Loving Mothers Well Means Fighting For Them
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. – 1 John 3:18 (NRSV)
Every child of God came from a mother. Mothers literally create bodies out of their own bodies, giving us flesh, blood and breath. On Mother’s Day every year we speak gratitude for these mothers, but if we look at our policies – the way our society and our world cares for mothers and caretakers – we can see that our love-speak isn’t backed up by “truth and action,” as the apostle commands.
After all, in America, the richest nation on earth, moms are dying at the highest rate in the developed world – and the rate is rising. The crisis is more severe for Black mothers, who are dying at 3 to 4 times the rate of their white counterparts. Women who are birthing the nation we will become, particularly Black women, are dying at unconscionable rates. This is a crisis of equity, a blight on a nation that claims to provide justice and security for all its citizens. We know how to lower maternal mortality rates, as evidenced by the fact that we’ve helped radically lower global maternal mortality rates for the past 30 years. We just don’t use those same tactics in our own home; we don’t invest in maternal health care for women of color. But we must if we are to live up to the promise of sharing God’s kindom with love and equity.
The Black Maternal Health Caucus, led by Reps. Alma Adams and Lauren Underwood, has created a set of bills called the “Momnibus” Act of 2021 to help this nation put its money where its mouth is and invest in black maternal health initiatives, which will ultimately help all mothers who are in danger of dying in this country because of insufficient health care. Congresswoman Adams shared the key points of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus in our recent Mind the Gap: Motherhood webinar. We encourage you to support this bill by writing to your congresspeople, promoting it on social media, and finding ways to support black maternal health in your communities.
However, our nation’s negligence toward mothers will not be solved solely by helping women through the trials of childbirth. After all, motherhood isn’t just about giving birth, it’s about caring for our children and our loved ones throughout their lives. Caretaking is a life-long affair, and mothers (and their spouses) are put in impossible positions daily by our nation’s lack of paid family leave. By not giving parents reasonable time off, or penalizing them financially for taking time to care for their loved ones, most families are forced to make hard decisions, which are statistically more likely to fall on the backs of moms.
Many women are forced to leave the workforce in order to care for children or other family members, exacerbating the wealth gap between men and women and making it harder for mothers to re-enter the workforce for equitable wages once their children are older. If these women have debt – particularly from student loans, taken out in order to improve their earning potential – this forced exit is particularly harsh, leaving them with money owed and no means of paying it back, despite the fact that the work they are doing – raising the next generation of American citizens – is vital to our economy’s future.
We cannot continue to act as though our investment in women and mothers is negotiable. This Mother’s Day, don’t just tell your mom you love her. Show her, by advocating for Paid Leave for All, student debt cancellation, and investment in care infrastructure (see Biden’s American Jobs Plan). Also, remember that mothers all over the world are likewise struggling for justice and equity in their own context. As we lift our own mothers up, let us not let our sisters across the globe who are struggling for access to education, maternal health, and land rights so that they can live full and sustainable lives with their children and families as well. You can use the resource of our first webinar in our four-part Mind the Gap Series on Motherhood. Congresswoman Alma Adams and others give concrete ways that we can be supportive of Momnibus, paid leave for all, global mothers and more. We are all in this work together, raising the next generation of caretakers for this impossible, beautiful world.
Rev. Sekinah Hamlin is the Economic Justice Minister for the United Church of Christ