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Nanette Fondas's picture

Soccer moms, security moms ….. How will the mothers’ vote be labeled this year? Broke and burned out moms?

Possibly. A new survey of 12,000 women by Working America/AFL-CIO finds mothers so strapped financially that half said they’d take a second job if they had more free time. But they don’t have extra time; in fact, they have so little left after meeting the needs of employers and families, that nearly half of the women reported having either no time left or less than one hour a day.

Do you know a mother like this? She’s up early every day, getting herself and kids off to work or school (even babies and toddlers), cramming multiple tasks into each segment of the day, skipping lunch to get some mom duties done that cannot be done after bedtime, returning home to a “second shift” of cooking, cleaning, organizing, and high- to low-quality time with her family. Ever notice she’s online late at night? That’s an opportunity to get even more things done.

This strategy works for awhile but it won’t be long before she burns out. And if she spends her few free minutes each day reading, she might also become depressed to learn that mothers are 79% less likely to be hired than equally qualified non-mothers. And, as if that weren’t enough, she’ll discover the research that mothers are typically offered $11,000 lower starting pay than non-mothers with the same resume!

So “broke and burned out” fits the bill for this presidential election year’s label for the much-coveted mom vote. The Working America/AFL-CIO report concludes that moms need “more money and more time for themselves.” Will the presidential candidates--who want what may well be the swing vote of working women—acknowledge these real concerns? Not likely, Anna Quindlen argues in Newsweek . She says that cutesy labels like "soccer moms" and "security moms" seemingly give mothers a voice in elections. But since candidates ultimately do not take their concerns seriously, women might as well be Polly Pockets: tiny, plastic dolls who have no real voice or influence.

What can be done? Moms must make their voices heard, and there is reason for optimism here. Motherhood often redefines and revitalizes a woman’s political consciousness, say the authors of a collection of essays in the book, The Politics of Motherhood (edited by Alexis Jetter). Further, the Working America/AFL-CIO study says, "Despite the pressures, or perhaps because of them, working women continue to strongly support gains for women as a class. Eighty percent of the respondents say they identify with the goals and ideals of feminism, and 43 percent feel strongly about it. And they are not just hoping for change: 90 percent say they voted in the last election, and six in 10 support efforts to encourage voting by women."

Broke and burned out, yes. Political Polly Pockets, no. There is still time to let the candidates know that moms need equal pay, excellent child care and schools, paid family leave, and flexible work arrangements. Leverage that one hour left in the day to move America to become more mother-friendly. Join (or other mom-friendly organizations) and take action quickly and easily via online petitions and campaigns. Or write to the candidates, attend their rallies, and talk to your friends and associates about your concerns and priorities. Then treat yourself to a well-earned nap.

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