This piece premiered on YOGANONYMOUS as part of an ongoing series in partnership with CTZNWELL, exploring what a mindful political platform looks like. We have the power to create the opportunity of wellbeing for our entire nation. As Congressman Tim Ryan says, "You can't be a yogi and not vote!"
Each election cycle, politicians rally around the “mommy vote," hoping to snag the support of a contingency of mamas by addressing the issues that matter most to them. A light shines, however fleetingly, on topics such as paid family leave, affordable child care, education reform, women’s reproductive rights, and equal pay. These so-called "mommy" issues aren't just for mothers. It’s time to recognize that the issues that affect a parent’s ability to care for the next generation are at the core of the wellbeing of our entire nation.
As a society, we often ignore the very pillar of what creates cohesion, compassion, and connection in this world: the ability to safely and healthily raise a family. We point, in frustration, at all that ails the world, and we lament not knowing where to start. But how can a nation (and its people) prosper when the very basics of family care are not being addressed?
The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave (keeping company, in this regard, with only Papua New Guinea and Suriname worldwide). The undue stress and financial burden that is placed upon young families creates a ripple effect, affecting mother, father, and child’s ability to thrive. Parallel issues such as affordable child care, rights surrounding a a return to the workforce, and equal pay are in equally dim status in the United States, and it’s time to join the rest of the industrialized world in offering families the critical safety net they deserve at the time they need it most.
How Women Are Treated Matters
In January, 2015, President Obama addressed India, the world’s most populous nation, and stated, "We know from experience that nations are more successful when their women are successful. This is one of the most direct measures of whether a nation is going to develop effectively—how it treats its women.”
With the correlation between women’s rights and economic development becoming increasingly evident and well-documented, it is not overly simplistic to suggest that if we focused on improving how mothers are treated in society, we might have greater chance at prosperity in issues across the political spectrum: Education. Economic development. Environmental protection. Equal rights. Addressing fundamental “mommy” issues creates a foundation upon which we all have the opportunity to succeed.
I conducted a loose poll of my mom friends for this piece, asking them about their family-leave experience, their childcare support situation, and lastly, whether they felt like the government had their back in terms of supporting them as they raised their families.
Their answers to the last question rang out like a bell, running the gamut from, “I don’t think so,” to “Not even a little bit,” to “Absolutely not,” to “NO NO NO.”
It’s time to recognize that the issues that affect a parent’s ability to care for the next generation are at the core of the wellbeing of our entire nation.
I could offer up a cornucopia of statistics on the measly state of family leave in America, but this election season, it has thankfully been done with increasing frequency, and we should continue to share these images and numbers with anyone who will listen (because we’re, indeed, at a tipping point). Neither will I use this opportunity to suggest a thoughtful prescription for how to help our most vulnerable mamas—the single mamas—because that’s already been done here beautifully. I could share the absolutely heart-wrenching tale of Baby Karl, whose needless death left his mother asking “Why did I have to leave my baby so soon?” (Endless respect to his brave mother Amber for rising above blaming the day care and putting her own grief in the national spotlight in order to call attention to this country’s lack of maternal support and alternatives for childcare).
Issues That Affect Everyone
The bottom line is that “mothers’ issues” (paid family leave, affordable child care, education reform, women’s reproductive rights, equal pay) are everyone’s issues. Father or daughter, banker or baker, student or senior: You were ushered into this human life via the grace of a mother. Whatever traditional or unusual family nucleus you may have grown up in, these so-called “mothers’ issues” formed the core of your human experience and your perception of this world. Not a single human being is separate from the issues that we all-too-simplistically consider the domain of the mommy vote.
The next time you hear someone discuss the importance of paid family leave or affordable child care, instead of shrugging it off, reflect on what it means to have a stable family life as a child: how it lays the foundation for your future relationships, your chance to thrive at school, your ability to seek out opportunities above and beyond what was available to previous generations. This is prosperity, for humans and nations alike. It may begin at home, but it needs our showing up at the ballot box. Make “mommy” issues yours, too.
Together, we're defining what a mindful political platform can look like. Express your support for paid leave and work life balance, as well as the other issues you care about and know impact our nation widely, and vote for YOUR mindful platform by joining us here.
To make a contribution of your attention, time, or means to the mother’s movement, please check out the formidable campaigns being mounted by organizations like Every Mother Counts and Global Moms Challenge.