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Shaping the pro-mother agenda
MMO interviews Joanne Brundage of Mothers & More

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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 refinement process.

The spirit of our mission remained intact, I believe, but was better stated for all to understand.


MMO: Mothers & 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?

J. Brundage: 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.

What programs or projects do you have underway that support your current mission and advocacy goals?

J. Brudage: 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 need.

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.

motherhood in the media

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