Every few months, the concept of better supporting mothers bubbles up to the surface. An article goes viral, a politician makes a promise, a celebrity tweets a quote and we get all riled up. Atrocious, we say. This really needs to change. Moms deserve better.
And then it just goes away again—disappears in the ether, swept under the rug until we are forced to pay attention again.
Maternal health leaves the forefront of the conversation, while BIPOC continue to experience disproportionate rates of morbidity and mortality. Maternal mortality in the United States is increasing, not decreasing.
Employers stop making promises, while millions of mothers are forced out of the workforce—women's workforce participation numbers are the lowest they have been since 1988. And no, it's not happening to everyone equally; 80% of the workers who left the workforce in January were women.
Yet we push these upsetting statistics aside and get back to 'normal life' that is anything but normal—because it is not normal to not care about mothers. But that is exactly what we keep doing: not caring. The 2021 State of Motherhood Survey found that 92% of mothers feel society doesn't do a good job of understanding or supporting motherhood.
These things take time, you say? What a privilege it must be to have that time. Because many people do not. While our society takes its time figuring out how to better support mothers, people are dying and suffering.
Apathy is not an option. And you need to know that we see through your empty promises.
If you employ people, you can't say that you support mothers and then not try to improve your parental leave policies or make parents work after hours.
If you are a healthcare provider you can't say that you support mothers, and then not examine the unconscious bias that is impacting the way you care for BIPOC.
If you are an elected official, you can't say that you support mothers and then not push legislation forward that will support mothers at an institutional level.
You can't say that you support mothers and then berate celebrities who openly share their pregnancy loss stories.
If you say that you support mothers and then do not do a thing to actually support mothers, well, I don't believe you.
If you make mothers feel bad for seeking mental health support, I don't believe you.
If you make mothers feel bad for how they choose to feed their babies, I don't believe you.
If you make mothers feel bad about their bodies, I don't believe you.
If you support mothers—really support them—then great. But you need to prove it.
"It's just too great a problem to fix" does not cut it.
"I want to help but I'm not sure what to do" was understandable when you first learned about the problem—but now it's time to figure it out and take action.
Because until we actually try to fix this, mothers and babies will keep dying. Until you put your money where your mouth is, families will keep falling into greater debt. Until you critically examine the way you communicate with and to vulnerable people, mothers will sit alone in the shadows of mental illness, too afraid to try to get help.
You say that you support mothers? Prove it.
Here are a few ways to start:
- Women's Learning Partnership
- Planned Parenthood
- National Women's Health Network
- Every Mother Counts
- March of Dimes
- Malala Fund
- Young Women's Leadership Network
- She's the First
- Room to Read
- Save the Children
- Girls on the Run
- Give Kids the World, Inc.
- The Hunger Project
- GOOD+ Foundation
- National Partnership for Women & Families
- Center for Health and Gender Equity
- Parents As Teachers National Center
- Family Promise, Inc.