I’d like to nominate myself for ‘Mother of the Year’ for my performance this week. I’ve worked more than I should; I packed my kids’ lunch with healthy food they don’t eat; I visited my daughter’s principal while wearing stinky gym clothes.
How did I manage to accomplish such feats? I’m trying to have it all, and so are millions of women in North Carolina and across the country.
Today marks national Women’s Equality Day. It is the 94th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. But the fight for women’s suffrage began long before 1920. American women have been demanding equality at least since 1848 – and here we are, in 2014, demanding equality still.
None of us want to take a step backward and lose the right to provide for our families, but sometimes I feel like my insistence on gender equality creates a precarious balance between work and life. While I want to be the perfect employee and entrepreneur, I also want my kids to find heart-shaped sandwiches and a loving note in their lunchboxes.
Some days I win the battle to juggle parenthood and employment, but more often than not, I disappoint myself. Truth be told, even on the days I am victorious and shout “I am woman, hear me roar,” I’m doing it at 11:00 at night when I’m finally settling down for some time for myself.
I need to talk to my boss about these crazy hours and job responsibilities. Wait – the boss is me. I work for myself. The demands and expectations I struggle to live up to every day are my own. I know you’re reading this and saying “girl – I hear you,” and “hey, that’s so me.” I’m in good company – but just because we all want to be “moms who juggle it all” doesn’t mean we should. The expectation that women can and should juggle family and career is just another form of inequality. While fatherhood and masculinity come with their own set of challenges, women continue to experience the brunt of impossible ideals. “Women’s equality” starts with women stop trying to be everything to everyone.
Policy plays a huge role, too. Women – and men – need greater support as they meet the needs of their family. It starts with paid family and medical leave for everyone, not just those in professions and salaried positions. We all have enough day-to-day stress without having to negotiate with our employer – or skimp on meals – to afford to care for a sick family member.
A bill proposed in Congress called The FAMILY Act would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income (66%) to address health issues related to themselves or their loved ones. Aside from creating a situation in which workers can meet their personal needs without going bankrupt, research indicates that a national paid leave insurance program would benefit businesses by boosting profits and improving employee retention. Three states – California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island – already offer such a program to some extent. New Jersey’s paid leave program cost less than expected and resulted in a payroll tax cut.
In your “spare” time today, I encourage you to consider showing your support for the FAMILY Act by signing this online letter to Congress. It takes just one minute, but in the end it could further level the playing field for millions of families. The fight for women’s equality in America has taken over 100 hundred years – and we’re still not there yet. Paid leave gets us one step closer. So let’s wrap this chapter in history.