Mother's Day Chorus: Give Us Flexibility!
Along with the rosy-hued Mother's Day ads for flowers, chocolate and spa packages, Sunday's holiday prompted the media to fill up on Mother's Day editorials and high-profile public statements from reporters, politicians, and mothers about parents' and kids' needs. The most common theme -- hallelujah -- was the need for flexibility from employers.
Some articles worth checking out:
The San Francisco Chronicle profiles four working moms in the Bay Area who show that despite the hype, most moms are not "opting out" of the workforce. Instead, they're finding creative, flexible solutions to juggle kids and work. The four are Blair Christie, 34, vice president of investor relations at Cisco Systems, whose husband reduced his work hours to be at home in the afternoons with their daughters, ages 3 years and 8 months; NaNoshka Johnson, 43, who found that owning her own business gives her the flexibility to work from home in the mornings and leave the office early to pick up her 7-year-old son from after-school care; Fatemeh Mizbani, 42, a teacher who relies on a parents' network and a supportive employer; and Nubia Martinez, 31, a home care aide who takes advantage of nearby family and her children's growing independence, at the ages of 12 and 13, to work long shifts she couldn't manage when her kids were younger.
Washington Post business writer Amy Joyce's excellent Life at Work column on Sunday uses the story of a single mother raising two developmentally disabled sons to demonstrate how much parenthood has changed in America -- and how little the structure of the work environment has kept pace. Join Amy from 11 a.m. to noon on Tuesday to discuss your life at work and this article. Dads are encouraged to send Amy their wish lists for change as well, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another intelligent piece in Sunday's Outlook section of the Post is The Family as Firing Offense by the always incisive Ruth Marcus. She cites many cases of prejudice against mothers, especially mid-to-lower income moms, from a recent report by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California at Hastings, "One Sick Child Away From Being Fired: When Opting Out is Not an Option," including a bus driver, police officer and packer who were fired for responding to child-related emergencies.
"Even if these examples are extreme, it's clear that corporate willingness to design flexible workplaces has been far greater in the executive offices than on the factory floor. According to studies cited in the report, flexible schedules are available for nearly two-thirds of workers who earn more than $71,000 annually -- but for less than a third of those with incomes under $28,000. Over half of working-class employees are not permitted to take time off to care for sick children," Marcus writes, noting that she's one of the lucky few who can work from home (she wrote the article at her kitchen table).
Also worth checking out is a month-long online Mothers at Work campaign hosted by non-partisan, non-denominational Mothers & More: the Network for Sequencing Moms. Topics for May include social and economic penalties for motherhood, combining parenting and paid employment and the paid and unpaid value of parenting. "A Mother at Work is Always at Work whether she's with her kids or not, whether she's an at-home mom or in the paid workplace," reads the overview. Guests include Ann Crittendon, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Caitlin Flanagan, Joan Blades and yours truly.
I'm thrilled to see Mother's Day used for such good purpose and so much ink devoted to work and parenting advocacy. (Is this a first, or am I just more attuned to it this year?) Mother's Day gives us all a good excuse to speak out and start a debate that should continue throughout the year. Let's hope actions follow all these words.
By Leslie Morgan Steiner |
May 15, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
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