Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

The Motherhood Manifesto: A Call to Maternal Arms.

Rosie the Riveter, a cherubic baby and President George W. Bush: Three images that don't at first blush seem to go together. Yet it's those images that open the new documentary, "The Motherhood Manifesto," which advocates for government-supported public policy changes to create a family-friendly American workplace.

With the words, "Republican National Convention 2004" across the screen, "Manifesto" shows an excerpt from Bush's presidential nomination acceptance speech in New York City three years ago. As the president noted that two-thirds of American mothers now work outside the home, he said: "This changed world can be a time of great opportunity for all Americans to earn a better living, to support your family and have a rewarding career. And government must take your side."

That's a quote from the 2004 Republican presidential candidate.

That's what's remarkable about "Manifesto," whose title harkens back to college days of debating political theory or studying Karl Marx. The documentary, produced by the mothers' advocacy group MomsRising [1], makes a compelling, bi-partisan appeal to viewers to lobby federal officials to mold the American workplace into a place that's friendly, not hostile, to families. It goes out of its way to show support from across the political spectrum. In addition to highlighting Bush's acknowledgment that government should play a role in helping working mothers, the film features Republican businessman Jim Johnson, who radically changed his company's policies to offer flex-time and benefits for part-timers to support his employees who have family obligations. While these issues are typically associated with Democrats, "Manifesto" makes the argument that the policies for which they're advocating would not only help American families, but would also help American businesses bolster their bottom line.

With a six-point agenda [2], "Manifesto"-- which also has a companion book [3] of the same name -- weaves a story about contemporary American life that you don't see in many parenting magazines: That when a woman becomes a mother, she is more likely to earn less than a father, that in some states she can be the victim of maternal discrimination, and that if she's a college graduate, she could potentially be losing $1 million in earnings over a lifetime. And to top it off -- the documentary, which claims that American parents work 500 more hours a year than did the previous generation -- portrays the United States as significantly lagging behind other industrialized nations when it comes to mandated policies that support families, from the childcare arena, to paid parental leave and sick time.


Several companies such as like Johnson's are spotlighted as examples of how offering flex-time, benefits to part-timers and the ability to take paid time off when your child is sick can reduce employee turnover and engender more employee loyalty. Invoking the mantra "more of what matters," a mother who works for a non-profit that allows her flex-time sheds tears when she's interviewed for the documentary as she observes that while she can have a career, provide her daughter with quality childcare AND spend time with her, some working mothers cannot.

Both the documentary and the MomsRising website [4] identifies these items as their key issues:

•Paid maternity and paternity leave.

•Open flexible, work schedules.

•Affordable and/or governmentally subsidized after-school programs.

•Healthcare for all children.

•Quality, affordable childcare.

 •Fair wages.

As the narrator, actress Mary Steenburgen intones, "Quietly, a movement is growing," the film ends with a plea to its viewers to take political action, to get parents to band together to press lawmakers for family-friendly work policies because the market is not providing them.

So, is the United States a pro-family nation, or one that simply gives lip service to family values and gender equity but doesn't put its money where its mouth is? That's a question whose answer the MomsRising folks are waiting to hear.

"The Motherhood Manifesto" documentary can be ordered online. [5] 

Editor's note: Mommy Track'd is listed as a MomsRising-aligned [6] organization.

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