The Guardian New Series: America is Failing Mothers

The Guardian, a British newspaper and digital network of liberal stories from across the globe, has just launched “The Mother Load,” a four-month project diving into the world of parenthood in the United States.

 

The series will shed light on areas where the US is failing our mothers and families, things we can learn from other developed countries, and humanizing stories that showcase the incredible diversity of parenting in America today.

“…levels of stress so many parents endure is largely due to structural problems reinforced by our politicians, employers, and the entrenched systems governing everything from healthcare to education.”

In attempts to enact political action and change, The Guardian is seeking stories from real-life moms struggling with the reality of parenting in the one of the most powerful nations in the world. Got something to say? Share your thoughts at motherhood@theguardian.com – and mention whether they are permitted to publish your note.

What are we doing wrong?

As many mothers in the US already know, there are countless things wrong with our parenting system. Some of the most prevalent and striking failures that will be covered in The Mother Load include:

  • Lack of support in the workplace
  • Convoluted healthcare systems that are difficult to navigate
  • Stress and other mental health challenges associated with child birth
  • Cost of giving birth and raising a child
  • Balancing responsibilities with your partner
  • Societal pressures
  • Politicians who lack understanding and compassion
  • Unique issues for single, foster, and adoptive parents, and those raising children with special needs

Living Up to Unreasonable Standards

“In 2017, making a living, running a household, and raising a child is too much work for two people,” admits author Lindsey King-Miller, a mother who feels pressured to live up to the household ideals portrayed in sitcoms and movies.

The stress that comes with attempting to juggle parenting, a career, managing a household, a social life, volunteering—the list goes on—is nothing short of life-threatening. Oh, and did I mention the US has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world? Ouch.

Sara Wiles, a mother from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, explains why she let her crippling anxiety go untreated for two years without telling anyone. “I just thought it was normal to be that overwhelmed all of the time. Isn’t everyone?”

What can the US learn from other countries?

Let’s start with a few ‘fun’ facts:

  • The United States is the only developed country in the world without required paid maternity leave. 25% of new moms are financially forced to go back to work within two weeks of giving birth.
  • The rate of women dying from pregnancy-related deaths in the US is rising.
  • The United States ranks 104th in the world in female political representation.
  • The cost of full-time childcare is 85% of the median cost of rent in some US regions.

So, if you weren’t convinced we had work to do, I hope you are now. What exactly can we learn from smaller, and dare we say more sophisticated, countries like Iceland, Sweden, Germany, England, and others?

We need more support for parental leave.

By comparison and as detailed in this French comic, Sweden gives 480 days of paid maternity leave at 80%; Germany gives 367 at 60%; Italy gives 10 months at 30%; France gives 6 months at varied compensation.

Female politicians mean better policies for mothers and families.

Iceland elected its first female president in 1980, and has since been named the most gender-equal country in the world nine times and was recently named the best country in the world for working women. With females taking up 38.5% of the nation’s governing base, laws favor women in areas like parental leave, daycare, and equal pay.

“If our tiny nation has anything to teach the States, it is this,” says Auður Styrkársdóttir, former director of Iceland’s Women’s History Archive: “don’t give up. Just keep going.”

Inspiring Activism and Change

The Guardian explains that “The Mother Load” is meant to offer solutions for fixing our broken parenting system in the United States. We must come together to transform the perceptions, pressures, and policies surrounding parenthood in this country.

To be part of the solution, you can donate to the research fund here, or submit your comments to motherhood@theguardian.com.

Lauren Witte

Lauren M. Witte is a freelance writer specializing in corporate content, MarTech, and lifestyle pieces.She also works as the Director of Marketing at the Arizona Technology Council, a private, not-for- profit technology trade association. She received Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Creative Writing: Nonfiction and Studio Art: Photography from the University of Redlands in Southern California, earning Departmental Honors in both disciplines and graduating Summa Cum Laude. She currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with her partner, Ian and their corgi, Conan.

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