marie Slaughter would never have had to write about why women still cannot have it all. Sheryl Sandberg would never have had to tell us that all we need to do is lean in. Heather Boushey would never have had to write about work life conflict. Reshma Saujani would never have had to take out an ad in the New York Times advocating a Marshall Plan for mothers. Journalists would never have needed to delve into the stress that mothers have felt in the pandemic that could take years, if not generations, to recover from.

If moms were in charge, I would never have had to research and write about the reactions of mothers to disproportionately forgo work, take leave, and stay home with the kids when the coronavirus hit us hard. I would never have had to hear leaders say last spring that opening the economy and businesses was enough. Enough for whom?

If moms were in charge, I would not have to stare into an abyss thinking about how we get back to work while schools are still closed and socially distanced daycares are not readily available. I would never have had to worry about how the debate on opening schools lacks the foundation in reality for working parents and that hybrid versions where kids are sent in and out on various days is no solution for working mothers.

I am sure that if moms were in charge, it would look something like this. Birth control and tampons would be readily available. Childcare would be affordable and widely accessible. Daycare workers, medical aides, house cleaners, nursing assistants, and others engaged in care work would get paid their worth. Paid leave and flexible schedules would be a given. Dads would put in more effort at home to level the playing field. Mental health services for all would be the slogan. Strong gun control measures would be the norm. Girls and boys would never be told they should not let their passions and interests drive their hobbies and activities.

All these changes would mean our economy would grow and productivity would flourish. Wasted or foregone talent would not be swept under the rug. Struggling parents would not be stressed and forced to put children in compromising situations while they figure out how to work and provide care. Research shows a strong return when we invest wisely in children and the most vulnerable. Our lack of support for the care economy and our communities is, if nothing else, due to politics and gendered notions that run deep in our history. This has led to a society that now seems to lack empathy and compassion. Who have we become?

I am sometimes asked my policy stance as an economist. In my role at a nonpartisan statistical agency, my expertise does not translate into policy. I will not tell you how to develop the best measures to provide fairer and affordable daycare, but I do generate the rigorous research and methods with data that inform the debate. As a mother, however, if elected officials, corporate leaders, or society were to ask me what action would be most effective to improve the lives and safety of parents and families, I would say without a doubt that we should put moms in charge.

Misty Heggeness is a principal economist and senior adviser at the United States Census Bureau where she studies gender and poverty. These views above are hers alone and do not represent the views of any one institution.

Tags Business Culture Economics Family Government Labor Market Policy Women

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