She lives in Royal Oak, has fulfilling work with good pay, a loving husband and two well-tended kids with another on the way.
In that respect, Danielle Atkinson is miles apart – literally and figuratively – from the other mothers of color who live on the margins of barely meeting the basic needs of their children.
“Things are great right now, because I’m in a loving relationship,” Danielle is the first to admit. ”But if my husband and I ever broke up, I would have less money because I’m the primary care giver.”
That may be a no-brainer if you’re in that situation. But it hit Danielle like a ton of diapers when she was pregnant with her first 4 years ago:
Women are the ones who step up to take care of their kids. It’s biological, innate, hardwired – whatever you want to call it.
But when other things get in the way – economic instability, like when a mom has to work 3 jobs to pay the rent and buy the food, then the kids are not going to get the mothering they need.
To Danielle, it became baby bottle clear: Workplaces are generally not kind to mothers.
For her, the first insult was no maternity leave. So she couldn’t afford to leave her job to take time off. Reluctantly, she did take 4 weeks unpaid but that forced her to spend down her savings just to cover every day bills.
Then, once her daughter was born, she couldn’t take her to work.
And then the double whammy to that: she couldn’t afford child daycare.
“I feel like I make a good amount of money and have colleagues who make a good amount of money but none of us can afford full-time child care, it’s not affordable.”
Looking through Mama-Shaded Glasses
Danielle’s expertise is in organizing … advocating for the less fortunate. At 30, her work has always been centered around issues close to her heart – but not necessarily things that were affecting her day-to-day.
Then B-A-M, she started having babies.
“When I became a mother it was like I put on mama-shaded glasses … I realized I was being marginalized in the workplace and if I was, a whole bunch of people were.”
Especially mothers of color.
That’s when Danielle birthed Mothering Justice.
It’s mission? Working on issues of financial stability in the workplace for mothers of color.
Only mothers of color you ask?
“Because mothers of color are disproportionately affected by these issues,” says Danielle, “they’re more likely to have the lower paying jobs, lower paying benefits, more likely to be victimized in the workplace … more likely to have less savings. [Research shows] they are disproportionately affected.”
But what about the rest of the mamas?
“I feel like when we focus on the most marginalized people, everyone’s living is better off. When we’re helping mothers of color then white mothers are helped and parents in general.”
What really stirs her up is that mothers have been totally left out of the conversation on these important workplace issues.
Here Comes the MaMa Agenda
Danielle was using Mother’s Day weekend to activate mothers to throw their weight behind the Mama Agenda.
She wants you to support a call to action so that lawmakers all over the state will listen to moms and support the 5 points that she believes are the most pressing among working moms:
There are lots of great employers out there but, then again, there are those slippery ones who are “stealing money” from employees, which really affects mothers.
How do they steal?
Like not counting certain hours such as training or overtime. Or, what happens a lot in the immigrant community, just not paying a person what she’s earned.
Danielle says there are laws against this stuff but there are businesses that make it a practice and prey on the fact that an employee won’t talk because she doesn’t know her rights. So you can craft another law, something like: “We recognize that this is wrong and we’re going to step-up enforcement and make the punishments stiffer.”
Affordable child care:
Women are really left to shoulder the burden of child care on their own … and it’s a real burden.
Paid sick days:
Allow a mom to take time off whenever she or a child is sick.
Family medical leave:
Allow a mom to take time off when she has a sick family member with a long-term illness.
OK, I’m a Mom or I Know One, Have One, or Will be One.
What Can I Do? Pray tell!
Oh, you’re asking how can you participate while Danielle is doing the heavy lifting of introducing this stuff?
Danielle invites you to, before anything else:
go to Mothering Justice’s website and sign the petition!
and then …
√ Write your local newspaper
√ Blog about it (like what I just did!)
√ Find ways to draw people’s attention to it
√ Attend one of Mothering Justice’s community conversations (sign-up on their website).
Of course, you could argue that the state government is really not of any mind to entertain this kind of stuff.
But Danielle says that moms – whether you’re a soccer mom, a security mom or a Walmart mom – all act with a singular focus, and that is what’s best for their families.
And who’s gonna argue with that?
photo credit: mama owl by kretyen