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The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation Hardcover – April 1, 2010
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The joy of having a baby quickly morphed into logistical panic when Devorah Gartner learned her newborn had suffered a prenatal stroke and needed daily physical therapy. So the computer software manager asked her employer for a month's leave to care for her daughter. The answer was no, which meant Gartner had to quit her job to care for her child. She lost her health insurance and spiraled into debt.
This is not an individual tragedy, writes Sharon Lerner in ""The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation,"" but a national fiasco.
The U.S. is failing its mothers. The happy event of a birth often presages disaster for women in this country, the majority of whom get little support in the form of affordable, quality childcare or guaranteed paid maternity leave.
Lerner wants to get the revolution started, and her book is a direct appeal for federal intervention to help moms struggling to hold jobs and raise kids at the same time.
Dads have challenges too, and increasingly pitch in with housework and childcare, but it's mothers who still, on average, weather the financial and domestic impact of raising children.
After becoming parents, most women's incomes go down, while for men, salaries go up. Giving birth, writes Lerner, is ""the new financial turning point in many women's lives."" She even digs up one study that finds each child a woman has increases her probability of being poor by 5.4 percentage points.
The debate of the past decade over whether women should choose to work or stay home with kids is a perverse diversion, argues Lerner persuasively.
There is, in fact, no real choice. Women usually neither ""opt out"" of work, nor do they gamely pump breast milk while typing on BlackBerrys in executive suites, since so few occupy those suites to being with, and so many are pushed out by employers hostile to flex-time or part-time work.
One of Lerner's most important contributions here is to remind working parents that the out-of-control feeling is not their fault: It's a policy problem.
Women may be working more, but families somehow have less to work with, as the cost of food, gas, housing and healthcare increases. This leads to situations such as that faced by Gartner, who was compelled by a sick child and no flex-time to quit the very job that provided her family's insurance.
The recently passed healthcare bill may soon ease the burden, especially for women who will no longer be denied insurance because of the ""pre-existing condition"" of pregnancy. But getting companies to step up won't do, Lerner writes.
There is no widespread economic justification for corporations to initiate flexible workplace provisions for hourly workers, the majority of whom are women. Even the few family-friendly companies that do honor flex-time cover only a small percentage of full-time salaried workers.
The solution? Lerner calls for more government intervention, in the form of mandated paid maternity leave, paid sick leave and a national system of affordable, accessible childcare.
Without these supports, working parents can face emotional and physical agonies.
Take, for example, the issue of maternity leave. It's not just a nicety to allow women to coo in seclusion with their newborns. Often, it's a medical necessity.
Women who have had Caesarians are told by doctors to rest for several weeks — but the majority go back to work sooner than that, at risk of losing wages or even their jobs. (Shockingly, only 42% of working mothers stay home for the first 12 weeks of their babies' lives.)
What really makes a working mother want to weep, however, is knowing how good it is elsewhere.
The United States is one of just a handful of countries that do not offer paid maternity leave. Nations such as Germany or Australia dole out money just for having kids. And after infancy is over, there is free, high-quality ch
From the Inside Flap
Only 42 percent of working mothers in the United States stay home for the first twelve weeks of their infants' lives.
Because of their desperate need for income and flexibility, moms make up the vast majority of people who get caught up in multilevel-marketing schemes.
Throughout the country, it is harder, rather than easier, for women to get health insurance once they're pregnant.
There may not be any shooting going on, but plenty of American mothers feel like they're under siege. Between inadequate and, in many cases, nonexistent maternity leave, prohibitively expensive child care, and employers who are neither required nor inclined to make any concessions to the needs of working mothers, the American mom is routinely forced to choose between caring for her family and keeping her job—and the desperately needed income and benefits that go with it. These are not simply the problems of individuals; they have a serious negative impact on America as a whole.
In The War on Moms, respected journalist Sharon Lerner reveals the great sea of beleaguered and overburdened people in America—mostly women, but some men, too—stuck between the need to support their families and the desire to live a decent life with them. Single or part of a couple in which both partners work, they have no one at home to handle the inevitable overflow of domestic responsibilities, leaving them impossibly squeezed by the combination of work and family that constitutes everyday life. Lerner connects this dismaying trend with the fact that the remarkable three-decade trajectory of women's advances in the working world has begun to flatten out, stall, and even decline in the United States in recent years. Lerner combines compelling and heart-wrenching interviews with stressed-out, struggling, financially-strapped moms—she had plenty to interview—with convincing statistical evidence of the size, severity, and impact of this growing problem. She exposes some of the most popular assumptions about the imbalance of work and life in this country as oversimplifications—and sometimes outright fictions. Perhaps the most insidious are that women are to blame for their problems; that male partners alone are the root of the problem; and that high-end employers could solve everything if they wanted to. She also exposes the myth of the feud between working mothers and stay-at-home moms.
What do America's moms need that they're not getting? According to Lerner, guaranteed paid maternity leave; decent, affordable child care; health coverage; and good, flexible work options would make a huge difference. She shows that generous policies to support women in other industrial nations have increased fertility as well as women's participation in the work force—and makes the case that these supports could lessen both the depression among mothers and the financial stresses that many families experience after childbirth in the United States.
Nobody officially declared a war on motherhood, but the result couldn't be much worse if they had. Read The War on Moms and find out what must be done to stop the fighting.
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Top Customer Reviews
According to Lerner there are still a huge number of women who bear most of the burden for children and family. Women may now be paid nearly as well as men, but mostly because men are being paid less. Furthermore the attitude toward women in the workplace has become more of a problem. Women needing sick days, time off to take a child to the doctor, or time off to address a child's problems at school, face altitudinal barriers that threaten their career and livelihood. In some cases, if a woman becomes pregnant, that fact alone may harm her career. Some employers assume that with her "right" to abortion, the woman must "fix" the problem or lose her job.
Sharon Lerner presents a mound of data to support her concern for moms. Lerner interviewed many women from various parts of America and an impressive cross section of occupations, races, and socio-economic groups. Leaner also gathered employment statistics from credible sources such as: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Rutgers Center for American Women in Politics; Bureau of Labor Statistics; National Vital Statistics Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Labor; and even the CIA.
Sharon Lerner bemoans the reality that the USA does not support maternity leave for women in the workplace. In 1919, at an international conference on labor, thirty three countries recognized protected leave for childbirth, but the United States abstained.Read more ›
It's not easy being a mom, and it's becoming more and more so in America. You probably already knew that, but what author Lerner can provide in this fast blow to the gut are the numbers and facts to back that statement up. Interspersed with anecdotal tales of tragedy and of well-meaning, loving families sinking into heart-rending poverty at the birth of a developmentally challenged child, or the unexpected loss of a job, the reader will also find hard facts and comparisons - including numbers and data from poverty-stricken, non-industrialized nations that still treat motherhood with more care and dignity than America does (America being "one of only five nations - rich or poor - not to grant new mothers paid time off).
"The War on Moms" is a quick read, and yet essential for anyone thinking about becoming a parent. Lerner argues - correctly, in my opinion - that we need to empower women and mothers to make choices: choices about whether or not to work outside the home, choices about when to return to work after giving birth, choices about how their children will be cared for. Lerner strenuously avoids the "good mommy"/"bad mommy" rhetoric by arguing that such divisive tactics only hurt people in the long run and do nothing to help individuals make the choices that are best for them.
Most notably, Lerner brings to light the "puppy mentality" that so many people in America hold - that children are novelty 'pets' and that the onus for caring and raising should fall solely on the parent and never on their employers or society. Yet who will be the doctors and engineers and builders and teachers if no one ever has children or raises them to be strong, healthy members of society?Read more ›
Lerner takes us through different chapters where she focuses on different issues that mothers face today. There are plenty of examples that everyone should relate to. First, there is a mother who ended up having to quit her job because her baby's needs became so demanding that it was all that she could do to stay afloat with medical bills, doctors' appointments, therapies and more. This woman and her husband gave up their house, their extras and more because the health care industry doesn't pay for most of the medical bills (even though they have insurance). There are women who are struggling to put food on the table by working and yet the majority of their paychecks go towards daycare costs where the women are barely making above minimum wage.
Political minds would say, "Go back to school and get an education." That's easy for them to say but the reality of it is not so straightforward. There are examples of women who want to go back to school but can't afford it because they can't afford to be fired for missing work or their partners are not reliable in watching the kids or for other various reasons.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
With regret that it took me a year to take time out to read this Kindle version, I can now focus on my feelings about reading Sharon Lerner's "War on Moms. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Lea H. Becker
Spend hours upon hours reading about how life is so unfair when you don't use effective family planning responsibly. Read morePublished 22 months ago by FastTextNow
"The War On Moms" shows how U.S. culture is set up to make life difficult for parents, particularly mothers. Read morePublished on April 7, 2013 by Silicon Valley Girl
The author thinks that working women should be given special privileges to help them have it all, ie. have their cake and eat it too. Read morePublished on August 13, 2012 by N. David
Very dry commentary with no how-to's on how to fix the problem. Was hoping for more insightfulness on how this issure can be turned around.Published on October 13, 2011 by julie
However I feel like it's a lot of rambling, with no signifint solutions offered. The text seems unorganized to me, and while the author's anger is apparent, it's in more of a... Read morePublished on July 17, 2011 by MicheleLK
"The War on Moms" has such an important message that I was very disappointed that it wasn't a better book. Read morePublished on November 28, 2010 by CrimsonGirl
This is an excellent book. I first checked it out from the library and now I have decided to add it to my collection of books. Read morePublished on November 19, 2010 by Michelle Koler
The War on Moms should be required reading for every mom and dad and everyone who is thinking about having children. Read morePublished on October 10, 2010 by Leslie dePietro