The New Politics of Household Labor

The New Politics of Household Labor

Even before the pandemic, women (especially moms) have been talking about the new politics of household labor. We have felt isolated in our frustration, thinking we are the only ones overwhelmed by the sheer volume of expectations placed on our emotional and physical energy. In January of 2021, 50 prominent women called on the Biden Administration to implement a Marshall Plan for Moms, a plan to provide direct payments to moms and pass long overdue policies addressing paid family leave, affordable childcare, and pay equity. How does it compare to the first Marshall Plan, enacted 73 years ago?

The purpose of the original Marshall Plan was for the United States to be a part of the economic recovery of Western European nations after World War II and to reduce the influence of Communism within those nations. The USSR developed its own economic plan, known as the Molotov Plan, which I think is a funny name considering the Molotov cocktail. The Marshall Plan cost roughly 12 billion dollars (130 billion in 2019) and lasted for four years, beginning in 1948.

Did it help? It kept Western European nations from fully embracing communism so that part worked. Germany became an industrial powerhouse, the United Kingdom lost most of its colonies but managed to hold itself together and France is, well, France. Remember, the Marshall Plan was not done out of the kindness of anyone’s heart, it was done to stem the tide of Communism (which it did).

Why base a plan to support American mothers on this plan? Are American moms contemplating a turn toward Communism or worse, war?

Well, sort of. More and more American women are not having children, some by choice and some due to financial constraints. When women have children, they are having fewer and they are having them later in life. Women are also choosing not to marry and if they marry, they are marrying later and later. Needless to say, Conservatives are losing their minds over these facts and yet do very little to address what might be causing them.

Why are so many women waiting to marry and have children, if they make those choices at all? Well, here is a quote from the Marshall Plan for Moms website:

Other countries have social safety nets. America has moms. It’s time to compensate moms for all they do to keep our economy, our country, running. Join us, support the Marshall Plan for Moms.

Add to that the havoc wreaked on working women by the pandemic, especially working women of color. Millions of women have either lost their jobs or been forced by caregiving responsibilities to quit or cut back hours. “When 30 years of progress can be erased overnight, the underlying system is broken.”

So, what does the plan propose?

  • Direct payments to moms, who have had their paid labor in the workforce replaced by unseen, unpaid labor at home.

  • Passing long overdue policies like paid family leave, affordable childcare, and pay equity.

  • Retraining programs to ensure women can fill the jobs that will exist.

  • Plans to safely reopen schools 5 days a week.

It angers me that the above issues benefit society equally but it is once again women who are left agitating for change. Such is this life as it is. In January 2021, a letter signed by 50 prominent women was published outlining the reasons for these suggestions, please be sure to read it here.

And then there followed a letter in the Washington Post signed by male allies who support the Marshall Plan for Moms. Women are not standing alone — this is a broad coalition and a growing movement. (Finally) Please see the ad here.

Finally, Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY) has officially introduced the #MarshallPlanForMoms (H.Res.121), a sweeping piece of legislation to help mothers return to the workforce. Please read the resolution here.

If you would like to be part of this movement, you can sign the petition here. It’s a good, solid start to the work we as a nation need to begin. We need to ensure that if something like this pandemic ever engulfs our nation again, the brunt of the economic damage doesn’t land on women, especially women of color.

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