For Mother's Day: A Present That Values Family

May 11, 2012

This post originally appeared on May 11 on Huffington Post

by Hannah Matthews and Jodie Levin-Epstein

Mother's Day unifies the nation as we all scurry to find the right Hallmark card, fancy flowers or some proverbial chocolates to honor she who labored us into this world. The treats, however, can't sweeten a bitter fact: our country, while touting that it values families, gives scant evidence of doing so, particularly when it comes to infants and their care. Our public policies in these arenas could, but don't, give mothers (and fathers) who work outside the home what they need to nurture our next generation. To create healthy, thriving families and communities, we should start when children are young. Babies develop a set of social, emotional, and cognitive skills that lay the foundation for the very skills they will need to be successful in school and in the workplace. In short time, these tiny bundles begin to crawl and then walk and in a blink they become young adults and workers determining our nation's productivity and global role.

Consider how our nation's policies currently play out.

DeeDee, who is 22, has a job on the janitorial staff of a local community center. Her son is three weeks old and she is back on the job full time. She feels lucky since, unlike many of her friends, she got to use her one week of vacation when the baby was born. The two weeks of unpaid leave were tough. While she wanted to breast feed, her doctor says the stress from her financial worries was a key reason she did not produce enough milk. DeeDee would like to spend more weeks at home with her son but she just can't afford it. She's found a neighbor to watch him while she's at work, but she worries about her son's care. She knows it's the best she can do, though; she visited other family and local child care centers before her son was born but they were just too expensive.

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