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Are we failing our mothers?

With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, we’ve been thinking about moms and the important role they play in families and communities.  Moms aren’t just important to us on a personal level – sure, she gave birth to you and fed you when you were a tiny baby and patiently bandaged your skinned knees every day during that one clumsy summer – but in many ways, moms are also the backbone of our communities.

This week, we have seen evidence of how we are failing our moms as a nation, as a state, and as  communities.  First up, Save the Children released their 2012 report on the State of the World’s Mothers.    While much of the report focuses on child nutrition worldwide, it also ranks 165 nations by where it is best to be a mother.  Unsurprisingly, the industrialized world ranks high and sub-Saharan Africa ranks low.  The United States comes in at 25, one spot below Belarus and a spot above the Czech Republic.

Why doesn’t the US do better in the rankings?  A few factors contribute to the poor ranking:

  1. The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.  A woman in the US has a 1 in 2,100 chance of dying in childbirth or from a pregnancy related cause.
  2. The United States also has a high under-5 mortality rate.  A child born in the US has an 8 in 1,000 chance of not seeing their 5th birthday.
  3. The United States lags our peer nations in preschool enrollment.  Our enrollment numbers are comparable to those in Poland and Greece.
  4.  The United States is the only developed nation that does not guarantee paid maternity leave and only one of a handful among all countries.

It isn’t just our nation that is failing us, Nebraska also does a poor job of supporting working moms.  Nebraska recently received an “F” for the lack of paid leave for new parents.  As a state, we do nothing beyond the federal requirements in the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers with more than 50 employees provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to families.   Research shows that paid leave has a number of benefits – including increased bonding with the infant, better likelihood of trying breastfeeding and of breastfeeding longer, and increased likelihood of regular visits with their pediatrician.   Families with paid leave are also more likely to take their time in making child care arrangements before they return to work, placing their child in reliable placements and not left scrambling for a place that will take their new baby so they can get back to work.

We were also reminded this week about the importance of safe, quality, reliable child care.  The Lincoln Journal Star reported  about the death of 1-year-old Zachary Taylor while at daycare.  While we don’t know anything more about the circumstances of Zachary’s death than reported by the media, it is important to note that the child care he was at was not licensed by the state.  With 95% of children in Nebraska under the age of 5 with at least one working parent, we know there is a need for safe, quality child care, but accessing that care is difficult for low-income and even middle-income families.  Sometimes, parents, and moms in particular, are forced to take what is available and affordable, even if it isn’t the very best place their child could be.

This Sunday, as we honor and thank our own moms, let’s also recommit ourselves to making Nebraska a better place to be a mom by improving policies that help make mom’s job a little easier.

Thank you to taking the time to share!

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