Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
We Americans like to bomb moms. Whether it’s in a far away country where we send our children to kill other mothers and their children or whether it’s here at home where we drop economic and cultural and sexist bombs on moms, we definitely like to bomb moms.
Then we like to show the First Lady tearfully honoring her own mother from a position of power and privilege in beautiful party dresses in a china and lace-draped dining room in the White House– like a well choreographed ballet of national proof one day every year that we love our mothers. Doesn’t really matter which First Lady we chat about here. Each of them plays their dutiful role in the annual Mother’s Day dance of pride.
We don’t love mothers. We bomb mothers.
I recall being a young, idealistic mom who made her own bread and even prepared the natural baby foods and yogurt I thought would be best for my little ones. I suspect many in my generation did the same. I had such dreams and such love for each of my kids. It seemed that my tender hand could help them achieve, and my attention to their health and their education and their opportunities was my duty not only to them but also somehow to my nation and my world.
Then the bombs. The economic bombs came first in the Reagan years when my husband could not work consistently enough to keep the family afloat. I worked full time, and my time for tender pursuits slipped more and more. Paying the mortgage and the other bills was the priority. But Mr. Reagan said a new day was dawning, and he claimed such great love for all things American – mothers, apple pie and such. But millions of idealistic moms like me saw an end to our vision of family and home.
When I watched Michael Moore's latest film the first time last year (Capitalism: A Love Story), it was our story – a tome of struggle and standing up against the odds. Millions of people bought into the charade that hard work – harder and harder work – would make those American opportunities a reality even in a failing economy. The trickle down would surely trickle to moms, eh?
I was angry and tired and stressed much of the time through that era. I tried to keep up all the school activities, music lessons and chances for my kids to achieve, but something had to give, so I left behind the natural foods and the gentler, quiet, loving times. I left my own values behind as I struggled to hold at least some of the goals up for protection from the storm.
Our family never fully recovered from the Reagan year bombs before the healthcare bomb hit. Entering our middle years, fully insured and trying to be the ever responsible Americans we were raised to be, health crisis far outstripped my ability to earn enough for my family. You see in the 40 years I have been fully employed outside the home, women like me – moms like me – have yet to come anywhere close to earning what a man does for the same work in this world. No matter how hard I worked, I could not earn an equal wage. My labor was not valued much. We bomb moms again and again.
As my kids grew to adulthood, they each took their own paths in life. Mostly, they ran as fast as they could to find ways to not suffer the same fate as our family did – they sought better educations, better jobs, better friends, better personal connections. Who could blame them? The lessons my actions taught them in their formative years were that you protect and preserve the income flow and you pay the bills. You don’t make yogurt and bread, for God’s sake.
A bomb must be dropped on moms, yes sir, a bomb must be dropped.
This Mother’s Day, one of my children may well be dropping very real bombs on other very real moms and children as he serves in the Army in Afghanistan. The rest of the kids are spread out all over the country. A beautiful bouquet of roses arrived from my daughter yesterday. The calls will likely come to wish me a good day. I will cry missing them all. I will feel as though I failed them. And I will be right.
A bomb dropped on an idealistic young mom 30 years ago, and bombs dropped all along the way, have proved me too weak to fight it all off and come out on the other end one of the picture-book mothers we celebrate in the Hallmark sort of way every second Sunday in May.
We drop bombs on moms here in America and all over the world. We don’t value mothers as a nation. We use mothers. We abuse mothers. We take the hopes and dreams of the 20-something young woman cradling her infant in the wee hours of the morning and dreaming of a better world ahead, and we drop bombs on them both.
I hope in the years ahead we will fight for policies that stop this mom-bombing and truly honor our mothers. Healthcare, equal pay and social policy that protects human rights would be a nice start. Happy Mother’s Day 2010.
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