Family

I Am Tired Of Being A Woman And Mother In The United States Of America

Photo: True Touch Lifestyle / Shutterstock
exhausted mother holding baby

My parents divorced in 1978 when I was two years old. Right on the cusp of an accelerating divorce rate in the U.S. My father, bless his soul, was in and out of my life throughout childhood.

My mother was left to pick up the pieces and carry the daily weight of playing the role of both mother and father. We lived marginally above poverty (in the apartment building pictured below) — her salary was too high to qualify for “welfare” but not high enough that she couldn’t receive reduced-price bulk milk and cheese through her local “Parents without Partners” program.

Photo: Author

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Growing up in a home such as mine meant that the lines were blurred when it came to gender.

I was lucky enough to have two parents who consistently told me (and who believed) that I could be anyone I wanted to be — regardless of my gender or socioeconomic status. This formulation during childhood solidified my belief that this “fact” must be true.

So, it came as quite a shock when I did eventually marry and naively had children only to discover that even if women have passionate and burning desires for a career, there will be major obstacles along the way should they choose to also have a family. And, that these obstacles can disproportionately affect them relative to men.

Children are marvelous, wondrous beings. Mine, in particular, are amazing. But children are also time-consuming, exhausting, and demanding. Their needs are inflexible, requiring shifts in other aspects of life — like when and where one works for pay. Figuring out when to prioritize career versus family can sometimes feel daunting. It is an unfair dilemma and one that many men do not have to consider.

And this brings me to my point. I am so tired of being a woman and mother in what is the greatest country in the world. It is exhausting to live within our borders as I do. There are never enough hours in the day for me to work a full-time demanding (amazing) job and meet the constant needs of my family.

When my children were younger, we accumulated credit card debt to put them both in full-time daycare. I am a federal employee with a Ph.D. in economics, but the cost of childcare was still too high and the options too limited for us to comfortably afford care for our children while we both worked.

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During the day I work for pay, at night I work for free — making meals for my family, washing dishes and clothes, picking up toys and messes, transporting kids to extracurricular activities. And, yes, I have a spouse who also makes meals, plays a taxi driver to our children, and otherwise actively participates in our domestic chores. But even with a gender-woke spouse, the responsibilities on me are daunting.

This is why when Joe Manchin comes out with a declaration that he cannot support the Build Back Better plan, I want to scream into the abyss. It is demoralizing to have my basic needs, wants and desires continually ignored by the Joe Manchin’s of U.S. domestic policy.

Why are women always getting the short end of the stick? Why can’t we have the nice things — like affordable, accessible quality daycare while we work for pay? Why do those who have every advantage from a dysfunctional care economy refuse to afford those of us who do not have the same courtesy?

This year alone, we invested almost one trillion dollars ($706 billion) in defense and intelligence — an increase of $10 billion (1.4%) over the previous year. We consider that an investment in our safety and security.

Yet, when it comes to defending mothers, parents, the environment, and anything else in the Build Back Better plan, many privileged (mostly) white men fight tooth-and-nail arguing they cannot get behind a policy that puts families, equality, health, and wellbeing first.

Why can’t we be a society that does not blink twice about investing in our future — in our children (the workers of tomorrow) and the workers of today — and helping us achieve equality, full employment, and increased economic growth?

It is hard to understand how a country with so much wealth and advantage can care so little about hard-working families and the women who disproportionately sacrifice without pay or economic security of their future to create and develop the next generation of Americans.

 It is shocking to live in a country where politicians ponied up to the airline lobbyists during the pandemic to provide a $25 billion bailout in 2020, but who cannot find a way to bolster the childcare industry in a way that provides families with a developmentally appropriate space for their children to grow, develop, and learn to socialize in preparation for early learning — and equalizes the economic playing field for women.

As a mother, I am exhausted from continually being treated as a second-hand citizen in this country. I plead with those in power making policy-related decisions about how to invest in the future of America to take the Build Back Better plan seriously and get to work.

I encourage mothers, fathers, and anyone else who cares about the healthy development and growth of our nation to unite in one voice and demand change — demand better. It is about time we start acting like the great and prosperous nation we are.

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Misty L. Heggeness is a Principal Economist and Senior Advisor at the U.S. Census Bureau. Her research focuses on poverty & inequality, gender economics, and the highly skilled workforce and has appeared in outlets like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Economist, and Science. 

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.