Our guest blogger is Melissa Boteach, Director of the Half in Ten project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Raising children is hard work. And no one is arguing that Ann Romney — who has been the center of attention since Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen contended that she “never worked a day in her life” — or any other stay-at-home mom doesn’t deserve our respect. But the question is not whether child-rearing is work. It’s whether the policies championed by the candidates afford the same respect and deference to the moms who have no choice but to balance the demands of being a breadwinner with the demands of motherhood.
Ann Romney has tweeted, “All moms are entitled to choose their path.” But unfortunately for low-wage working moms and nearly half of private sector workers, the” choice” is either “go to work and send my sick kid to school” or “stay at home with my sick child and risk losing my job or needed income.” That’s a choice no parent should have to make. Does Mitt Romney agree?
Women are now half of all workers on U.S. payrolls and breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of all families. Their incomes are sorely needed to provide basic economic security for their families.
Yet the U.S. also faces high rates of work-family conflict with few laws to support working families. One of the biggest culprits is workers’ lack of paid sick days to care for themselves, an elderly parent, or a sick kid — an issue that has been largely absent in the election debates.
Forty percent of private sector workers and 80 percent of low-wage workers do not have a single, paid sick day to recover from a short-term illness or to provide care for their loved ones. This leads to impossible choices for moms in the sandwich generation who are often working while serving as the main caregiver for an aging parent or school-age children. Missing just three days of work to care for a kid with chicken pox would mean losing the entire month’s healthcare budget for the average two worker, two child family without access to paid sick days.
Paid sick days legislation would enable workers to accrue paid sick leave and provide for provisions to help employers manage. It also makes economic sense as it costs businesses more in lost worker productivity to have sick employees come in, than it would cost to offer paid time off in the first place.
President Obama has come out in favor of such legislation. Mitt Romney, who claims to understand the plight of working people, has been silent.