"There is nothing wrong with change, if its in the right direction."

June 24, 2008

I really don't want this to become a political blog, but Sen. Obama made a very interesting speech about working mothers yesterday, and since its gotten very little press coverage I wanted to highlight it here - mostly because he's saying things that I'm not sure I ever believed I'd hear a Presidential candidate say.

The complete text of his prepared remarks is on-line here, but let me pull out some specific points:

"As the son of a single mother, I also don’t accept an America that makes women choose between their kids and their careers. It’s not acceptable that women are denied jobs or promotions because they’ve got kids at home. It’s not acceptable that forty percent of working women don’t have a single paid sick day. That’s wrong for working parents, it’s wrong for America’s children, and it’s not who we are as a country."

His specific proposals include:

+ Expand the Child and Dependent Care tax credit to cover up to 50% credit for child care expenses
+ Require employers to provide all workers with seven paid sick days per year.
+ "I’ll support a 50-state strategy to adopt paid-leave systems, and set aside $1.5 billion to fund it." (Is he talking about paid maternity/parental leave here?)
+ Index the minimum wage to inflation so that it goes up each year to keep pace with rising costs.
+ Double funding for after-school programs.
+ Spend $10 billion for "quality, affordable" early childhood education.
Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to:
+ Cover businesses with as few as 25 employees. (Currently only businesses with 50 or more employees must offer leave under FMLA.)
+ Allow parents to take 24 hours of annual leave to join school activities.
+ Allow workers to take leave to care for elderly parents.
+ Cover employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

Many of these proposals speak clearly with the voice of a household where there are two working parents. Michelle Obama has been speaking (and has been spoken of) as a working mother (or, these days, I guess that's really a former working mother), and while her executive position is very different from women like me working in offices and call centers across America, I can't imagine that her problems are much different - how do I spend enough time with my child(ren) to instill my values and viewpoint? How do I balance all this?