Mother’s Day is Over. It’s Time for Mother’s Pay.
In the era of COVID-19, Mother’s Day just might be one of the greatest hypocrisies of all.
The United States doesn’t celebrate motherhood and honor mothers. It punishes women for having children and puts their bodies on the frontlines of a pandemic.
One in six workers are women with children under the age of 18. That’s 25 million women in the workforce. 41% of these women are the sole or main earners in their families. And they make 69 cents for every dollar a man earns. But Happy Mother’s Day, right?
No. Especially if you aren’t a white mother.
According to the National Women’s’ Law Center (NWLC):
Mothers of color suffer greater pay gaps than their white counterparts. The NWLC ln details, “….white, non-Hispanic mothers are paid 72 cents; Black mothers are paid 54 cents; Native mothers are paid 48 cents; and Latina mothers are paid just 46 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers.”
Mothers of color have twice the workload, half the pay, and none of the protection that white men have. The punishment for the child-bearing and child-rearing women we supposedly celebrated yesterday is abject poverty. But thanks for all those nifty GIFs!
The NWLC goes on to report, “Nearly one in eight women, more than 15.5 million, lived in poverty in 2018. More than two in five (46 percent) of these women lived in extreme poverty, defined as income at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level.”
On average, the poverty rate for a woman of color is one in five. If you are a single mother, your chances of living in poverty skyrocket to one in three. If you are a single mother of color, it’s closer to 4 in 10. And if you are the child of a single mother, there is a 58% chance that you live in a home that resides below the poverty line.
And if insult wasn’t enough, the United States is happy to add injury.
Single mothers of color have not only shouldered the brunt of economic discrimination and free labor, but now these same shunned women are expected to risk their lives and the lives of their families by putting their bodies on the frontlines of the Coronavirus.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) recently reported:
“Workers in frontline industries are disproportionately women. About one-half of all workers are women, but nearly two-thirds (64.4 percent) of frontline workers are women. Women are particularly overrepresented in the frontline industries in Health Care (76.8 percent of workers) and Child Care and Social Services (85.2 percent). Women are also overrepresented in the following occupations within frontline industries: cashiers (71.8 percent); retail salespersons (63.5 percent); customer service representatives (63.7 percent); pharmacy technicians (81.6 percent); fast food and counter workers (67 percent); all of the top 10 occupations in the Health Care industry group (71.3 to 96.5 percent), except physicians; and, all of the top 10 occupations in the Child Care and Social Services industry group (73.1 to 97.7 percent).”
Worse, these frontline workers aren’t even being paid enough to survive in exchange for risking their lives. The CEPR goes on to explain, “Overall, almost one-quarter of frontline workers (23 percent) live in low income families (income below 200 percent of poverty).”
But…Mothers Day, eh? Please, we haven’t even gotten started.
We’ve only discussed the women that are able to sell their bodies to a virus infested labor market. Millions more aren’t even able to participate because of a lack of childcare. This group of mothers aren’t able to look for work because childcare isn’t safe or available. As a result, they are excluded from most unemployment or Coronavirus relief programs.
And there is absolutely nothing planned to keep these women from falling through the cracks and everything pushing them over the economic edge.
As Business Insider reports, “The [Institute for Women’s Policy Research] reported that 412,288 or about 58.8% of the 701,000 job losses were experienced by women between February and March. It noted that amid ongoing widespread layoffs, the 701,000 figure from the Labor Department is already outdated and doesn’t represent the number of total jobs lost as a result of the pandemic.”
April wasn’t much better.
NPR reports, “The historically disastrous April jobs report shows that the brunt of job losses fell on women. Women now account for around just under half — 49% — of American workers, and they accounted for 55% of the increase in job losses last month.” There is nothing to suggest that this trend will reverse in May or the coming months.
These women are expected to look for work, take care of their families, and shoulder the weight of the Coronavirus. Millions of them are doing it alone, living in poverty, lacking in health care, and under attack from an workforce that is happy to kill them on the front line or let them die from exposure.
And as if that wasn’t an insurmountable mountain or “are you kidding me?” — there is still more!
The Coronavirus demands that we keep our children home. And for good reason. But with schools shut down, the work that is done by teachers, staff, and administrators at schools across the country is now placed directly on the backs of mothers.
Put your boxes of chocolates down, America. Pick up your wallets.
Citing the Economic Policy Institute, The Balance reports, “The average cost of childcare ranges from $4,000 to $22,600 annually, depending on location and age of the child…” It should be noted that mothers are often faced with paying their babysitters and care centers more money per hour than they make themselves. And while it is still tragically low, the national average teacher’s salary is just under $40,000 per year.
So why are we punishing mothers by insisting the labor involved with child-care and teaching only considered valid when they are performed by someone that isn’t them?
I have my thoughts. What needs to be done in action, though, is the immediate passage of federal legislation designed to give direct cash payments to mothers for their labor as caregivers and teachers. The economy cannot function without that labor, and for far too long it has gone unrecognized. And by that I mean uncompensated.
A decent start would be a $2000 check per mother per child to cover the costs of childcare and homeschooling. This money could be used to cover the cost of labor, supplies, food, and health concerns of children that are being cared for at home. It would also remove the cruel and unusual pressure for low-income mothers to re-enter the workforce before it is safe to do so.
And that is what it is. Cruel and unusual. So now that Mother’s Day has come and gone, let’s start putting our money where our hypocrisy is. If you really want to honor mothers for Mother’s Day, take action now and fight for Mother’s Pay.