|MMO: In 2002, Mothers & More revised its mission statement
from “supporting sequencing women” and addressing “women’s
personal needs and interests during their active parenting years”
to “improving the lives of mothers through support, education
and advocacy.” Why?
J. Brundage: Just
as we gradually moved from a very distinct and detailed name to
a broader one (Formerly Employed Mothers At Loose Ends
in 1987 to Formerly Employed Mothers At the Leading Edge in 1991 to Mothers & More in 2000), we have worked over the
course of years to refine our mission statement to better reflect
our work, beliefs and long term goals, and to give us more room
to move as the external environment changes.
In 2002, specifically, I think we felt that some of the terminology
in our mission statement lent itself to confusion (i.e., what, exactly,
is a sequencing woman? An at-home mom? A mother trying to re-enter
the workforce?? Members thought it was either one of these or something
entirely different) and some of it was limiting in its scope.
In addition, our mission statement at that time was very long,
wordy and overly detailed. So our goals were to clarify, simplify
and broaden, all at the same time. We went from an 81-word paragraph
mission statement to a 39-word, 2-sentence mission statement. We
also created a set of beliefs to provide more detail, but in a better
place and way.
We went through over six months of work, engaging our volunteer
leadership, local and national, and our membership overall, in this
The spirit of our mission remained intact, I believe, but was better
stated for all to understand.
& More released the organization’s first formal advocacy
statement— the POWER Plan— in 2003. The Plan
spells out specific advocacy and direct action objectives, such
as advocating that “unpaid caregiving work” be acknowledged
as “equal in value to paid work” and “that the
value of unpaid caregiving work be considered and reflected in any
reforms to retirement savings plans, Social Security and disability
insurance,” as well as taking action to “support legislation
at the state and federal levels that ensures proportional pay, benefits
and advancement for part-time and contingent workers.” Why
doesn’t the Mothers & More advocacy agenda address other
policy issues that affect the well-being of mothers in the U.S.,
such as guaranteed sick leave for all workers, access to affordable,
high quality child care, and paid parental leave?
Actually, the POWER Plan was the second time we had formulated
and presented an advocacy statement and plan. The first time was
in May of 1999, where, in our member publication, Forum,
we rolled out a set of beliefs and a set of three action objectives.
There was a more focused emphasis on sequencing and sequencing mothers
in that first round (the article was entitled “FEMALE’s
Perspective on Sequencing Women’s Rights”), but much
of what was in that first “National Advocacy Plan” is
reflected in our current beliefs and in the POWER Plan.
But, just as with the clarification of our mission and beliefs,
we tackled the formulation of the POWER Plan in a very
deliberate, strategic, practical and member-involved way. Our Advocacy
Department team developed a detailed collection of criteria for
determining issue selection and support, which included alignment
with our mission and values as well as practical considerations
(for example, is the issue easy to understand and explain, are other
organizations working on it, would it resonate with our members,
etc.), economic considerations (how many/which groups of mothers
would it benefit and would there be economic downsides businesses
or taxpayers) and whether it would help shift cultural perceptions
and expectations about mothers and the work they do.
Initially, we identified 25 issues for consideration. Using the
criteria we’d developed, we went through several rounds of
evaluation and elimination until we were down to just seven (access
to affordable, high quality child care did not make the cut in this
process). These included expanding the child care tax credit so
that it covers more of the real costs of child care today, is refundable
and is directed toward the work of caregiving whether that care
is provided in the marketplace or is unpaid; inlcuding unpaid caregiving
work in the GDP accounts; providing credits in the Social Security
system for unpaid caregiving work; ending the exclusion of unpaid
caregivers from other social insurance programs such as disability
insurance, tax subsidized pension and retirement programs, and worker
training; expanding options for parents to obtain part-time work,
which might include restructuring tax law and incentives for employers
and mandating proportional pay, benefits and advancement for part-time
workers; relieving the payroll tax burden borne by secondary wage
and allowing married couples to file individually, which lowers
the tax burden on secondary wage earners and dual earner families;
and giving employees 6 or more weeks of paid leave for a birth,
adoption or family illness
We prepared issues briefs and presented them with an online member
survey, and members were asked to first read all the briefs, and
then answer the questions on the survey, based on their opinion
of the issue. The issues that bubbled to the top in this round were,
in order, part time work options, childcare tax credits, Social
Security reform and paid leave.
The POWER Plan was created not so much as a prioritized
laundry list of external issues that we would then immediately tackle,
one by one, however. Rather, it takes a broader perspective, delineating
how we will begin to translate our mission and beliefs into action,
and referencing these particular issues as opportunities we may
seize when the time is right. But first and foremost, this plan
took us to the next step in defining how and in which way we would
continue to educate and raise consciousness within and beyond the organization.
MMO: What programs or
projects do you have underway that support your current mission
and advocacy goals?
We have a number of active programs and projects that support our
mission and goals.
We have a national network of chapters that provide face-to-face
programs and activities to support, educate and advocate for mothers.
We also have a bimonthly member publication, Forum, which
contains features on the issues mothers face, personal and bigger
picture, personal essays from members about their daily life realities
and issues, and organizational news.
We have a website that contains a lot of information for the public
on not only on member
benefits, but also lots of information and articles about mothers’
issues, and what Mothers & More is doing about them. We also
have a separate members only section where members can access additional
organizational information as well as view and apply for national
level volunteer staff positions. In fact, we consider our unpaid
staff opportunities and the virtual workplace we have created to
do our work to be a significant member benefit/opportunity. And
we have a separate website and 10 departmental email loops just
to facilitate that work and give our member staff resources and
professional development opportunities to do that work.
We also have over 20 member email loops, which are created and
moderated by members, in whatever areas of interest they want and
In terms of advocacy-oriented programs and projects, we have one
very distinct member email loop, our “POWER Loop,” where
members across the country can discuss the meatier issues we all
face in society as caregivers. It is one of our most popular and
active loops. We often have guest speakers on that loop as well—
just about any author you could name that has written about mothers’
issues in the recent years, such as Joan Williams, Ann Crittenden,
Faulkner Fox, Andi Buchanan, Judith Warner, Susan Douglas and Meredith
Michaels— and the list goes on and on.
We have something we call our “Apple Pie in the Face”
Award, which is an “honor” we bestow to entities from
time to time to call attention to acts that divide mothers or trivialize
the struggles mothers face in balancing caregiving with their other
needs and responsibilities. For instance, this award was given to
the Dr. Phil Show for doing a two-part show, Mom vs. Mom,
which pitted at-home moms against working moms, and to the marketing
and communications firm Euro RSCG Worldwide for its “Five
New Categories of Modern-Day Moms” which defined a whole new,
overwhelmingly negative and dismissive set of stereotypes that all
mothers presumably fit into.
Finally, we are just
about to go into our third annual Mother’s Day Campaign, which
is an event we hold every April and May to spotlight mothers’
issues, hold local chapter activities around those issues, and encourage
mothers across the country— members and non-members alike—
to share their real stories with one another. This year’s
theme is “Mothers: the Real Story. It’s About Time,”
referring to the need to recognize that caregiving takes real time
and energy to perform, that we all need more and better options
to fit the time to care in with all the other things we have to
do, and that time spent caregiving should not carry unfair social
and economic penalties. And we’re very excited by a new campaign
activity this year: several mothers will be blogging about and during
the campaign, via our website.