What would help me the most is…
“Better financial support for education and early childhood educators.”
—Kerri Hauman, Lexington, Kentucky.
Erica Gallegos, also co-executive director of the Child Care for Every Family Network, said there is now bipartisan support for increased funding for child care, and even some of the more conservative lawmakers she speaks to understand the need to elevate the child care provider. salary (more than 94% of educators are women). One of the biggest issues in child care is staff retention, because pay is often so low, and the District of Columbia, for example, passed a law to send a one-time payment of $10,000 to $14,000 to child care workers.
Incremental changes won’t solve all child care problems – every expert I’ve spoken to agrees that only long-term federal investment will – because providing high-quality care and retaining experienced caregivers is expensive. And while so many inequalities remain for parents overall, the pandemic has been particularly difficult for mothers without a college degree and for black and Hispanic mothers, according to economic research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
But without being Pollyannaish about it, women like Ms. Paluso and Ms. Gallegos give me hope for the future, and they in turn are inspired by the parents and child care providers they work with to organize in the field. “They understand what the problem is, and it’s not them,” Ms Gallegos said. No one has ever bothered before to build a strong child care system because we just relied on mothers to do this work for free. Now they build it themselves.
And that’s ultimately what gives me hope, even against the backdrop of bad news: A generation ago, the rollback of legal gender discrimination didn’t just happen out of nowhere. Things have not always evolved in a straight line. Things happen because coalitions of activists have fought for years. For example, Marylin Bender’s 1973 article on women deprived of credit mentions work done by chapters of the National Organization for Women, the Center for Women Policy Studies, and women’s groups in Dallas, Minneapolis, and St. Paul and Baltimore.
Roe’s decision came after years of mass movement. As historian Leslie Reagan notes in his book “When Abortion Was a Crime”, “The startling transformation of law and public policy regarding abortion and women’s rights was rooted in the decline of abortion under criminal law and is built on generations of women demanding abortions – and getting them.
In the early 1970s, before Roe became law, an underground network in Chicago called the Jane Collective was helping women get illegal abortions. Martha Scott, who was a stay-at-home mom of four young children at the time, told WBEZ she was brought in to volunteer with Jane because “I just thought if you really care about something, you should act accordingly.” Last week we saw so many people, including mothers and their children, take to the streets to continue demanding the right to control their own bodies.
The onus shouldn’t be on those most affected to fix what’s broken, but I know that America’s mothers will continue to show up and fight. And on this Mother’s Day, I am grateful for the generations of mothers who have fought before us, doing the sometimes painfully slow work of advocacy, and for those who are fighting now too.