Real Stories of the State of U.S. Mothers and Where We Go From Here

Back in May, New America Org Published an article titled, The State of U.S. Mothers in 2022. It explores the challenging reality for a large population of our society and sheds light on the fact that moms are struggling. The struggle is both physical, mental and at home and at work. I personally felt the article highlighted some really important pieces of research, but lacked personal stories from mothers. This piece recaps the current state of motherhood and ways it can improve from real mom’s who are living with those burdens every day.
state of u.s. mothers

The current state of U.S. motherhood according to the data:

What this boils down to: mothers make up a huge part of our U.S. population. However, we do not support them in numerous ways: Pay equity, the ability to afford childcare, safety in giving birth, mental and physical health and the division of unpaid labor.

I took this information to real mothers to get their thoughts on how they feel our country values motherhood. We also discussed how our society can solve some of these issues. 

There’s no doubt, being a mother has always been hard. Being a mother during a global pandemic, when the entire world shut down including our care infrastructure, made it nearly impossible.

“That first pandemic Mother’s Day, I was due with Rowan any day. A nervous first time mom, I was getting alerts from Target and Amazon that the diapers I ordered were out of stock. I didn’t know if my husband would be able to be in the room with me when I gave birth. I didn’t know what would happen if I tested positive when I checked into the hospital to deliver.” – Katie
The fear and uncertainty mothers have faced is having a major impact.
“The pandemic, when I think about it, isolation is such a big piece of it. Being pregnant was such a gift and something I was so excited about. I was also so anxious about doing it during Covid. Everything I did I was so cautious around, like I’m pregnant now, I can’t be out and about. You want to be as safe as you possibly can but you still want to maintain the normalcy of your life. That was such a hard balance to strike.” – Ashley
The pandemic also shifted the way many of us work. It took us from office life to remotely working from home, changing how we see our co-workers.
“Being on zoom, no one knows you’re pregnant. If you’re having a tough day or you’re exhausted or whatever, no one knows. Physically seeing someone waddle around the office, that’s different. I don’t think there’s as much empathy through the screen as there would be if you’re in person.” – Ashley

The current state of motherhood is now clear. But, how can it improve? According to the report and the conversations I had, both emphasize policy changes:

  1. Care Infrastructure: A federal paid family leave policy for primary and secondary caregivers. Affordable childcare. Home and community based services and pre and postpartum support for all.
  2. Gender Equity within the household: A more fair distribution of unpaid labor between partners. A first step you can take in addressing this issue is to create a date night experience with your partner to watch the Fair Play Documentary
  3. Flexibility: The ability to create a schedule that works for all working parents.

“Seeing more leave for the secondary caregiver is so important. Having my husband around, waking up in the middle of the night with me while I’m breastfeeding, or to change her diaper while I got up to go to the bathroom. That sort of stuff, knowing that we are doing it together, is huge.” – Ashley

Each pregnancy is unique, which makes flexible policy critical. Sarina is looking for more than leave when the baby is born — like time off before one’s due date for rest and preparation. And a more flexible schedule post birth.

Movements like the Skimm’s #showusyourleave campaign are bringing awareness to paid family leave policy within the private sector, but the women I interviewed want to see it taken further and at the federal level so everyone benefits.

“How about an in-home lactation consultation for every woman who chooses to breastfeed? How about postpartum care that focuses on your pelvic floor health or emotional well-being? If we’re not also taking care of the mother who is a florist, waitress or teacher, we’re not doing enough.” – Katie
“I felt so grateful to have had the privilege of being able to work with a doula. I feel like that care is so critical. A doula is a lot of out of pocket cost, so it’s not accessible to everyone. I hope they are really taken into the medical community and considered a resource that can save people’s lives” – Ashley
The solutions are out there, but right now they aren’t accessible to all. We have the opportunity to use our collective experiences to advocate for a better State of Motherhood for the future. When we are better supported we can create the experience we want to as parents. 
“I didn’t realize how much empathy, patience, and creativity I had in me. Becoming a mother has made me realize strengths that I didn’t know I had. It has let me exercise these newfound skills in my personal and professional life.” – Sarina