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The Mamafesto: Important battles moms won (and lost) in 2015

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,,...

The war on motherhood is far from over

The year is quickly drawing to a close, and a lot of stuff happened this year that impacted families... for better or for worse. Let's take a look back and see where we won or lost as feminist families.

Mandated, paid maternity leave

We get a big fat zero on this one. Even after hearing incredibly tragic stories that stress how much we really need some form of mandated, paid maternity leave, the United States still ranks among the very few countries to not provide or support families. I'm not quite sure why we're failing so poorly here. Some states have tried to set up systems, and heck, even President Obama realized how necessary this all is as he set up a system of paid leave for federal employees. So why not the entire country? Why not the mom who lives paycheck to paycheck and, because there is no mandated paid leave, will have to return to her minimum-wage job only a week or two after giving birth? However, 2016 can hopefully bring with it some change. Keep pressing your representatives to change policies. If we continue to push and fight for this, it can have a huge, lasting impact on many families.

More: The Mamafesto: Real maternity leave horror stories show moms need better

Reproductive rights

Is it any shock that families, and in particular mothers, lost big here this year? Reproductive rights covers a wide spectrum, from conception to pregnancy loss, abortion, pregnancy and birth. Families are impacted by every stage along that spectrum. Unfortunately, there were many instances where it was clear that things are pretty messed up when it comes to these rights.

Because our country (and in particular the extremely conservative politicians that are stripping away our rights) is so concerned with the right to terminate a pregnancy and everything that accompanies it, there was the woman in Indiana who experienced a miscarriage and was charged with feticide. She was given a 46-year prison sentence as punishment, and we all grew more scared that laws like this could continue to be wielded against pregnant women with little sense or recourse.

But be forewarned, even if you keep your pregnancy and make it to birth, the odds aren't necessarily in your favor (oh, hello rising maternal mortality rate!). Remember the (ongoing) case of the woman in California who was given an unnecessary, forced episiotomy against her will? Between her and the various cases of women being forced to have C-sections, it's no wonder many women continue to scramble about, worrying over their birth options.

More: The Mamafesto: U.S. has lowest maternal health ranking in developed world

The kids are alright (no thanks to us)

When it comes to kids, they have it together more than we like to give them credit for. And it's hard being a kid, especially in this country, when so many adults are actively working against you. Some ways are just absolutely petty, like policing what kids wear in an effort to "protect" them. Newsflash: When you tell girls that they shouldn't wear leggings or tight jeans because it's distracting to the other students (aka "the boys"), you're not only framing these young women's lives within the male gaze, you're devaluing our boys by telling them they can't control themselves. Lose-lose. Unfortunately, this happened way too many times in the past year.

Hopefully, 2016 will show some promise when it comes to all of these issues and more. Because families need our support, especially if we're charging them with raising up the next generation.

More: The Mamafesto: The problem with policing what girls wear to prom

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