Saturday, May 10, 2008

Let's unionize motherhood

I went to a fascinating exhibit in Denver in the mid 1990s about the Mayan civilization. One wall panel said that the two most honored ways to die were warriors in battle and women in childbirth. Why? Because both groups made the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep their civilization going.

This mother’s day, instead of futzing around with whether federal employees should get paid maternity leave, let’s look at how our society treats mothers in general.

Just for kicks, let’s compare how our nations treats our mothers and soldiers.
  • Soldiers get paid. Mothers don’t.
  • Soldiers get health and disability insurance. Mothers don’t1.
  • Upon leaving the military, veterans get money for college. Mothers get nothing to help retrain them to reenter the paid workforce.
  • Upon retirement, veterans receive medical care for life through the veteran’s administration. Mothers get nothing.
  • Many employers, mine included, give preference to veterans in hiring. Mothers get nothing2
  • Veterans receive a pension. Mothers do not. It doesn’t matter how many children she raised; she will get nothing3.
So this mother’s day, skip the Hallmark cards, candy and flowers4. Do something substantive to show that MOTHERS COUNT. Send your mother wads of cash5.
  1. Unless she works a second job full-time job that happens to give health insurance or she is married to a man who gets them. That man is free to walk out at any time without notice and revoke her health insurance. (A few companies, mine included, give domestic partner heath insurance to same-sex partners.)
  2. If they are lucky, their service to society will be ignored in the hiring process. More likely, they will be hurt because of a perceived lack of commitment to their careers or because their skills will need brushing up. (See the point about retraining.)
  3. If she is “lucky” enough to have been married to a man (it has to be a man because marriage is a sacred relationship between a man and a woman) for 10 years or more, than she qualifies for a social security benefit half the size of his. This is available to any long-term spouse, regardless of the number of children. Therefore, this is a spousal benefit, not a maternity benefit. Her benefit is pegged to her spouse's, regardless of how hard she actually worked as a mother. Hence, someone who raised 5 children on a laborers wages, doing all the household work on her own (because she can’t afford help and her spouse is too tired after work to help), would get a fraction of the benefits that a billionaire’s spouse who has scads of household help would collect.
  4. They are imported anyways and they pulled out rainforests to put in those flower farms.
  5. Ann Crittenden worked out the numbers in The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued. I think we owe each mother a few hundred thousand dollars if you count the time value of money and throw in interest.
  6. I almost forgot about this one. Last February, when I flew on United, the serviceman in uniform next to me was bumped up to first class. The flight attendant told him that it was their policy, when empty seats were available in first or business class, to select servicemen/women in uniform. Hmm. What kind of mommy uniform will bump me up to first class?

Happy Mother's Day

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