With Mother's Day less than a week away, my thoughts turn towards what change mothers can bring about by working together. Mothers are getting together all over the country, sharing their experiences and stories, and pushing our legislators to make our families stronger and safer. Researcher Jocelyn Elise Crowley, author of Mothers Unite! Organizing for Workplace Flexibility and the Transformation of Family Life, (excerpted in my last post) graciously made time to answer some questions. Her book goes on sale in June, but you can pre-order it for Mother's Day right now.
What made you want to write this book?
When I was a child, my father left our home and my mother had to get back to paid work after many years as a homemaker. At first, she had a series of hourly jobs with no benefits. I remember the worry in her eyes when she talked about the possibility of my becoming sick at school. She was genuinely fearful of this happening, since it would mean her having to leave her job and lose those wages to come and get me. Today, it is still a terrible bind that many mothers face.
Do mothers have more in common, or more that divides them?
I definitely believe that mothers have more in common than issues that divide them. During the course of my research, mothers from all walks of life all wanted the same thing: to raise happy and healthy children. Both mothers who worked for pay and those who were staying at home for a period of time stated that their ideal job would be one where workplace flexibility would be an option for them. This would enable them to do the best possible job for their employers as well as tend to the needs of their children.
Where does the NAMC fit within the context of all the groups you talked to?
Besides NAMC, I studied four other groups: Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), Mocha Moms, MomsRising, and Mothers & More. NAMC was fascinating because of its origins and organizational philosophy. The group has always been mindful of the ways in which mothers, at the grassroots level, can activate positive change in their lives. NAMC members consistently shared information with one another, from how to instruct their children on fire safety at home to dealing with rambunctious toddlers. They also had strong views on important policy issues like workplace flexibility.
What purposes do mothers' groups serve?
Mothers' groups function in many helpful ways across women's lives. Mothers typically turn to these groups for personal friendship and camaraderie. Since motherhood can be an isolating experience, they also look to the groups for emotional support. Finally, they find the groups useful places to exchange information on parenting, child care, and public policy that affects their everyday lives.
Motherhood can totally take over a woman's life. How do the mothers you met manage to be activists as well as family caregivers?
Mothers today have so many demands placed upon them. They have to juggle the tasks of their home life and childrearing responsibilities, and for the majority of them, the demands of paid work. I think that these obligations are so overwhelming that mothers can easily focus on meeting the needs immediately before them, and rightly so. However, in order to effect change in the area of workplace flexibility, mothers need information about the options that can exist for them, options that will help them shape new lives of greater opportunity. I firmly believe that with this heightened level of education, activism will naturally follow.
Thank you, Jocelyn, and Happy Mother's Day to one and all!
'Til next time,
Your (Wo)Man in Washington
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