Every year the stores start rolling out their standard Mother’s Day gifts – flowers, cards, chocolate, jewelry. And moms do appreciate these tokens of affection.
But if you were to ask a mom what she really, truly needs, the answer wouldn’t be found on a shelf. Instead, moms need society to make some big changes about how we view and treat them.
Here’s what moms really need for Mother’s Day:
1 | Time off
When I was young, my sisters and I would sneak downstairs early on Mother’s Day morning. One of us poured a bowl of Cheerios, the other a glass of juice. We delivered her this breakfast in bed – probably while leaving a mess in the kitchen for her to clean up.
In retrospect, we probably could have done a bit more to give her some time off. Working moms of children under age 18 spend nearly four hours per day on top of their paid working hours caring for children, cooking, and other housework – an hour and a half more than working fathers. While fathers tend to make up this time in the office, they’ll have to wait till Father’s Day for us to toot their horns.
For now, it’s clear that working moms are working well past quitting time. They’ve earned some rest and relaxation.
2 | A little respect
As a stay-at-home mom, if I can manage to get both of my children asleep at the same time, I will sit on the couch and eat bonbons. Unfortunately, that is the exception rather than the rule.
But despite the fact that society often looks down on stay-at-home mothers as bonbon-eating couch-sitters, it’s clear they are putting in the hours as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, moms of children under the age of six spend eight hours a day caring for children, cooking, and doing other housework.
Of course, these studies only log for your primary activity. Every parent knows that even if you aren’t actively changing a diaper or reading a book, you are always caring for your children. I’m not sure how these studies classify nursing a newborn while you go to the bathroom, but I know we’ve all been there.
This Mother’s Day, let’s give all moms the respect they deserve for working so hard.
3 | Equal pay
Mother’s Day cards are always appreciated. But inside that card, it sure would be nice to see a check for the estimated $434,000 women will lose out over the course of their lifetimes due to wage discrimination.
Despite all the evidence that mothers work hard, they still face discrimination in the workplace. Moms are now the breadwinners in forty percent of households with children under the age of 18. So when moms face a harder time getting a job or don’t receive equal pay for equal work, entire families are hurt.
These challenges are real. Studies have shown that employers are less likely to hire mothers – even those who never left the workplace – than childless women. Employers also offer mothers lower salaries than they do other women. Women already receive just 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. To be hit with a motherhood penalty on top of wage discrimination means millions of families aren’t getting what they deserve.
Moms need more than a token gift, they need equal pay.
4 | Time with their children
My dream Mother’s Day is pretty simple: a nice brunch after church, a dinner I don’t have to cook, and quality time with my children (who are hopefully well behaved for the day). I spend plenty of other days fantasizing about what it would be like to have a day where I am completely off duty. But on Mother’s Day, I enjoy spending time with my kids.
Unfortunately, family time can be difficult to come by for many new mothers. 40 percent of women who worked during their pregnancy and gave birth to their first child are back at work before their baby is three months old. Many women head back far sooner. Half of moms without college degrees head back to work when their babies are just six weeks old.
For mothers who are able to take a few weeks off after the birth of their child, there is no guarantee of pay. Just 12 percent of private sector employees in the United States have access to paid leave. In spite of this, Americans overwhelmingly support paid family and medical leave – 82 percent say mothers should receive paid leave following the birth or adoption of their child.
5 | A thank you
If you are trying to find the perfect gift this Mother’s Day, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to pin down any of these gifts I’ve suggested. So what can you do when you can’t end pay discrimination or institute paid family leave overnight?
Say thank you. Thank you for the middle of the night wakeups, the leaving work early to get a sick kid from daycare pickups, the pumping in a supply closet, the dinners, the snacks, the foregone career, the late nights catching up on work, the playdates, the library trips, and the rocking chair lullabies. So much of a mom’s work goes unacknowledged, unseen, unappreciated, and unpaid.
Even now that I’ve become a mom myself, I have a hard time wrapping my head around everything my own mother did for me. So while I can’t change the world overnight, I can tell her thank you.