working mothers and the struggle to make ends meet

This blog post was done in collaboration with Women Employed

I’ve mentioned my amazing mother many times on the blog, but today I’d like to give you a bit more background about her. When I was ten years old, and my brothers - Ori and Ziv - were fifteen and twelve, our beloved father passed away from a heart attack. I was incredibly close to my dad and his death was devastating. My mom continued to raise the three of us herself, and we knew our lives would change forever.

My mother worked hard as a Hebrew teacher, and at times worked multiple teaching jobs to ensure our lives would remain normal and full of opportunity. We played whatever sport we wanted (with the exception of football. Sorry Ori…), we went to summer camp, and she sent all three of us to college. I even went with my senior class in high school on a trip to Italy. But there were sacrifices we had to make as a family. Sacrifices my mom had to make. We understand how much she did for us and continues to do for us till this day. I can’t explain the feeling of pride that runs through our family. The admiration and love we all share always comes back to her. 

When I became a mother myself, I wanted to call my mom every day to say “thank you” (and to apologize for… everything). After my second baby was born, I only became more overwhelmed by my responsibilities, and more in awe of my mother. How did she do all of this, and on her own? It was at that point that I realized how important it is to support mothers. Mothers who wake up every day and take care of their babies through everything, with or without someone there to support them and witness their struggle.

Fortunately for our family, we grew up with a parent who had steady and stable work to rely on. She had benefits, a predictable schedule and paid sick days. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many women. Women are twice as likely as men to work at jobs with poverty-level wages. In the United States, nearly 17 million women earn less than $25,000 a year despite working in full-time, year-round jobs.  For low-income workers, over 70% lack sick days. For mothers, this can make life impossible. When their children become sick, they risk being fired or are forced to quit because they can’t make it to work. The risk is greater if there is no spouse, partner, or adult family member to provide additional care. There is a constant fear and anxiety over the ability to pay bills, put food on the table, and provide basic care for herself and her kids. 

In addition to low-pay and unpaid leave, 59% of full-time, hourly-workers experience schedule fluctuations. One week they may work 40 hours, the next they may work 10, but there is no way to know ahead of time. As you can imagine, mothers and caregivers suffer most. Finding daycare becomes a weekly and often hopeless endeavor. What daycare can accommodate such a demanding and inconsistent schedule?

There can be hope for the future. Costco, for example, has a policy of “core hours” for workers where employees are promised a minimum amount of hours each week. While some companies have turn-over rates nearing 100%, Costco's is only 11%. It’s important that our legislators work to make this the standard. It’s also important that workers understand their company’s policies, lest they be taken advantage of unknowingly.

There are many ways to help the millions of mothers in need of good and fair work. Women Employed is a nonprofit dedicated to serving women in the workplace. They work with lawmakers to pass fair workplace legislation and with companies to implement fair policies. You can volunteer, write to your representatives, and learn about your own rights by visiting their website. If you or a friend has experienced a hostile work environment, please write to them with your stories. They’re here for you.

We don’t have be alone in our struggles. We can be each other’s witnesses in hard times, and work together to secure a better future!

Nurit SiegalComment