By Kayla Frawley
Every year I make a list of what I want for Mother’s Day. In order to make the flowers and brunch reservations less ironic I end up reflecting on progress, grief, and what mothers might need in order to celebrate our holiday — this year.
For a country whose maternal mortality rate is the highest among its peers in the world, and in a state where the predominant reason for death in the postpartum period is suicide and drug overdose among new parents, you could say it’s not a great time to be a mom here.
So, in traditional fashion, here is my Mother’s Day wish list for 2023.
Bail moms out. Approximately 150,000 incarcerated mothers will spend Mother’s Day behind bars. Nearly 60% of women in prison are mothers and 80% of women in jails are mothers awaiting trial. This year is the third annual Black Mama’s Day Bail Out. Between May 6 and May 12 organizers across the nation bail out as many mothers and caregivers as they can. Black Mama’s Day Bail Out brings awareness to the cruelties and predatory practices of pretrial detention and strives to make sure moms can spend Mother’s Day with their loved ones.
Get rid of the guns, obviously. This year, with a Democratic majority, the Colorado General Assembly failed moms by not passing House Bill 23-1230, a bill that would have banned assault rifles in Colorado. This perpetuates gun violence in our communities and kills our children. Join Moms Demand Action and our children — Students Demanding Action on May 13, when we rally to ban assault rifles across our country.
We’ve got universal preschool. Now let’s think about universal child care. It is no secret that mothers, single parents, and primary caretakers do not get to climb the career and income ladder as fast, because we often don’t have access to affordable and flexible child care. COVID sent millions of women and mothers out of the workforce, and CNN ran headlines like “Working mothers are quitting to take care of their kids, and the US job market may never be the same.” We regressed, possibly, a couple of generations back for women’s equality in the workforce and only exacerbated racial inequities. Access to affordable child care has been a need for single parents for generations. Colorado recently passed universal preschool, which will allot 15 hours a week for 4-year-olds and 10 hours a week for 3-year-olds. Any working parent knows that math doesn’t add up, and we need full-time child care for working people. Parents with unmet child care needs were 26% more likely to report their mental health had gotten worse in 2022 alone.
Enforce and implement equal pay for equal work. In 2019 we passed the Equal Pay for Equal Work in Colorado, but because so many women experienced their employers breaking this law we had to go back to the Capitol in 2023 with sponsors like Reps. Serena Gonzalez-Gutierrez and Jennifer Bacon, and Sens. Jessie Danielson and Janet Buckner to pass Senate Bill 23-105, “Ensure Equal Work for Equal Pay,” so that we could build a pathway to enforce the law. Follow the law if you are an employer — and if your employer doesn’t follow the law, become a whistleblower for the rest of us.
Pay us for our work, period. Colorado Fiscal Institute reported Colorado lost over $45 million in annual tax revenue through $730 million in wage theft from 440,000 Coloradan workers. Latine workers are the most likely to experience wage theft and women are much more likely to experience wage theft than men. Wage theft is a serious problem in Colorado,
Learn about a New Way Forward and Update the Registry. These are two pieces of federal legislation that will address harmful provisions of immigration law that drive racist enforcement practices and expand incarceration in immigration detention centers and deportations while also building a pathway to citizenship for nearly 8.5 million people. Migrant mothers burden some of the most horrendous forms of reproductive injustice, so advocating for immigrant rights is always important.
Fund and sustain mental and behavioral health support services for new parents, especially single parents. Any new parent can tell you how hard it has become to transition to parenthood as a working Coloradan. Wrap-around supports for substance use disorder, and other mental and behavioral health supports could help prevent the No. 1 killer of Colorado moms postpartum — suicide and overdose — by way of mental and behavioral health disorders.
With no federal minimum amount of maternity leave, U.S. policy and culture have left moms dying. As one mom put it, “Taking an hour for yourself is harder than killing yourself — that’s what it came down to.” There is a plethora of policies and structural changes to make for us moms if folks would like to celebrate.
And the flowers would be nice, too.
Kayla Frawley (she/her/hers) is a single mom in Denver, former midwife, and currently the legislative director with ProgressNow. She wrote this piece for Colorado Newsline, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where it first appeared.
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