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Liz O Donnell's picture

After a long week at work, and the weekend filled with two soccer games, a dance recital and a birthday party, I’ll drive 75 minutes to visit my mother this Mother’s Day. There’s no time for breakfast in bed, a manicure/pedicure with friends or dinner and a movie. That’s okay; that’s not what this working mother wanted for Mother’s Day anyway. You know what I do want for all working mothers? I want:

Paid Sick Leave. Almost half (48 percent) of private-sector workers do not have paid sick days. As a working mother, it’s common sense that occasionally you’ll need time to care for yourself or your child when they are too sick to go to school or daycare. It’s also likely you’ll need time to care for an elderly parent. I do. In fact, according to a recent Forbes article, more than 60 million families are caring for an aging or disabled family member. And do you know who does 80-90 percent of that caregiving? Women.

Fair Pay. Women are at least partial breadwinners in more and more households, and the sole breadwinner in an estimated 23 percent of families. And yet, women still earn, on average, just .77 cents for every dollar a man earns. For mothers, the gap is even greater. In fact the wage gap between mothers and non-mothers is greater than the gap between women and men.

Caregivers also typically experience a negative impact on their wages. They may reduce their work hours or leave the workforce all together. According to research from MetLife, for female caregivers, the individual amount of lost wages due to caregiving responsibilities equals $142,693. The estimated loss in Social Security benefits is $131,351. And the estimated impact on pensions is approximately $50,000. We can’t afford a caregiving wage gap on top of a gender-based wage gap.

Flex Work Options. I talk to hundreds of working mothers, and they reaffirm what I already know – managing work and family is not easy. Some women do it because they need to and some women do it because they want to. Regardless of the reason, the women I meet want to do a great job for themselves, their employers and their families. But outdated work styles and corporate cultures impede their ability to manage. Give a woman flexible hours, the option to telecommute, and the tools to collaborate with coworkers, and watch her thrive. When employee satisfaction rises, productivity rises too

Quality Afterschool Programs. Just as working mothers need flexibility in the workplace, they need it on the home front too. It’s time for our school system to recognize that women work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both spouses work in almost half (47.4 percent) of married-couple families. While the workday typically runs from 9 to 5, (and 8 to 6 in more and more cases) the school day typically only runs until 3 p.m. And in many towns across America, weekly half days are standard. How do working parents manage the well being of their children when school lets out and they’re at work, unless they have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs?

A Clean House. And finally, my wish for mothers everywhere is someone to clean their house. Women still do, on average, fifty percent more housework than men do. If women are working outside the home, contributing to the family income and paying the bills, then we need their husbands and children to contribute inside the home too. We need to free up women’s time to contribute to the economy, care for family members, and participate in the community. So breakfast in bed is always welcome – just be sure to scrub the pans and change the sheets when you’re done.

This post is cross-posted at Hello Ladies.

Liz O'Donnell is the founder of Hello Ladies and author of the forthcoming book Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman.


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