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The Mamafesto: What the State of the Union means for families

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

A breakdown of the State of the Union's potential impact for families

Last Tuesday, President Obama presented the State of the Union. This 70-minute long speech addressed key goals for his administration, and a large focus of the night was spent on issues that matter to families. If you didn't get a chance to see the State of the Union, read on for the parts that directly impact parents and their kids.

Paid maternity leave and paid sick leave. While this was brought up a few days before his speech in a LinkedIn post written by Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, the president reiterated the need for these programs in our country:

"Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that."

Trust me, Mr. President. Many working moms and dads have thought about this multiple times over. Now it's time for Congress to think about this, and more importantly, act on it! The president's federal maternity leave initiative is a step in the right direction, but we're going to need to do more to help cover all working parents, and in a way that is true maternity leave, not just borrowing against earned sick leave. And speaking of sick leave, the president promised to support a new act that would give employees up to seven days of paid sick leave — if it makes its way through Congress.

High-quality, affordable child care. The president came right out and said that we need to stop treating child care as if it's a side issue or one that only impacts women. He emphasized how it's a national economic priority and followed that up with his plan:

"And that's why my plan will make quality child care more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America, by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year."

Upping the minimum wage and ensuring paycheck equality. I love how the president tied these in to families. Yes, increasing the minimum wage and making sure women are paid the same as men for the same work helps everyone, but Obama specifically connected it to the very real (and high!) costs of raising a family in the U.S.:

"Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That's why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work."

He went on to challenge those listening to him, especially in Congress:

"If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it."

While the State of the Union is meant to infuse hope and invigorate the American people, my wish is that the above are more than just talking points and that real change will take place to help support and empower American families.

More from The Mamafesto

The Mamafesto: Why race and class matter when it comes to parenting
The Mamafesto: Ruth Bader Ginsburg — Feminist hero and total badass
The Mamafesto: What I want to see for moms in 2015

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