ContraCosta Times: As individuals, we're pretty fond of our mothers. But as a nation we don't value motherhood all that much. We lag far behi
May 13, 2007

ContraCosta Times:

As individuals, we're pretty fond of our mothers. But as a nation we don't value motherhood all that much. We lag far behind Europe in granting leave for the birth or adoption of a child, for example. Our system of unpaid leave applies only to those who work for the largest corporations, and most new mothers (or fathers) can't afford to take it anyway. CEOs and their lap-dog lawmakers say paid leave, the norm in most of the rest of the developed world, would cost too much. Guess it would. After all, we have to save money -- for tax breaks and corporate bailouts benefiting the same employers that don't provide any family benefits.

Child care is another area where we're neanderthal when it comes to social policy. No president has had the guts to propose a comprehensive, federally subsidized child care program since Richard Nixon vetoed such a plan, calling it the "Sovietization of American children." Most moms are now in the paid workforce out of economic necessity -- but still make only 76 cents to a man's dollar -- so they can't afford private child care that can run $5,000 to 10,000 per year per child. The result is a generation of children characterized by a phrase unknown to our grandparents -- latchkey kids. The situation certainly makes you wonder what all that "no child left behind" rhetoric really means.

Many mothers, but few fathers, take traditional "women's jobs" (nursing, schoolteaching, housekeeping, child care) to be at home when their children are. For this they are punished with the historically low wages attached to female-dominated occupations. Is there a reason other than ingrained sex discrimination that dog-pound attendants make more than child care workers, and parole officers make more than social workers? If employers were really "family friendly," they would seriously evaluate their pay scales to see where the inequities are and bring women's pay up to par. And they would also encourage fathers to take advantage of the few programs that do exist, like flextime and job-sharing, without labeling guys who want to do it "girlie men" -- or worse.

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