My mom was sitting across from me at the kitchen table, coloring a kite for me to take the 837 miles from my home in Florida to Washington, DC.
She looked up at me and said, “You did everything right. You should be able to have anything you want; it’s not fair that you all work so hard and struggle.”
It may not be fair but the reality is that in the United States today many families are struggling to make ends meet. My husband and I are raising two small boys on full-time educator salaries in a state that has defunded education. Between student loans and the cost of childcare, we made the decision last year to move (back) in with my parents. This year, my oldest was identified as being on the autism spectrum and we began navigating the difficult terrain of parenting a special needs child while working full time. We have learned about how families with special needs children encounter therapies that insurance won’t cover, hours of endless testing, and many rushed afternoons away from work.
My family is not alone.
In my “Mommyhood” Facebook group I’ve seen countless conversations about the cost of childcare, about whether someone can afford to have another child, about staying home because they can’t afford to work, about how to squeeze every cent out of a paycheck at the grocery store, or about how to pay for maternity leave. At work, behind closed doors, mothers discuss the impact maternity leave will have on our evaluations, plan to help one another manage the transition back to work, lament over pumping in a closet or a bathroom. My childhood friend watches her nieces and nephews—five children—on her days off from nursing because quality childcare is unaffordable. The woman checking me out in the store told me about being a single mom trying to take care of her son and sick mother on minimum wage.
Once I started talking to people about making work places friendlier for families I realized that everywhere I went and most everyone I knew had a story. Some of these stories have been about how wonderful it is to work for a company that values families—about paid leave, earned sick time, or having a flexible schedule—but most have been about families struggling to make it.
When I was asked to attend the White House Summit on Working Families as an ambassador for MomsRising and my community I did not hesitate. I am honored and grateful to have the opportunity to carry the stories of my community to lawmakers and businesses, to tell them about what my family, friends, and neighbors need to thrive. I believe we can work together with families, businesses, and lawmakers to chart an economic plan that works smarter, and that prioritizes families and workers.
People I know are suffering and there is something we, as a nation, can do about it. For my part, I have been spreading the word about the Summit.
At pool parties in the backyard, on social media, in the checkout line, and at the park I have been speaking (and coloring kites) with people about what they think we need to make workplaces work for families. The response (and the kites!) have been amazing.
The people I know don’t want much but they are asking for policies that put families at the center of economics.
Join me in raising our voices as we tell lawmakers Monday, June 23 about what families need to thrive. You can tune into the Summit from anywhere at www.workingfamiliessummit.org. You can also share on social media about what will help working #FamiliesSucceed on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There will even be a live question-and-answer session with people attending the Summit; check it out at: Facebook.com/WhiteHouse. Follow @WhiteHouse, @AmProg, @MomsRising to get the latest on the Summit. You can also follow me @ms_tweed; I will be tweeting my favorite moments from the Summit and sharing the stories I have heard from families.