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Why Does America Hate Mothers?

A post-Mother's Day reflection

Published on: May 14, 2018

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Coffee

It is a question I have pondered incessantly since becoming one nearly two years ago.

The hip Seattle neighborhood coffee shop I frequent is covered with rainbow flag stickers and other paraphernalia, signifying a welcome home for people of all sexual orientations. There are “Black Lives Matter” stickers adorning the walls and paintings for sale by African-American artists. It is supposed to be open to all.

Last week, I walked in with my son in his stroller. The bearded hipster who went in before me slammed the door behind him, despite seeing me approach, stroller in tow. I opened the door with one arm, carefully wheeling in the stroller with the other.

When I went to order, my white barista with the dreadlocks and nose piercings gave a deep sigh as my son smiled at him. I quickly ordered and walked to the communal table, balancing my steaming drink in one hand and the stroller in the other, not wanting to leave my son unattended at either end. The man across the table looked at us in annoyance as my son gingerly touched his briefcase out of curiosity.

And when my 22-month-old dared to babble, at least four people looked up from their laptops in frustration. I downed my double espresso in two gulps and dashed for the door.

Message received: Mothers and their babies, it seemed, were clearly unwelcome in this progressive cafe. It was not the first place, nor the last time that I was given the third degree when I was out in public with my son.

For me, the cafe serves as a microcosm for the blatant disregard for mothers I see throughout even the most progressive institutions of our country. Take Seattle. Washington State just passed what is touted as the most comprehensive family leave policy in the country. For a nation that has shamefully denied working mothers any pay to birth humans, it is a victory.

And while going from nowhere to somewhere is a step forward, in its details, the 12-week paid leave falls woefully short of the at least six-months many experts recommend for ideal maternal bonding and to establish breastfeeding. Coupled with the fact that infant daycare in Seattle often costs more than renting a downtown apartment here, it’s no wonder that 43 percent of mothers leave corporate America.

Mother’s Day should be more than brunches and flowers and cards. But we don't care enough to address what mothers really need.

This hatred towards mothers proliferates in our workplaces — and our society at-large — in dangerous ways.

Working mothers experience the highest pay gap compared to working fathers in this country. One in four American mothers goes back to work within two weeks of giving birth. The majority of women I’m friends with have used a breast pump in public bathrooms across offices, airports and retail establishments.

For women of color, the situation is dire. One only needs to consider the tragic death of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant black mother shot by two police officers in front of her children, in her own home. Black infants are dying at more than twice the rates of white infants in America, and black maternal mortality is at crisis rates. I could go on and on, but this in itself should be enough to make us stop what we’re doing and declare a public emergency.

But we don’t.

We are failing mothers by every measure.

Mother’s Day should be more than brunches and flowers and cards. But we don't care enough to address what mothers really need.

The disregard for moms in America is everywhere. It’s reflected in the way we shortchange mothers in their paychecks and in the way we push them to birth children without adequate leave and healthcare resources. In the way we make child care unaffordable, or the way we’re letting mothers of color and their babies die.

And it starts small and invisible. I see it in the way so many of us treat mothers with children in liberal Seattle coffee shops.

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