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Mothers Unite!: Organizing for Workplace Flexibility and the Transformation of Family Life 1st Edition
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Analyzing five national mothers' organizations, Rutgers public policy professor Crowley (The Politics of Child Support in America) makes her case for workplace flexibility as the issue most likely to unite American mothers into a coherent, politically effective "Mother’s Movement." The groups profiled include Christian-based Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS); Mothers & More, a support group for mothers moving in and out of the workplace; Mocha Moms, a support organization for mothers of color; the National Association of Mothers’ Centers (NAMC), which offers childcare and activities for mothers and children; and MomsRising, an online group that discusses topics of national interest to mothers. Crowley shows that the participants in these groups are mostly looking for community and peer support, and are much less embroiled in the “Mommy Wars” than the media suggest. Both stay-at-home and working mothers see the value in having flexible career options. These groups’ members are mostly middle-class, leaving out some lower-income women who might be most affected by broad policy changes, and aside from Mocha Moms, they are overwhelmingly white. Nevertheless, Crowley’s data shows that these mothers are indeed interested in family-friendly workplace reform, and she optimistically posits that if the groups coordinated their efforts, they could become a force for change.(Publishers Weekly 2013-05-20)
"What do mothers want? More specifically, what issue might be compelling enough to mobilize them politically? That's the question posed by Jocelyn Elise Crowley, a professor of public policy at Rutgers University. . . . All mothers want options. Crowleys' guidelines for advancing this cause―starting with groups recognizing their common ground―and data charts sometime s make this more of a textbook than a call to arms, but its message is nonetheless inspiring." BUST Magazine (Oct/Nov 2013)
"The book is well written and well organized. The language is easy to understand, kaning it accessible and useful to mothers who face such dilemmas, to policy makers, to employees, and to social service agencies. This book is particularly useful for those who wish to increase their knowledge of these issues, serving as an excellent reference."―Karen Damiano-Teixeira,Journal of Family and Economic Issues (Dec 2014)
"Mothers Unite! takes us beyond the Mommy Wars to paint a picture of hope: the prospect of diverse mothers' groups coming together to work for a better future. Jocelyn Elise Crowley intelligently unpacks abstract ideas about flexibility and mothers' solidarity (or lack thereof) to provide a clear road map for moving forward. Her book will open endless avenues for activism on behalf of families. She has made a truly meaningful contribution."―Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood In the Age of Anxiety
"Mothers Unite! helps us understand an issue that completely puzzles citizens from other countries: why the over 70 percent of American women who work outside the home do not mobilize politically around issues of daycare, maternity leave, and flexible work practices. Better still, it offers a blueprint for change. A very interesting read!"―Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University, author of The Idea that Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World
"Kudos to Jocelyn Elise Crowley for addressing a question that few have dared ask: How can we bridge the real and illusory divides that separate employed and nonemployed women? While others focus on the putative mommy wars, Crowley shows clearly and convincingly that mothers from diverse backgrounds share common interests and possess the potential to become a powerful political force. This book is a must for anyone who cares about creating a more flexible, humane, and family-supportive workplace."―Kathleen Gerson, Collegiate Professor of Arts & Science, New York University, author of The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family
"Mothers Unite! addresses a timely and important topic. The potential for mothers' mobilization takes on special urgency today. Contested images of motherhood play a prominent role in current culture wars, and mothers' vulnerability is heightened in the prevailing economic and political climate. Jocelyn Elise Crowley’s research on mothers groups’ stances toward workplace flexibility addresses a long-standing conundrum: why are policies that appear to offer benefits to employers and employees alike so infrequently implemented? Crowley’s answer to that question is new and original."―Pamela Stone, Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, author of Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home
About the Author
Jocelyn Elise Crowley is Professor of Public Policy at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, as well as a member of the Graduate Faculty in the Department of Political Science and Affiliated Faculty Member of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies. She is the author of Defiant Dads: Fathers' Rights Activists in America and Mothers Unite!: Organizing for Workplace Flexibility and the Transformation of Family Life, both from Cornell, as well as The Politics of Child Support in America. Visit her website at jocelyncrowley.com.
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In the 1980 comedy 9 to 5, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton hog-tie their "sexist, lying, egotistical, hypocritical bigot" of a boss while waiting for the warehouse invoices to prove he was stealing from the company. During this time, his wife is on a trip; his assistant is sent to a program to study French for make-believe expectations in Europe (under the false okay of their boss by the three women), and the office is transformed.
With the three women now in charge, major changes are the norm. The office is redecorated in bright colors with couches, an in-house day care center is established, flowers and pictures are allowed on the workers' desks, and the three women introduce flex-time or job-sharing, so that workers can work part-time, sharing a position with another employee that suits each of their schedules.
While the movie is a comedy with all kinds of hi-jinks, the office changes are reflective of the kinds of programs that Mothers Unite describes, especially workplace flexibility. In the movie, it is more of a fantasy, but in 2018, 38 years after 9 to 5, the fantasy may be coming a reality, especially with the introduction of computers and telecommuting. (The movie ends with the three women's future plans to keep intact the equal pay plan that they introduced.)
Professor Jocelyn Crowley, in her book Mothers Unite! is a real-life "story" comparing five women's groups in the U.S. that are designed to support mothers, working in or outside the home, in order to help them achieve flexibility and other work/family/related concerns at home and at work. The subtitle actually is an apt description: "Organizing for Workplace Flexibility and the Transformation of Family Life."
First, the author describes workplace flexibility policies: 1) flexible work arrangements; 2) time-off options; and 3) career exit maintenance, and reentry pathways. With many notes and resources, Crowley notes that absenteeism decreases and loyalty increases when workers, especially mothers with school-aged young children, can have quality time for both their job and their families. By focusing on five women's groups in the US, she hopes to show us that while they have somewhat different, but sometimes overlapping goals, changes in the workplace can happen, because "mothers organizing with one another on behalf of shared goals" has a rich history across the American political landscape." (p. 9)
The five groups that Professor Crowley researched and studied are: Mothers of preschoolers (MOPS), Mocha Moms (mothers of color), Mothers & More, the National Association of Mothers' Center, and Moms Rising. We learn about each group, their goals, their leadership roles, and how they have grown and changed over the years. Through the voices of women interviewed and the use of charts that show the percentages of women in each group advocating (or not) for changes in the work place, such as day care centers at their jobs, time off for family illness, as well as flex-time, we become more aware of the needs of women in the workplace more clearly.
She tackles many topics in Mothers Unite! as the Table of Contents indicates, such as Power in Numbers, Do Mommy Wars Attitudes Prevent Organizing?, Workplace Flexibility Options, and the professor's own Research Methodology. We begin to see a clearer picture of what mothers are working for in each of these groups. This eye-opening, heavily- researched book with the voices of the women, is a noble effort to explain the importance of these issues by women. Also, it demonstrates how Professor Crowley points out the many ways that these groups, if unified, could work toward common goals in the political field to bring workplace flexibility and other needs of working mothers (and their spouses) to fruition.
My Personal Comments
I applaud the efforts of the author to demonstrate clearly and with hard facts how this could come about, although in her conclusion she admits that ..."Transforming public policy to move workplace flexibility forward will not by any means be easy." (p. 191) According to her argument, which is counter to the current opinion that such transformation won't work because mothers are too different from one another, she feels her analysis shows her plan will work. The focus on her book is "unity" and she feels the mothers' groups she has included in her book do have the potential to turn their needs into a movement, provided that new policy ideas and leadership that lead to change "can be effectively harnessed." (p. 191)
After reading this book, I am convinced workplace flexibility can happen. The book leaves us with the hope that, as one reviewer (Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety) on the back cover indicates that: "the prospect of diverse mothers' groups coming together to work for a better future" is a hopeful one. With research writers such as Professor Jocelyn Elise Crowley tackling such important issues, I am very hopeful! And then every day can be Mother's Day!
This book's primary point is simple: The American workplace is generally very unfriendly to families and in particularly to mothers. Crowley describes the problems, constructs solutions, and suggests political organization and action.
"Mother's Unite" is set upon five mother's groups currently active in the United States: Mocha Moms, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), Mothers & more, The National Association of Mothers' Centers (NAMC), and MomsRising. These groups have three primary commonalities: (1) they represent working mothers, (2) they provide interpersonal support to mothers attempting to find a balance between family and work, (3) each are in support to increasing workplace flexibility polices.
"Simply put, workplace flexibility polices are any initiatives that provide workers with options regarding the structure of their work lives. More concretely, workplace flexibility can be broken down into three critical areas: flexible work arrangements; time-off options; and career exit, maintenance, and reentry pathways."
Crowley outlines these "three critical areas" of workplace flexibility in detail. She provides great detail on the sociodemographics of mothers seeking interpersonal support groups and their desire for a better balance of family and work. She also argues that the so-called "Mommy Wars" between stay-at-home moms versus working-moms is predominately illusionary, most mothers are non-judgmental of one another, but quite supportive and empathic to one another's social situation. Nonetheless stereotypes do exist, Crowley is anxious to provide the analytical grounds of mutual understanding.
Crowley demonstrates there is a great common political ground between various sociodemographic mothers struggling to balance family and workplace which is becoming more and more family-unfriendly. Nonetheless, these same working mothers desiring more flexibility at work express doubts in affiliating themselves with a political movement, let alone participating.
Crowley urges that there needs to be greater effort to extend these groups and include mothers who are currently underrepresented. For example, hourly workers, part-time workers, and stay-at-home moms who would like to go to work if there was more flexibility. Moreover, Crowley insists that the balance between family and work is not an individual problem, but very much a social problem. As such the response cannot merely be individual employers becoming more flexible, but a social response at the national level.
In this sense, it is important to recognize family-work policy includes not only mothers, but fathers and children too. Secondly, the problems facing mothers (and fathers and children) are hardly limited to families, but extend to American workers as a whole.
The U.S. economy is failing to meet the needs of working families and consequently the children, elderly and disabled that depend upon them. Millions of American families lack the necessary means to be good employees and simultaneously provide adequate care-giving to their children, elderly parents, and disabled family members.
When parents lack paid leave and work flexibility there is detrimental impact on test scores of their children. Children struggling in school with suspension, behavior problems, and scoring in the bottom quartile in reading, math, or vocabulary, are more likely to have parents who lack paid leave and work flexibility.
Crowley's obtuse political agenda is very unlikely to have extensive success, unless there is far more effort than provided by Crowley to unite low-income and high-income mothers/families. Otherwise these two demographics may not currently see their work circumstances requiring the same political response and policy. 41 percent of high-income workers report they have two weeks or less of sick and vacation leave combined, compared to 84 percent of low-income workers. 28 percent of high-income workers have no vacation leave, while 58 percent of low-income workers lack vacation leave. 76 percent of low-income workers lack sick leave, and 71 percent cannot take days of for a sick child, compared to 34 percent of high-income workers.
Also underanalyzed by Crowley is how other developed-economies offer far more family-friendly workplace policy. In Europe policy has emerged to address the tension between work and family life. For example in England mothers are allowed six months paid maturity leave, and additional six months unpaid. Legislation also allows workers to request flexible work schedules. Employers have strict procedures of granting or refusing such requests. France has perhaps the most extensive public-funded child care in Europe; every French child has access to child-care. Norway and Sweden are the most successful in providing social policy aimed at achieving a balance between work and family life. In Norway, maturity leave is 10 months full pay, or 12 month 80 percent pay. The father is entitled to the leave in place of the mother. In Sweden both mothers and fathers are allowed 18 months paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. In both countries child care has significant public funding and work schedules are commonly flexible for parents.
Crowley should be commended for an excellent book addressing the needs of a particularly very important demographic, i.e. mothers. However, the political efforts to constitute workplaces that improve the quality-of-life need to be extended to include, fathers, children, families, and all American workers The State of Working America (An Economic Policy Institute Book). To initiate recognition of unfriendly American workplaces there is hardly a better demographic to begin with than mothers. However, the concerns and needs of mothers are quite similar to concerns and needs of all American workers. It is not merely a matter of greater flexibility, but democratization of the American workplace Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism,After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action.