Mother Discrimination and the Importance of Children

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Technically, a woman can’t be denied employment or be fired because she’s a woman. But it’s okay to discriminate against a woman in the workplace because she’s married or has children. Men’s higher salaries are often justified because they have families to support. So why don’t single mothers also get paid more? Because it is assumed that it is her fault that there isn’t a man in the picture taking care of her. She doesn’t deserve a break because she screwed up. It doesn’t matter if she was abused or deserted. She’s seen as a liability not an asset.

Supposedly when men have wives or children they are more responsible, not less. But women are seen as unreliable and less committed. They use more sick and family leave, they hate to stay late to finish work or attend meetings, they don’t like to take work home with them, they’re not as willing to relocate. And that’s not even taking into consideration the women who never make it into the workplace–or only work part-time–because they’re the ones who are primarily responsible for child care.

People who want to deny the existence of mother discrimination are always pulling the house husband out of the hat, as if there are that many of them. But because a man usually makes more money than his wife, it makes more sense for her to be the one who stays home with the children. (If anyone does.) House husbands are few and far between. Then there are those who say that mothers chose to have children, therefore they have to accept what goes with the territory. Why do they have to accept it? Men don’t have to.

And so we come around the circle again. Why can’t we just agree that any family that has children in it, whether headed by a man or a woman, deserves all the support it can get: flexible work hours, the right to refuse extra (uncompensated) work, quality and affordable child care, health insurance coverage for the children? Those who don’t have children complain about this proposal, because they figure they shouldn’t have to pay for those who do. But what they don’t realize is, if they don’t make allowances now for families with children, they’re not as likely to have healthy, well-adjusted, productive people to run our country and our institutions and to support and take care of them.

When we’re relatively young, all we can see is what we’re doing, as if we’re responsible for everything. We think that we run the world. Our parents are too old and children are too young. We’re the ones upon which everything hinges. Well, guess what? Sooner or later we’re going to be the ones who need taken care of, in one way or another. Those former children are going to be our doctors and health care providers, our politicians and legislators, our policemen and firemen and on and on. If too few of them become competent, caring, and responsible, our lives are going to be hell.

Most of us take the time to plan for our retirements, but short-sightedly we don’t plan for our future. Children are investments. They will mature when we are old. We need them and we need them to be in as good a shape as possible. So why do so many of us balk at doing what it takes to make sure that they are? Let’s make sure that all parents have the support they need to raise their children to be healthy, mentally and physically. It shouldn’t matter if the parent is male or female: it’s the well-being of the children that is the ultimate goal.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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