I was recently interviewed by Huff Post about the single mom perspective on the first presidential debate and specifically about Romney’s comment to discontinue funding for PBS: the home of Sesame Street. (You can read that article and my interview here: Mitt Romney’s Big Bird Problem: Kids Can’t Vote, but Moms Can.) I was driving down I-85 towards Chapel Hill, N.C.—on my way to see my mother whose mind is ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease—when I got the call from Laura Bassett, a Huff Post political reporter. Even though I had decided to put work aside for the week I travelled home and focus on my mom—I had to take the interview. My mother, a former social worker and political activist, would have wanted me to. We have a clear opportunity to voice our needs right now. It’s very important, moms, even if you’re insanely busy or overwhelmed or just plain skeptical about the political process. Maybe you doubt whether either candidate can actually get past polarized gridlock and politicking to actually get things done on Capital Hill? If you believe that, you may also believe that it just doesn’t matter what either stand for. I’ve heard that argument. But I think that’s a cop out.
I understand doubts and skepticism. But voicing our needs right now can only be a good thing: as America is listening. Politicians are listening. Business leaders are listening.
For instance, I was thrilled when listening to the lighter speeches that both candidates gave during the Al Smith Foundation Dinner. (Here’s a great NYTimes article highlighting some of their best jabs.) It’s clear that Mitt Romney heard our thoughts and our disdain for the idea that he might want to cut funding for Sesame Street when he said: “The president’s remarks tonight,” he added, “are brought to you by the letter O and the number $16 trillion.”
Clearly, momsrising.org was successful in its campaign to galvanize women and moms across the country about this issue. I’m thrilled, because so many of us just won’t get off our nonpolitical couches. Just this week I reached out to single parent groups and to more than 100 women in my network who are single moms to give them an opportunity to chime in. What do you care about, I asked? In my poll to give them a voice, I asked if they cared more about pay equity; affordable healthcare; affordable tuition; affordable child care; the right to choose, etc. It’s not surprising that only a handful responded. Perhaps we are saturated with all the advertising and debates and this messy political process? Perhaps we are skeptical that anyone in the White House can make a difference in our families’ lives? I think the gist to such low enthusiasm—amongst moms anyway—is this feeling that your opinion doesn’t count or matter.
I hear many of you single moms when you vent to your online parenting groups about a variety of issues such as expensive medical bills for your children that your ex won’t contribute towards; or child care costs you can’t afford; or tuition payments so crippling you are considering dropping out of college. I also hear from moms who don’t get any paid sick days and can’t take time off when their children are sick from school. Quality, affordable healthcare; equal pay on the job; affordable tuition—these are the important topics for single moms. (And, of course for most women and moms in America.)
Obama said it correctly during the debate this week, when referring to equal pay in the workplace: “These are not just women’s issues, these are family issues. These are economic issues.”
I know I’m not alone in these thoughts. Women across the country did respond. In North Carolina, a single mom was more concerned about quality schools; healthy lunches; keeping Planned Parenthood alive and avoiding war at all costs. In Arizona, a single mom cared most about security with our borders. In Northern California, another mom voiced concern about jobs; Planned Parenthood; and educational opportunities. Finally, another mom of three in Southern California said she cared deeply about affordable health care and student loans.
Again, what do you care about?
Please chime in and respond to my poll to keep the conversation going!