Mamas Day 2014: Beyond "Leaning In": How to Truly Support Mamas

Sunday, May 11, 2014

This post is a part of our Mamas Day 2014 blog series and is authored by Eveline Shen, Executive Director of Forward Together. It originally appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Every year for Mother’s Day, my two daughters, now 13 and 10, make me hand-made cards. Last year they drew a picture of our family — one Asian mom, one Caucasian mom, two hapa girls, and our dog Pumpkin — standing in a row, smiling. Growing up, I also made my mother cards. One year, it included coupons, each illustrating many ways I wanted to help her — with laundry, my younger brother’s homework, and dishes. I still remember the smile that spread across my mother’s face, the appreciation she felt for all her invisible work.

Now that I am a mother myself, I see all the ways mothers need support. Instead of hearing that, they’re being told they need to change and do more, in particular from two high-profile mothers who have access to many of the supports and resources that their children need.

One is Amy Chua, Yale law professor and author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” a get-tough parenting manifesto on raising successful children. To Chua, it’s all in the iron will, the “Chinese way.” Certainly parenting matters, but Chua doesn’t acknowledge how private schools, after-school tutors and world travel (39 countries before her youngest daughter was nine!), afford her children opportunities most working mothers cannot.

In “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” Facebook Executive Sheryl Sandberg urges mothers to work more to get ahead and hire more outside help in raising children. This is simply not feasible for a mother working full time earning $14,500Ö from their federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Most mothers don’t have any more capacity to push harder and work longer hours. They barely eek out a living to pay for the basic things their families need, like groceries and rent. Their failure is not in each individual woman’s ability to lean in more; it’s in a system designed to exhaust working mothers. Chua and Sandberg say improve mom, instead of the system.

To read more, click here for the original post on the San Francisco Chronicle's website.

Eveline Shen is the executive director of Forward Together, an Oakland-based national nonprofit organization leading the Mamas Day campaign so all families can thrive.

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