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This Mother’s Day, Let’s Honor Helping Moms by Seeking Change

On this Mother’s Day, I think of moms as caregivers. Of course, it starts with thinking about my own mother. She once cared for me while working part-time at home – typing handwritten manuscripts on an IBM typewriter in her room for pennies a page – and working full-time at home. outside the house as my sisters and I got older.

As a recent widow, she now depends on her three daughters and a group of wonderful professional caregivers to look after her as she nears 90. She is fortunate to be in an assisted living environment, in part because of the retirement benefits she has earned. as an employee of the state of Virginia and because we girls live nearby.

Even with these advantages, there are many challenges for her and for us. Caregiving requires an incredible amount of time and energy from professional providers and family caregivers. Depending on our circumstances, caregiving may take the form of full-time home care for a relative who lives with us. Or help manage a relative’s medications and medical appointments. Or take on financial responsibilities for seniors who can’t or don’t want to handle those details anymore. More and more of us are taking on the role of caregiver – for our children, our parents or another loved one who is sick, aging or both.

When the pandemic hit, many mothers were overwhelmed with double duty — juggling full-time jobs, household chores, raising children, and the added responsibilities of around-the-clock care. The National Women’s Law Center reports that the pandemic has given 72% of mothers more household and care responsibilities. For women with children under 5, this number rises to 84%.

Working mothers are superheroes but they are not superhuman. Caregiving responsibilities are cited as the second largest contributor to increased stress levels among women. Caregiving has also made it more difficult for women to return to the labor market, especially those in lower paid positions. In March 2022, 6.6 million Americans cited caregiving obligations as the reason they weren’t working outside the home.

We ask so much of mothers. Time and again, they walk the distance for their families and communities. They desperately need reinforcements.

Working mothers know what support they need. A National Women’s Law Center survey identified three broad policy solutions: paid family and medical leave; financial assistance to cover long-term care costs for sick or aging family members; and increased funding for affordable child care to reduce costs for families.

Combined with increased wages for child care providers and an extension of the child tax credit to lift children out of poverty, these policies would transform the lives of working mothers.

These are important demands for all working families, and AFSCME has been on the front lines, defending them for years.

Last April, the Houston City Council voted unanimously to grant the city’s 21,000 employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. This victory was possible because members of HOPE/AFSCME Local 123 called, emailed and lobbied their local council. And this month in Travis County, Texas, AFSCME Local 1624 worked closely with elected officials to win eight weeks of paid vacation for county employees.

This year, AFSCME members in Maryland joined a coalition of labor unions and progressive groups in support of the Time to Care Act of 2022. This legislation provided nearly all workers in Maryland with 12 weeks of paid family leave every year and up to 24 weeks of paid leave. leave for new parents. AFSCME’s demands for change were so powerful that the bill passed despite Governor Larry Hogan’s veto, which was overruled by the legislature.

Now more than ever, the need for these policy changes is clear and urgent. AFSCME members are a driving force for change – whether at the municipal level in Houston, at the county level in Travis County, at the state level in Maryland, or at the federal level.

So, this Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate mothers and motherhood, and also flex our political muscles as mothers and activists. Join me in using our AFSCME action page to urge our US Senators to pass legislation investing in child and home care providers.

And don’t stop there. Support elected officials who are committed to supporting caregivers. One of the best ways to encourage working mothers is to get involved in the upcoming elections by registering and training union voters. With all that mothers are doing, let’s ease their burden by implementing the policies that improve their lives and ours.

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