At the end of last month, the U.S. went off a “child care cliff” with the expiration of pandemic emergency relief funds, which had been a lifeline for childcare centers. These funds, stemming from the American Rescue Plan Act, have played a pivotal role in sustaining childcare facilities, ensuring staff pay, facility upgrades, and affordable care for parents.
With the funding’s expiration on September 30, thousands of childcare centers are at risk of closure, potentially affecting millions of children and families.
To provide insight into this pressing issue and more, we interviewed Erin Erenberg, President and Executive Director of Chamber of Mothers, and Raena Boston, SVP People and Community with Chamber of Mothers.
For people in our audience that might not be familiar with you, what is Chamber of Mothers and what should people know about what you do?
Chamber of Mothers is a national nonprofit that mobilizes Americans around public policy solutions for moms, bringing local-chapter advocacy to Capitol Hill.
We began as a social media activation created by 8 women with substantial social media followings catering to American mothers. Paid leave advocacy groups asked us to help them reach the “everyday consumer mother” to demand paid leave as part of Build Back Better. But when we gathered 10,000 followers and press from media like Parents and Self within hours, we realized that we’d caught lightning in a bottle. Moreover, our work is required for more issues than just paid leave.
Our mission is to unite mothers as advocates to create a better America. We advocate for paid leave, affordable, accessible childcare and improved maternal mental and physical health outcomes.
Much like the Chamber of Commerce or AARP, who are affinity groups that lobby for law and policy that serves their membership, we summon the force of the roughly 85 million American mothers with 15 trillion in annual spending power to make our needs known, and to see that they’re met.
We do this through federal advocacy, local chapter advocacy, and creative content campaigns that shift the narrative on modern American motherhood.
We hope all of you reading will join us; this is the movement of every mother in America who yearns for more support for herself and other mothers.
What does gender equity and equality mean to you?
We think of equality to mean that everyone has the same access and resourcing, and equity to mean that we take into account folks’ circumstances to arrive at an outcome of equal resourcing and rights.
To us, gender equality means that people would be treated equally despite their gender identity. Gender equality feels like what should be rather than what is and assumes everyone is starting from the same place.
By contrast, gender equity creates solutions based on what actually is, considers additional historical and social context, and feels like it’s rooted in answering the question: how do we correct for the way things are?
An example of this in our work is parental leave. Parental leave policies appear in a few ways. The first is an emphasis on gender neutrality, where birthing and non-birthing parents would get equal amounts of time off. Other policies take into consideration that a birthing person may need more time for recovery and allot 16 weeks for the birthing person, and 12 weeks for the non-birthing person.
In the instance above, there are pros and cons to both, and we should consider what does the greatest good while mitigating harm and unintended consequences.
Your recent advocacy has been focused a lot on the expiration of childcare funding, which came to pass a few days ago. What are the next steps in your advocacy?
We are heading to DC this month to focus on maternal health. In particular, we’re going to be having conversations with about 15 members of Congress across party lines about the bicameral Momnibus Act to End America’s Maternal Health Crisis, the
Healthy Moms and Babies Act, PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, and the Preventing Maternal Deaths Reauthorization Act.
We are also meeting with the Offices of Management and Budget and Public Engagement, Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor (Women’s Bureau), and Treasury to connect the dots between legislative and executive work on the issues that concern our community.
What do you think the childcare landscape would look like if more women’s voices were being heard on the issue?
Because childcare is often coded as “women’s work”, it is essential to listen to women. They have been closest to the work.
If women’s voices were heard, the biggest impact would be in terms of cost and compensation. There would be solutions that not only drive the costs down for families, but that also center the need for this field to be paid a wage that allows caregivers to thrive personally and professionally.
I also think that solutions would come about that center agency and choice. Domestic labor is underpaid, and in the instance of family and friend care, often unpaid. If women were able to confidently call childcare work, I think you’d see avenues for stay-at-home parents and grandparents to be compensated for their work.
Finally, with agency, choice, and better compensation we’d see an expansion of childcare as a viable career path for both men and women. In turn, a shrinking career path could grow. And so would the economy.
Mothers have been leading change on issues like gun rights, clean environment, and caregiving for years. Why do you think moms are such a powerful force for change?
Mothers are the co-creators of life. No one is more powerful than a mother – who carries, births, and then supports new life. In the work of motherhood, we juggle many roles and responsibilities, and we’re able to get more out of an hour than we had in a full day pre-motherhood.
Mothers are brilliantly capable and intensely concerned. We pour so much into our children, who are the future of this country and our world, and it infuriates us when lawmakers make decisions that will harm families now and in the future. At Chamber of Mothers, we’re harnessing that collective energy to create lasting change for mothers and families.
How can people join your chapters and/or support your work?
Follow us on Instagram @chamberofmothers. Join us in our work, donate to our organization so we can sustain and pay our all-volunteer team, and if you represent a company or brand, partner with us to infuse more meaning into your work by emailing email@example.com.