Happy Mother’s Day, Well Sorta

I was born with a lot of what I call “Bad Fairy” skills. This is the ability to spot the uncomfortable truths lurking at the edges of fairy tales, the ability to raise a counter-example that trashes cherished theories of pleasantness and harmony. Lawyers need some Bad Fairy talent, but throw in solid expressive language skills, and the result can be somebody who is unintentionally scathing.

I recall finishing up a closing argument in court once, and the proverbial pin drop would have landed like bowling ball. The judge said, “I think we’ve just been spanked.” I had apparently been less than diplomatic. I don’t mean to spank anybody, but on this Mother’s Day, I have to say, I am angry.

Forty percent of our children are being raised by single moms, and forty percent of those single moms are living in poverty. Single dads don’t have it easy, but only eight percent of single dads are living in poverty. Both tend to be working full time, both–by a majority–started off parenting in the midst marriage. So for Mother’s Day, please, keep your brunch buffet, and give me gender wage equality and family leave. Give me back the alimony tax break that was just taken away from working families.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women, taking six times more lives than breast cancer. Why? Because for too long, the difference between women’s heart disease and men’s was ignored, and heart disease does not disfigure a woman’s sexuality. Autism and ADHD are under-diagnosed in girls–meaning they get no treatment, and must struggle without support while being labeled nerdy, air-headed, scatter-brained, or worse. Why? Because for too long, both diseases were only researched as they affected males, and thus the different symptoms in females have been ignored.

For Mother’s Day, keep your Hallmark smarm, and give me health care that takes women’s pain and wellness seriously. While you’re at it, please do something about Texas having the worst maternal death stats in the developed world, an ongoing tragedy about which the “family values” legislature has done nothing in the nearly two years since this fact was announced.

Men control every state and national law-making body in the United State and they always have. I assume each of those men had a mom, a woman who loved him from the moment she knew he was on the way, one who risked her health, her career potential, and her heart over and over to see that he had a good shot in life. I hope their moms would be proud of them, and I can acknowledge that I have a fewer maternal challenges than my own mother faced.

But I can also tell you, blog buddies, this mom thinks we have a long, long way to go. Until we get there, I’d rather have progress than window-dressing. What’s one change you’ve either seen for the better in your lifetime, or would like to see made for the sake of our sons and daughters?

To one commenter, I will send a big old bouquet of flowers, not because it’s Mother’s Day, but because flowers, and blog buddies, are wonderful.


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31 comments on “Happy Mother’s Day, Well Sorta

  1. Preach, sister!

    I’d love to take the focus off funding male-only sports in school & return them to being games for exercise & physical health instead of exclusion & fund raising. Not that I’m still bitter 25 years later about having to hump a heavy backpack full of law books two miles to get to classes because the school parking lot was turned over to male alumni every time there was a “game” with the clear understanding their well-funded drinking/male bonding orgies took priority over my attempt to get an education. It continues today as the income-producing football, basketball, baseball, etc takes priority over tuition-paying students. Doctoral students getting groped, catcalled, & pelted with beer cups for daring to interrupt boys being boys (even when the “boys” are in their 60s) as they navigate to their expensive classes is still the norm at many schools.
    This begins with Pop Warner & Little League excluding equally skilled girls & is calcified by high school when females are firmly relegated to their “place” on the sidelines with pom poms. Where are the boy only “cheer” squads for the girls teams? GRRRRRR

  2. Well said. I like your “Bad Fairy Diplomacy.” I’m mom to daughters, grandmom to granddaughters and great-grandmom to a new granddaughter. My life is very different from my mother’s. I’ve had a 50+ year marriage, a satisfying career and now am settling into retirement. Single parents have always faced greater challenges. Fortunately, the social stigma has faded, but women must be capable of supporting their households before they become parents. Even the best marriage can end leaving the surviving parent to cope alone – equal pay and family leave are essential to supporting these families, but parents need to do their part by completing their education and/or developing solid working skills to support their families before they start them.

    • I’m very glad that my educational options were far broader than my mom’s (nurse, teacher, librarian), but I have to say, my daughter faces huge academic obstacles that I did not. I could borrow money at less than 3 percent, with generous repayment schedules. She can’t borrow for less than 8 percent, with rapacious loan shark terms that don’t even let you off the hook if you’re disabled (while Wall Street borrows at 1 percent and gets taxpayer bailouts).
      When I went to college, the minimum wage was a living wage. I could support myself working thirty hours a week or so, and even put some toward tuition and books. To afford average RENT–rent alone–in Maryland, you now have to work 138 hours a WEEK. So you get a roommate to share your one bedroom, and you’re working 60+ hours a week just to pay rent, not to buy books, afford insurance, eat, or wash your duds.

      Since I went to school, tuition has gone up by a factor of TEN, while the minimum wage has not gone up in real dollars at all.

      How can anybody, unless they are born to significant privilege, afford a college education? The people who are putting college so far out of reach for our young people are the same ones who’ll be screeching twenty years from now, because an economy cannot grow while a population declines.

      And all of that said, I had two college degrees and a law degree when I became a single mom. I was still laid off twice, still could not afford health insurance many years, still had to go to without a paycheck when darling child came down with chicken pox.

      From my perspective, we are not a society that values women or children, though I hope that’s changing.


  3. Go grace go!!,me and my little sister have developed in our older year’s a mutual respect for each other’s views on most things but one subject we did struggle with was our husbands and our treatment of them.My sister adored her man but would stand no nonsense he was expected to pull his weight and share all the chores and raise the kids together.My husband was from the dark ages and his expected view of marriage was man goes to work earns money wife goes to work (part-time)raises kids do the housework and cook decent food and keep her man happy.I recently congratulated my sister and her husband their 38th wedding anniversary We made it to our 25th and have been split for 24 years.Young woman of today will not tolerate male chauvinist behaviour like our generation did.Young people’s views on marriage have changed so does that mean commitment to each other have changed or is it still evolving.Things have become better but for women we are so far behind it will be many years before we can say we are equal.Looking forward to Tuesday and meeting the girls in Brighton.

    • So some genius decided to do a parenting study on free time, and welp, you guessed it. In childless couples, wife has significantly less free time than husband, and when the first baby arrives, the gap WIDENS. Dad’s free time goes up when a child appears, Mom’s scanty free time all but disappears. This is true of both spouses work, true if Mom earns more than Dad.

      I hope you’re right. I hope the young people are seeing what a disservice it is to everybody when Dad has no identity other than, “Paycheck.” In fact, I have a friend who’s writing a book about this, and about how the gender wage gap blah, blah, blah is part of the reason men die five years sooner than women, part of the reason why men are more violent than women, more likely to commit crimes, to commit abuse…
      It’s not easy being a guy in our society, witness… you end up getting dumped after twenty-four years of marriage, and you don’t know your kids and grandkids half so well as your ex does.

  4. Changes I have seen (but then again I am old!). I see women in the national legislature in more then token (1 or 2) numbers, I have seen women execs break the glass ceiling (no one had even defined it when I started paying attention. I have seen women make huge inroads into the medical elite (surgeons, other MDs, DOs). In short I have seen the cracks start in the system. I will probably not live to see where it goes.

    What really grabs my heart is the increase in dads who are “present.” I work in public school and the number of dads in the volunteer force is a sight to see. I also see a growth in stay at home or partly stay at home dads. This is a sign of the support given to worsen who are out in the working world with the support and blessings of their families.


    • Let’s hear it for the dads who are dadding! Every long term study out there tells us that meaning and connection are what make life worth living, and yet, so many men are shoved off to the corporate ladder or nine-to-five schlep. They are paid better than women, on the whole, but oh, what they are expected to give up for that ten, twenty, or forty percent pay disparity… they are expected to give up joy, good health in old age, relationships, family time…

      I’m glad you’re seeing the changes. Those are good changes.

  5. I want everything you wrote about, Grace, but I also want childcare itself to become a respected and well-compensated profession. Many mothers (myself included) have neglected our own careers because we did not feel comfortable with the childcare available to us. It’s horribly costly, and yet the people – usually poor females themselves – who work at childcare centers are often poorly trained and paid minimum wage. Childcare will never attract qualified and skilled workers as long as it is seen as a job of last resort. With no relatives nearby to help out, I choose to remove myself from a career track in order to care for my children myself and suffer professionally and financially as a result. I was fortunate to be able to make that choice; many women have no option but to leave their children in situations or with people with whom they’re not comfortable.

    • Somebody did a calculation of the value of “caring,” as it relates to children, the disabled, the elderly, and the unwell. The result was that if “caring” were valued as a profession, it would constitute between 30 and 50 percent of the gross domestic product. The technology sector, by comparison is about 5 percent, agriculture is one percent. Finance–all of Wall Street–real estate and insurance combined come up to about 20 percent.

      But caring is “women’s work,” so it has, literally, no value. There’s a whole economics thread on how this a Bad Thing.


  6. Bless you. Bless you for having the skills to speak up, and the willingness to do so. Thank you. For that, and many books to crawl into for a reprieve from all the difficulties in real life.

  7. Pay equity for women; a decent minimum wage that allows women to survive; subsidized daycare for moms, whether single or not; longer maternity leave (in Canada, women get a year) — the list could go on and on!

    Thanks for your outrage on behalf of women. We need more of it!

    Happy Mother’s Day — let’s hope that each year, we have a victory or two to celebrate.

  8. I have mentioned this before; I am a woman conductor. One of THE MOST sexist professions is classical music, believe it or not. I get no respect because what I do is not an expected career for a woman. Instrumentalists–there are always harpists and violinists and cellists who are women and are more or less accepted–generally don’t have as rough of a time as those who traditionally more male, such as composers and conductors. I mentor as much as I can both young women conductors and composers.

    It might interest you; my springs concerts feature mostly women composers. Some of the composers on my concert were related to male composers(Fanny Mendelssohn’s little brother or Clara Schumann’s spouse)especially the earlier composers. Clara was a piano virtuoso, in addition to composing, and brought money in for their family of 7 (or was it 8?) children when Robert was too ill to do anything. She had some standing because of him but her choral works are charming (and NOT easy)and can stand on their own.

    We just want respect and to be paid the same for doing the same job as our male counterparts, nothing fancy. And someone to regularly take out the garbage without being asked! 🙂

    • My mom graduated from Eastman in 1940 with a double major in cello and directing. At that time, NO major orchestras hired women because — believe it or not — their dresses wouldn’t look professional. It took all the men getting drafted in WWII for Mom to get hired by the Baltimore symphony, only to be fired when they got back.

    • When orchestras started doing blind auditions, they ended up hiring women and men in equal numbers, and minorities in greater numbers. All it took was wearing a blindfold in order for the men doing the hiring to hear clearly. I wonder how other professions would fair if the hiring process were gender-blind. Would have so many tall white guys in the corner offices? Would we have happier, more productive workplaces?


      The Music Director for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra is Elizabeth Schulze, and she is very highly respected and well liked. But lordy, does that woman work HARD.

      • Auditions for the most part are behind screens. And the area leading up to the screen has to be carpeted so no high heel clicks. Most auditioneers are told to wear gym shoes so there can be no sound to tip anyone off.

        The American Federation of Musicians is very strict about audition protocol so they are clinically *fair*!

  9. By the time my son is grown I would like to see it be the cultural norm for all people with parental responsibility to be able to work part time/flexibly, so that no one has to sacrifice either their career or their relationship with their children (though of the two I’d give up the former in a heartbeat if I had the financial freedom to do so and had to pick only one – I’m not sure men actually get the best deal here).

    I agree also with Margaret that I’d like to see childcare professionals treated with more respect, from pay to training provided.

    I’d also like to see more financial and social support for young families – though I believe here in the UK this is light years ahead of where you are in the USA. I cannot understand why people cannot see the value in investing in children’s development and futures.

    Though I say all this I have no complaints about our life. I work five mornings a week – one of which my other half spends with little one in full, and the other four he does the morning routine and drops him at nursery. The women (there are no men for his age group) who watch him there are brilliant. My husband does almost all the cooking, as well as a share of other chores. But we are very privileged in location, financially, educationally and socially and I know the story is not the same everywhere.

  10. Reproductive choice is the change that means the most to me. When I was young, contraceptives were illegal for unmarried women in my state — and for all women in Connecticut. Today we needn’t risk our lives with illegal abortions, as I did as a teenager. My college roommate’s mother threw herself down a flight of stairs trying to miscarry a severely damaged fetus.
    I hope my granddaughters will have paid maternity leave so they can give our great-grandchildren a better start in life without economic penalty.

  11. I agree with every single thing you say in this blog Grace. I feel and think it every single day.

    But today I’m thinking of my mommy and wishing she was still here with me. She had a much harder life than I have had. I do appreciate her. I wish I had told her that more when she was still with me.

    Congrats on your ranking with USA Today. I have yet to read DUCHESSES IN DISGUISE, bit it is on my list. You are so good at what you do! Don’t put me in the drawing. I love flowers but my kitty would have them strung all over the house (smile).

  12. Heath care!
    My company was bought out and we have a new health care plan.
    It’s much more expensive and covers less.
    I read through the plan document and was amazed at what was NOT covered.
    Why can’t healthcare coverage be affordable?

    I was fortunate to have a friend and my parents watch my daughter when I went back to work after she was born.
    When scheduling and costs became a concern, I stayed home for a few years- enjoyed the time at home but, my career vanished.
    Why do women have to choose between motherhood and career?

    Equal Pay
    This double standard has been around forever.
    I hope when my daughter graduates from law school next year– she will be paid the same as her male peer.

    Happy Mothers Day!

  13. Amen. Amen to every word you wrote. I recently met with one of my state representatives, along with a group of women, to discuss domestic violence and related gun laws. When the discussion got heated, the representative told us “Trust me, ladies, I have this under control. Now, I don’t want to keep you too long…I’m sure you need to go finish grocery shopping and pick up your kids.” There is still so much work to do.

    One of my favorite changes in recent years is seeing women in powerful positions. When I was growing up, the men around me allowed women to be in charge of the children and baking. That’s it. It is so invigorating for me to see female CEOs and mayors and physicians and administrators and prime ministers and directors. I never saw that when I was young and I have seen the effect that female representation has on my daughter and it is POWERFUL!

    My other favorite change is seeing more acceptance for quieter and softer forms of masculinity. I was raised by a gentle, quiet father and I’m married to a man who openly cries when he feels it and encourages other men to discuss their feelings. My son is a kind, softspoken boy who is noncompetitive and intellectual. I am lucky enough to have been surrounded by gentle men/boys, but I have seen these men in my life ridiculed and criticized for not being “real men” or needing to “man up.” In the past few years, I have seen more discussion about how we treat our boys and the need for men to be allowed to fully express themselves in ways other than aggression and anger. Again, there is still a long way to go, but at least we’re broaching the topic.

  14. Safety and security for all children (and adults for that matter). Physical, emotional, financial stability. A social safety-net that works and non-existent homelessness. Then love, support, and acceptance.

    I would also like everyone to stop making jokes about incompetent fathers/husbands. Let’s expect better from them and for them, equal involvement in family life. Let’s expect them to be competent and engaged in parenting and be competent and emotionally available in marriage. Motherhood is a blessing and also a burden, but if you are lucky enough to not be doing it alone then the responsibilities should be shared meaningfully. My father did zero parenting of me and was only involved in the sports aspect of the childhoods of my brothers. My husband stayed home with my daughter until she was 1. Things aren’t equally split now in the parenting realm (I do all the specialist appt.s and coordinating for my son with special needs but his [paid] work schedule is both more hours and more mentally taxing than mine), but I get one weekend day “off” and guaranteed evening hours during the week “off”. Looking forward, I want parenting to stop meaning mothering in the next generation. Mothers shouldn’t need to get time off, fathers should be equally on.

  15. Oh yes! To your entire list. And I would add, can we PLEASE stop pretending women have the monopoly on being nurturing and loving? Can we acknowledge that men are (or should be) competent, intelligent, present caregivers too?

    I’ve seen some progress in the children’s books I’m reading to my girls versus the ones available in my childhood. Bigger animal with baby animal isn’t automatically Mom, for instance. And there is a growing acknowledgment among my college students that caring and manly are compatible adjectives. I sometimes have my students read Judy Brady’s classic essay “ I Want a Wife.” Ten years ago it resonated with the kinds of gender roles the men in my Southern California College saw modeled. More and more the men in my classes are frankly confused by it—That’s a great thing!

  16. OMG, you have read my mind! *Most* Women will pick up the slack, move mountains for their kids, to their own peril.

    My own mother had a heart attack at age 38, whilst i was in marching band, interviewing for colleges in 4 states, and she was working full time and going back to college full time. My father was playing at starting a business while he became more jealous of mom. I am now successfull professionally, with the loving support of my husband and kids. I have example of my mother’s drive, and determination to thank for that. I watch countless other women do the same. Grandmothers doing it as round two. Some kids appreciate it, most take it for granted.

    I suspect our current lawmakers, and administration, lacked the perspective of the mother who busts her butt for ker kids. The Womens March was hopefully the beginning. The voice of women like yourself, Grace, has the ability to influence the upcomming generation of working, voting females who will affect change. I have much hope in this.

    My grandfather always said I come from a long line of pushy broads. I carry that honestly, and proudly, as did my mother, grandmother, great grandmother, great great grandmother. Each one was an instrument of change within her community. You have written of similar pedigree for yourself. We owe it to our women folk who had fewer opportunities to not settle for less than what they fought to gain. Mother’s day has a way of reminding me of this.

  17. I would like to see care facilities that provide care across age groups (children, seniors, afterschool tutoring, etc.) in one location and that are open 24/7 to accommodate people with working schedules that are something besides day shifts. It would allow individuals who are care-takers access to expanded work opportunities because they wouldn’t be limited to day-shift jobs or cobbled-together part-time jobs with few to no benefits. These centers would also create jobs in general because there would be three shifts’ worth of employees to hire.

    My mind frequently drifts to ways to create jobs and educational opportunities for adult learners. If there are people who would be interested in pursuing an early education degree, why not offer tuition waivers and free daycare to these learners in exchange for a commitment to teach at said daycare (or another in this network of 24-hour daycares of my dreams) equal to the number of years the waiver was received? Same thing with medicine, nursing, healthcare administration, public safety, public works, and probably many other fields. Wouldn’t it be nice for a parent to be able to take a sick child to their normal doctor’s office at 8 o’clock at night (and pay a normal co-pay rather then an emergency visit bill)? Wouldn’t it be convenient to go for a run at 11 o’clock at night on the public outdoor trails because they are no longer closed from dawn to dusk, because safety officers are patrolling around the clock?

    I know this idea has caught on in some sectors. Think about the early bird and night owl sales and generally expanded store hours around the holidays. It would be nice if we could apply the concept to services for folks, not just retail.

    I don’t know how to begin, but I know I’d like to live in that type of community, or even better, for my son to have the opportunity to live in that type of community.

  18. Thanks Grace for all you had to say. I think you have made a difference in your law career. The biggest change that I have seen is the number of women in the various male dominated professions.Unfortunately when I have gone to college reunions we all have our war stories. I am worried that some young women do not realize they have a lot of work to do to continue the battle for gender equality.I am also concerned that under trump and the Republicans we may lose the gains we have already made.What I would like to see most in my life time is equal pay.

  19. I cannot express myself about how much I agree with your Mother’s Day blog. I am really sick and tired of men taking advantage of women and their children. Of not making sure their pay equals what men receive. When women were able to stay home and have their husbands support the whole family, the world was a different place. Now most women are required to be active in the workplace. Unfortunately most are in low paying positions while the fathers offer their children try to hide the amount of the money they earn. These are their children, too. I get very angry with men who have children being raised in poverty because they are angry with their x-wives. Get over it. These are your children too. Deal with it like an adult and show your children what love and honorook like.