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mmo Noteworthy

May 2005

Go figure:

Taking the pulse of motherhood:
MMO looks into The Motherhood Study and finds something missing

Also: other national Mother’s Day surveys have entertainment value, but shouldn’t be confused reliable research.

ClubMom “State of Mom” Report Card
Marketing group survey fuels the “Mommy Wars”

DC moms: We’re doing just fine, thanks
Washington Post poll counters perception that area mothers are fraught with worry, stress

Mothers & More “Day After Mother’s Day” Time Use Survey

Work-life issues

Joan Williams on caregiver discrimination

Family policy

Expecting Better
New report from the National Partnership for Women & Families finds states are coming up short on paid parental leave

Proposed changes to WIC
Revised guidelines would provide more fresh fruits and vegetables, encourage br

Child care & early childhood education

Early Childhood Education for All
A new report finds that investing in quality early care and education reaps positive returns

Kicked out of pre-school:
Study finds pre-k students are more likely to be expelled than students in grades K-12

National study finds many pre-k teachers are underpaid, others lack teaching credentials

Elsewhere on the web:

News and commentary on reproductive rights
from AlterNet, Salon, TomPaine.com, Women’s eNews, more

Other news and commentary of note
from MMO’s favorite alternative news sources

past editions of mmo noteworthy ...
go figure :

Taking the pulse of motherhood:
MMO looks into The Motherhood Study and finds something missing

We’ve been hearing an awful lot about “mommy madness” lately— the epidemic of overinvolved, under-sexed, stressed-to-the-breaking-point mothers said to be overrunning the nation’s tonier neighborhoods— but how do American mothers really feel about motherhood and married life? Numerous lifestyle and consumer polls have canvassed mothers’ views on combining work and family and cultural trends, but we’ve yet to see a rigorous, large-scale study designed to gauge mothers’ attitudes about the personal and social experience of mothering in the United States.

This year, the results of several polls and one national study of motherhood, American-style, were released just in time for Mother’s Day— and given that findings from these reports have already made their way into the news, it’s worth taking a closer look at what these measurements can and cannot tell us about the lives and concerns of today’s mothers.

The Motherhood Study:
Right idea, wrong questions
When experts assess the accuracy of opinion polls and quantitative surveys, they look for two factors: reliability, which relates to the quality of the survey methodology, and validity, which refers to the probability that the results provide a reasonably accurate measure of the way a group thinks and acts in real life. Social scientists typically caution that survey results can’t always be taken at face value— not only because the interview sample might not be representative of the general population (this is especially true of the lifestyle and parenting polls that are so popular with magazine publishers and commercial web sites), but also because people tend to over-report “socially desirable” attitudes and conduct. Studies find this predilection for bending the truth is even more pronounced when interview subjects are asked to weigh in on a controversial or culturally contested topics (such as women’s social roles, for example). The use of multiple-choice questions improves reliability but reduces the validity of a survey, since even the most conscientious responders are forced to choose the “best” answer when the right one isn’t provided (which is why multiple-choice surveys are also called “forced-choice” surveys).

Obviously, the nature of the questions asked— especially the way a question is worded and the options given for declining it or supplying an alternative answer— have a profound impact on the quality of a survey or poll. And needless to say, the questions not asked also influence the viability of survey results. Given the preponderance of ideology that swirls through the social experience of contemporary mothers, forced-choice surveys designed to probe their attitudes about work and family life may ultimately be more indicative of mother’s sensitivity to cultural norms than their actual preferences and concerns.

Keeping all that in mind, how would you answer the following multiple-choice question: “As a mother, (a) I resent sacrifices I made for my children, (b) I have gladly made sacrifices for my children, or (c) I have NOT had to make sacrifices for my children.” (Bold emphasis added.)

This, in its entirety, is Question 28 from the Motherhood Survey, a research project initiated and partially funded by the Motherhood Project of the Institute for American Values. Predictably, 94 percent of the randomly-selected mothers interviewed for the survey chose option (b). But then again, when faced with such a circumscribed and, shall we say, insufficiently nuanced set of choices to describe the complicated emotional trade-offs of maternal altruism, how could any self-respecting mother answer differently? While the structure and language of this particular query offer an unusually transparent example of how research instruments can be used to elicit a preferred response, it’s reasonably representative of the value-laden tone and framing of key questions in the Motherhood Project survey.

The results of the survey— which was administered to a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 mothers with at least one child age 18 or under living at home— are summarized in The Motherhood Study: Fresh Insights on Mothers Attitudes and Concerns (May 2005). Considering the ideological bent of the Institute for American Values— a well-funded conservative think tank championing a resurgence of patriarchal family values— and the maternalist mission of the Motherhood Project itself (“to foster a renewed sense of purpose, passion and power in the vocation of mothering in both the private and public spheres”), it’s not terribly surprising that the principle focus of both the survey and subsequent report concerns mothers’ anxieties about various threats to children’s well-being rather than their growing awareness of social conditions and gender stereotypes that impair the well-being of mothers themselves.

And even within that narrow context, the findings of the study are somewhat perplexing. For example, when asked “what is the single biggest concern you have for your own children,” only 6 percent of mothers ranked “violence/crime” as their number one concern, and a less than 3 percent cited “media influence” as their biggest worry. Yet 94 percent of the mothers surveyed believe “reducing all forms of family violence” should be a national priority, and 75 percent agree that “making the media more appropriate for children and families” is of utmost importance. And although just 9 percent of mothers are most concerned about their own ability to raise their kids and be “a good mother,” 84 percent believe that “helping mothers and fathers improve their parenting skills” should be a high priority.

At the very least, these figures suggests that when American mothers express heightened concern about children and society, they are not, for the most part, basing their reactions on pressing problems in their own families, but on some other source of knowledge about social factors that put other mother’s child at risk. (Those interviewed were most likely to cite “education” and “safety/security” as their top concerns for their own children, but there was no strong consensus among mothers about which social factors have the most troubling impact on children’s lives). It should be duly noted that meatier issues— such as health care, paid parental leave, maternal and child poverty, safe and affordable housing for all families, and spending on public education— were not included in the section of the questionnaire where mothers were asked to rate ideas “for improving the well-being of mothers and children.” Interestingly, American mothers were not particularly concerned, either for their own or their children's sake, about moral values as a social issue (just 5 – 6 percent ranked values/moral values as their greatest concern). Mothers potential concerns about impending threats to their reproductive freedom were not addressed in the Motherhood Survey.

Technically speaking, the methodology used to conduct the Motherhood Survey is highly “reliable,” meaning that with a high degree of probability, the responses mothers gave were recorded correctly. But the construction and positioning of the most ideologically-charged questions in the survey render The Motherhood Study almost useless as a tool for anything other than justifying the particular agenda of the Motherhood Project. Which is a shame, because the Study is the first large-scale, systematic effort to collect information about what today’s mothers actually think and feel about motherhood in America. (Note to progressive social scientists and activists: We can do better. So, what are we waiting for?)

The next time we see some half-baked media story or commentary claiming that 96 percent of American mothers are satisfied with their “life as a mother” (Question 3), or that 93 percent believe “a mother brings something so unique to the care of her children that no one can replace it” (Question 8), or that 61 percent of mothers balk at the idea that “Mothers and Fathers are interchangeable” (Question 7), or that 79 percent feel mothers have “more responsibility than other adults to look after the well-being of children” (Question 33), we really ought to be looking long and hard at precisely how the original questions were asked, why they were asked, and who asked them— and about the multiple meanings individuals and groups who would like to see women pregnant, barefoot and back in the kitchen, ASAP, will undoubtedly try to wring out of them.

Despite its obvious shortcomings, The Motherhood Study does offer a few tid-bits of information of interest to mothers’ advocates on the blue end of the political spectrum, including:

  • 87 percent of American mothers agree that “when it comes to raising children, society expects more from mothers than anyone else,” but only 15 percent believe that this is “a good thing” (73 percent feel it is both a “good” and “bad” thing).
  • Only 10 percent of mothers “strongly agree” that the U.S. is “doing a good enough job of meeting the needs of mothers” (35 percent somewhat agree; 54 percent disagree).
  • Only 8 percent of mothers “strongly agree” that the U.S. is “doing a good enough job of meeting the needs of families” (33 percent somewhat agree; 57 percent disagree).
  • 83 percent of mothers in the U.S. say that “improving the quality and affordability of child care” should be a “high priority.”
  • 79 percent of mothers agreed that “promoting greater financial security for mothers” should be a “high priority.”
  • 87 percent of mothers believe that “mothers and fathers take care of their children in different ways,” but half of all mothers (49.4 percent) wish that their children’s father would take a more active role in day-to-day child-care. 65 percent of married mothers, and 45 percent of cohabiting mothers, report that they already “divide” the responsibility for their children’s daily upbringing with a spouse or partner, although only16 percent of mothers surveyed report that their husbands or partners are at least equally responsible for the “day-to-day upbringing” of their children.
  • 23 percent of mothers report they are primarily responsible for “day-to-day financial support” of their families, while 38 percent said their spouse or partner is primarily responsible for financial support. Of the 36 percent of mothers who divide this responsibility with a spouse or partner, a majority (61 percent) report they have equal or greater responsibility for supporting their families financially.
  • American mothers overwhelmingly favor part-time employment or working for pay from home over full-time paid work. 41 percent of mothers report working full-time, but only 16 percent identify full-time employment as their ideal work situation. Only 13 percent of employed mothers, and 38 percent of not-employed mothers, indicate that staying at home full time is their ideal. (This is reasonably consistent with other studies on mothers’ work hour preferences.)
  • 69 percent of all mothers feel content “all” or “most of” the time, but 66 percent report feeling depressed at least occasionally. Nearly 60 percent of mothers feel isolated at least “a little” of the time, and just 28 percent report that their overall sense of well-being is “excellent.” Slightly under half of mothers are very satisfied with the emotional support they receive; 48 percent cite their spouse or partner as their most important source of emotional support.

It should be noted that mothers whose oldest child was age 12 or younger make up only 50 percent of the Motherhood Survey sample; 26 percent had children no older than six. The oldest child of 29 percent of mothers surveyed was between the ages of 13 and 18, and over 20 percent of survey sample reported that their oldest child was between the ages of 19 and 43 (not all mothers interviewed had their own minor children living in the home, but did identify themselves as the primary caregiver of a child under 18 who was living in their household at the time the survey was conducted). 31 percent had one child living at home, 39 percent had two, and 28 percent had three to five children living with them at the time of the survey. Those with only very young children in the home— the mothers most likely to experience a high degree of work-family conflict— were generally under-represented in the sample.

The Motherhood Project

The Motherhood Study:
Fresh Insights on Mothers’ Attitudes and Concerns

Martha Farrell Erickson and Enola Aird, May 2005
Executive Summary
Full report, 52 pages in PDF

Motherhood Survey: Annotated Questionnaire
Survey questions and breakdown of responses. 38 pages in PDF

In the news:

Women like being mothers but say they get no respect
By Sharon Jayson, USA Today, 2 May 05

New 'mommy wars': a fight against pop culture's excess
By Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor, 6 May 05

Related articles:

MMO Interview with Enola Aird, Director of the Motherhood Project
June 2003

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ClubMom “State of Mom” Report Card
Marketing group survey fuels the “Mommy Wars”

In late April, ClubMom— an online project of CMI Marketing, Inc.— also released a summary of results from its 2005 “Voice of Mom” Poll, a random-dial telephone survey of 1,003 U.S. mothers. The survey included multiple-choice questions on family life and social issues, and mothers were asked to grade themselves, their family members and the nation on a range of variables.

The results of the survey— packaged as the ClubMom “State of Mom” Report Card— are almost meaningless as a reliable social indicator, but it’s fascinating to look at the way certain questions were devised to capture mother’s attitudes and concerns at this precise cultural moment— especially in relation to the flurry of publicity surrounding the publication of Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. For example, mothers were asked to agree or disagree with the statements “I feel a lot of pressure to live up to an idealistic role of motherhood that society has created” (only 37 percent agreed) and “My husband or partner fully recognizes and appreciates the job I do as a mom” (88 percent agreed). Respondents were also asked whether having children has made their marriages stronger or weaker (71 percent believe having children has strengthened their marriages). And although Judith Warner observes that the average American mom has seriously misplaced her libido, when ClubMom asked mothers to grade their sex lives, 6 out of 10 gave it an “A” or “B.” 75 percent of mothers also gave themselves an “A” or “B” on their ability to handle stress, and 84 percent gave themselves equally high marks for keeping their minds “sharp and active.” 82 percent gave their “overall satisfaction with life” an “A” or “B,” and 93 feel they are doing a good job (rated “A” or “B”) as a mom.

The ClubMom poll uncovered some interesting differences between the reported experiences of mothers of only girls and those who have only boys, which— if they are at all true— are intriguing. According to a special press release, mothers of only girls report higher overall satisfaction, more confidence in their parenting skills, and are happier with their marriages than mothers with only boys. Mothers of girls also graded their children higher on their moral values, overall well-being, and academic ability.

The “Voice of Mom” poll also found noticeable differences in the attitudes of employed and stay-at-home mothers, finding that 58 percent of at-home moms surveyed believe that the children of working moms would be better off with their moms at home (although according to a ClubMom press release, around 43 percent of working moms feel the same way— a finding that’s consistent with data collected in more authoritative studies). While 81 percent of moms who took the poll agree that “motherhood is a hard job,” at-home mothers were slightly more likely to feel that their job is the harder one (46 compared to 42 percent). Stay at home mothers were also more likely than employed moms to give themselves an “A” on such measures as “overall satisfaction with life,” “job as a mom,” as a wife/partner, and on the quality of their sex life. Stay at home moms were also more likely than employed mothers to favor the war in Iraq (64 compared to 41 percent) and less likely to favor sex education in schools (65 compared to 80 percent). Care for a piping-hot serving of Mommy Wars, anyone?

A breakdown of the demographic characteristic of the poll respondents and full details of the survey findings have not been made available to the press— in other words, the ClubMom “State of Mom” Report Card may have some entertainment value, but it shouldn’t be confused with reputable research.


As America Prepares to Celebrate Moms,
A New Poll Fuels the Motherhood Debate

ClubMom “State of Mom” Report Card Reveals Surprising Findings about Motherhood Today: Counters the Bleak Picture Painted in Recent Reports
Press Release/Summary, ClubMom, 25 Apr 05. 6 pages in PDF

New Poll Reveals Conflicting Viewpoints
Between Working and Stay-At-Home Moms

Press Release/Summary, ClubMom, 25 Apr 05. 5 pages in PDF

Girls Are Sugar and Spice and Lead To Everything Nice in Mom’s Life According to New Poll
Press Release/Summary, ClubMom, 25 Apr 05. 2 pages in PDF

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DC moms: We’re doing just fine, thanks
Washington Post poll counters perception that area mothers are fraught with worry, stress

Also in reaction to the massive media hype following the release of Perfect Madness, the Washington Post recently conducted a telephone survey of 603 mothers living in or near the nation’s capitol to find out if they really feel as frazzled and miserable as Judith Warner suggests. The WP found that “Washington area mothers are a lot more satisfied with their roles— and a lot less likely to second guess their choices as mothers— than the recent national dialog may suggest” (Jennifer Frey and Claudia Deane, “Children, Careers and Choices,” Washington Post, 8 May 05). According to the poll, just around half of the surveyed mothers say they feel stressed or worried “very” or “fairly” often, although 2 out of every 3 say they often feel tired (only 5 percent of the mothers surveyed report they “hardly ever” feel tired). 81 percent of employed mothers and 75 percent of stay-at-home moms living in the Washington, DC area report they often feel a “sense of accomplishment.”

Overall, 94 percent of the mothers interviewed for the Washington Post survey are satisfied with the way their particular work-life arrangements are working, with 7 out of 10 reporting they are “very satisfied.” 60 percent of stay-at-home mothers and 77 percent of employed moms believe that “motherhood today is more demanding than it was for the previous generation,” and 65 percent of both employed and at-home mothers agree that “mothers today have higher expectations of themselves than the previous generation did.” Only 14 percent of DC area mothers felt “very satisfied”— and neraly half report feeling “not satisfied”— with the amount of time they have to spend on themselves. However, 86 percent are satisfied with the amount of time they have to spend on their children, and 64 percent of married mothers are satisfied with the amount of time they spend with their husband. 54 percent agree that “the demands of motherhood” have put “some” or “a lot” of stress on their marriages.

Relatively few of the mothers surveyed by the Washington Post feel “mothers today are too focused on their children” (34 percent), and 91 percent agreed with the statement “most mothers I know are doing the best that they can.” However, almost 8 out of 10 mothers who responded to the poll agree that “many mothers I meet are very competitive when it comes to their children,” with stay-at-home mothers slightly more likely to feel that their parenting choices are judged by other mothers “very” or “fairly” often (38 percent compared to 27 percent of employed mothers). A strong majority (64 percent) agree that “society has set expectations too high for modern mothers”, although mothers are evenly split on whether “society values the work mothers do.” (51 percent say yes, 49 percent say no— although only 13 percent strongly agree that mothers’ work is valued by our society, and more than 1 in 5 feel that mothers work is “not at all” valued.)

The Washington Post poll provides a refreshing contrast to the heavy-duty ideological framework of the Motherhood Survey, although both surveys include similar questions. For example, Question 35 in the WP poll reads “I have not achieved everything I could have in my life, because of the sacrifices I have made for my family” (mothers responses were almost evenly split, with 49 percent agreeing and 51 percent disagreeing). For mothers who agreed that the sacrifices of motherhood have had a personal cost, 69 percent report that they are “bothered” by it (Question 35a).

Unfortunately, the Washington Post survey was only intended to track the attitudes of mothers in a specific metropolitan region, so its findings can’t be broadly applied to the general population (although it’s very, very tempting to try). The WP poll would make a great model for the next national survey of mothers, especially if questions are added to assess mothers’ opinions about public policy issues.

The Washington Post 2005 Mother’s Day Survey and related articles will not be available free of charge after May 22, but this information— particularly the detailed survey results— is definitely worth having on hand.

Children, Careers and Choices:
Most Area Moms Revel in Role, Even Challenges

By Jennifer Frey and Claudia Deane, The Washington Post, 8 May 05

Washington Post 2005 Local Moms Survey Questions
(Questionnaire with detailed results)

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Mothers & More “Day After Mother’s Day” Time Use Survey

Although the results of Mothers & More’s “Day After Mother’s Day” Time Use Survey are strictly informal, it’s worth mentioning as an example of mothers’ self reporting of the way they spend their time and how they feel about it.

As part of the organization’s third annual Mother’s Day Campaign— a month-long event focused on raising awareness about the value of the paid and unpaid work mothers do— Mothers & More members were invited to log onto an online survey at any time on Monday, May 9th, and respond to series of questions about how they spent their time during a self-specified three-hour period. Volunteers were also asked two open-ended questions about their activities, how they felt about using their time that way, and whether or not they felt their work was “appreciated” by their families. 255 mothers completed the time log and around two-thirds of responders provided short written answers to the open-ended questions.

Members were most likely to have used their 180-minute time block for taking care of their children and doing routine housework, although many also reported “eating and drinking” and spending time on telephone calls, email and mail. Over half reported that they had also engaged in the “invisible mental work” of mothering (“worrying, planning, scheduling, listing, remembering”). Three out of four members reported doing at least “two things at a time,” which may explain why the moms who participated in the Mothers & More Time Use Survey were most likely to report feeling “tired” (63 percent), followed by “accomplished” (38 percent) and “content” (30 percent). (Participants were able to select multiple descriptives in this section.)

Survey-takers were slightly more likely to feel “anxious” (25 percent) than “happy” (23 percent) during the recording period, although relatively few felt “frustrated” (22 percent). Many felt their time had been used productively (43 percent), although the most common perception was that time had passed quickly.

The personal responses to the open-ended questions offer a bit more detail about the way these mothers spent their time and how they felt about it. In particular, the two-part question, “Did you feel appreciated and feel that all the work you do for your family was recognized yesterday? Did celebrating Mother’s Day yesterday change your perspective on the work you did today?,” seemed to inspire some mothers to cut loose with their grievances concerning the less touching aspects of motherhood. Although many of those who took the voluntary survey felt their work was appreciated, far fewer felt that husbands and children fully recognized its value to the family. And a fair number reported that their work was neither appreciated nor valued— as one mother commented: “Mothers Day was a big non-event although I did manage to shame my husband into unloading the dishwasher. And he picked up take out so I didn’t have to cook.” Another remarked, bleakly: “I did not feel any sense of appreciation for anything I did during that 3 hour block. Since all I did was chores most of Mother’s Day, I wouldn’t really call that celebrating. My life continues as one endless series of chores and errands whether it is Mother’s Day or not.” And one mother offered this terse assessment of her situation: “The work I do is invisible to my family. Occasionally I don’t do it (when I travel, or, last year, when I was injured). The whole place goes to hell, but it never makes them understand how much I do for them, it just makes them angry when I don't do it.”

So if the task at hand is to determine how satisfied mothers are with their “lives as mothers,” it appears the answer depends not just on who you ask— but on how you ask, and when you ask it.

Mothers & More

Day After Mother’s Day Time Use Survey (includes links to written comments)

Mothers & More member demographics

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work-life issues

Joan Williams on caregiver discrimination

The April 2005 issue of The Network News, the newsletter of the Sloan Work and Family Research Network features an interview with legal scholar Joan Williams, author of Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What To Do About It. Williams discusses caregiver discrimination and the “maternal wall,” and talks about the growing number of legal cases in which plaintiffs have gained legal relief for caregiver discrimination at work. This interview could serve as a great short introduction for workers and employers who are unfamiliar with the issue of caregiver bias.

Caregiver Bias: Work/Life Issues as Diversity Concerns
Sloan Work and Family Research Network Network News, Apr 05, in PDF.

Also available from the Network News archives:

Generation X and Work/Life Values
An interview with Paulette Gerkovich of Catalyst. Feb 05, in PDF.

Slowing Down to Look at “Busyness”
An interview with Charles Darrah, a cultural anthropologist whose research has focused on work, families and technology. Nov04, in .PDF.

Related news and commentary:

Revealing Your Pregnancy Prompts Bad Boss Behavior
By Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal Career Journal, 21 Jan 05
“One reason more cases like this don't end up in court is that women are too busy, too ill-informed or just too tired to take up the battle.”

When moms work nights
By Sharon Jayson, USA Today, 11 May 05.
“Today's 24/7 economy could be taking a toll on couples in dual-income families.”

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public policy

Expecting Better
New report from the National Partnership for Women & Families finds states are coming up short on paid parental leave

According to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families, neither the federal government nor a single state in the union is doing all it should to guarantee paid parental leave to workers. In Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Parental Leave Policies (May 2005), only 20 states received a passing grade, with California— the only state to implement paid parental leave for private sector workers— leading the pack. 19 states received an “F” for their failure to provide a single benefit or program to help support families before and after the birth of a child. The remaining states fall somewhere near the middle, with some providing better benefits to state workers than those in the private sector. The report also notes that roughly two in five working parents with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level have no paid leave of any kind— no paid sick days, vacation days or personal days to use to care for a baby.

In addition to providing a run-down of what most states are not doing to support working families, the report offers an excellent overview of why every American worker should have the right to paid and job protected parental leave, what’s been done so far to guarantee that right, and the types of policies currently available at federal and state levels to protect the jobs and earnings of workers who need time off for the birth or adoption of child.

The National Partnership for Women & Families

Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Parental Leave Policies
The National Partnership for Women & Families, May 2005
Full report: 54 pages in PDF

States Get Poor Grades For Failing to Provide Paid Parental Leave to Workers
National Partners
hip Press Release, 3 May 05, 2 pages in PDF

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Proposed changes to WIC
Revised guidelines would provide more fresh fruits and vegetables, encourage breastfeeding

A new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies proposes a number of changes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The revisions are intended to encourage participants to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as to promote breast-feeding. If implemented, the revisions would be the most substantial changes to the mix of foods offered through WIC since the program was initiated in 1974. The proposal from the IOM suggests changes can made cost-neutral by reducing the amount of eggs, juice, cheese and milk distributed through the program. For example, instead of each person in an eligible household receiving up to four pounds of cheese each month, each person might receive one pound of cheese and a vouchers worth $10 a month per adult and $8 a month per child for the purchase of fruits and vegetables. Food packages for breastfeeding mothers and infants would contain more and a greater variety of food than those for women who formula-feed only. Tofu and soy milk would also be available as an acceptable substitute for an adult’s monthly milk allowance. Low fat milk and whole grain cereals and breads would replace some milk and grain products currently included in WIC food packages.

Based on an informal poll on Girl-Mom.com, current and former WIC participants look favorably on the proposed revisions. But because some of the changes would “entail significant adjustments and could result in unanticipated effects” (for example, if participants won’t drink low fat milk or eat whole-grain products, the revised food packages may inadvertently result in less grain and milk consumption), the review committee has suggested that the proposed the changes be tested in a pilot program before being implement nationwide.

According to a National Academies press release, in 2000 the WIC program served about half of all U.S. infants and around one-quarter of all children between the ages of 1 and 4. In 2003, the program served 7.6 million participants.

Changes Needed in the WIC Program to Provide More Whole Grains,
Fruits, Vegetables; Revisions Will Not Raise Program's Food Costs

Press Release/Summary, The National Academies, 27 Apr 05

USDA Food and Nutrition Service
Women, Infants and Children web site

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child care & early childhood education

Early Childhood Education for All
A new report finds that investing in quality early care and education reaps positive returns

A new report from Legal Momentum’s Family Initiative, Early Childhood Education for All: A Wise Investment (18 Apr 05), summarizes research findings presented at a December 2004 conference on the economic impacts of child care and early childhood education in the U.S. The report concludes that children who receive quality early education “arrive at school ready to learn and with better developed social skills, so they do better in school. They need fewer costly special education classes. They are more likely to graduate from high school and hold jobs. They are less likely to be on welfare. And they are significantly less likely to wind up in the courts and in jails – and costing taxpayers dearly.” According to a Legal Momentum press release, every dollar invested in quality early care and education saves taxpayers as much as $13 in future costs, making the return on investments in quality ECE “superior to many economic development programs paid for with public dollars.”

The Executive Summary of the Early Childhood Education for All report notes that in addition to supporting businesses and working parents, “early education is itself a significant industry, providing millions of jobs nationwide, paying billions of dollars in wages, purchasing billions in goods and services, and generating billions in gross receipts. In many states, it is often one of the largest employers and producers of revenues.”

The report calls for further cost-benefit analysis of early childhood education to evaluate its short- and long-term benefits; new financing schemes for early care and education, including increased investment of public, private and philanthropic dollars; broad public education to raise awareness for policymakers and citizens that “early childhood education as an important investment that pays off not only for children, but also for economic development;” and improved education and compensation for child care and early education providers.

The Early Childhood Education for All report is definitely heavy on the language of financial investment and returns, which is a relatively new frame for the issue of public funding for quality child care and early childhood education. Let’s hope it gains some traction.

The Family Initiative

Early Childhood Education for All: A Wise Investment
Legal Momentum’s Family Initiative, 18 Apr 05
Executive Summary, 4 pages in PDF
Full report, 69 pages in .PDF
Press relea
se, 2 pages in PDF

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Kicked out of pre-school:
Study finds pre-k students are three times more likely to be expelled than students in grades K-12

A new study from the Yale University Child Study Center found that, nationwide, school expulsion rates for pre-kindergarten students (including 2- to 6- year olds) from state-run pre-k programs were more than three times higher than those of public elementary and high school students. 4- through 6-year olds, African-American children and boys were over four-and-a-half times more likely to be expelled than girls. According to the study, expulsion rates were lowest in classrooms in public schools and Head Start and highest in faith-affiliated centers and for-profit child care. Researchers found that the likelihood of expulsion was lower in settings where teachers had access to a mental health consultant who was able to provide “classroom based strategies for dealing with challenging student behaviors… Having access to a mental health consultant that was able to come to the classroom in response to a request initiated by the teacher was better than no access at all, but the lowest rates of expulsion were reported by teachers that had an ongoing, regular relationship with a mental health consultant.” The study also notes that the effect of teacher support on lowering pre-school expulsion rates may related to other factors, such as a greater overall level of resources in programs where mental health consultants are available.

Although the report (Prekindergarteners Left Behind: Expulsion Rates in State Prekindergarten Systems, by Walter S. Gilliam, PhD, 17 May 05) doesn’t draw any conclusions about the influence of gender and racial bias on rates of pre-k expulsion— expulsion rates for all pre-k girls and Asian-American children were around 2 per 1,000 students, compared to over 10 students per 1,000 for all boys and all African-American students— the implications here are pretty stark. This is a profoundly important issue for mothers who depend on state-funded pre-k and pre-school programs for child care, as well as for all families with children whose age-related behavior may be pathologized or mismanaged when they enter the school system. Dr. Gilliam’s study was conducted as part of the National Prekindergarten Study and was supported by the Foundation for Child Development.

Prekindergarteners Left Behind:
Expulsion Rates in State Prekindergarten Systems

By Walter S. Gilliam, PhD, Yale University Child Study Center, 17 May 05.
13 pages in PDF.

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National study finds many pre-k teachers are underpaid, others lack teaching credentials

A May 2005 study from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) reveals that 7 out of 10 teachers in state-funded prekindergarten programs earn salaries in the low-income category and 1 in 6 works a second job to make ends meet.

The report, which was prepared as part of the National Prekindergarten Study, offers the first national portrait of the average prekindergarten teacher in state programs. The researchers found that over all, she is female, predominantly white, and generally works in a public school. Nationally, 13 percent of state-program pre-k teachers reported having no more than a high school diploma or GED; 22 percent of the teachers included in the study held a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. The study also found that in 11 statewide programs, more than one-third of the teachers earned a salary below the federal poverty threshold, the worst being Alaska (59 percent below the poverty level), Florida (46 percent), Washington (44 percent) and Delaware (42 percent). 19 percent of teachers worked an extra job for pay.

National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)

Massive National Study Finds Many Prekindergarten Teachers Underpaid; Others Lacking Required Credentials
NIEER Press release/summary, 3 May 05. Includes link to full study.

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elsewhere on the web:

Notable news and commentary
on sexuality and
reproductive rights:

The Right’s Bitter Pill
By Carole Joffe, TomPaine.com, 5 May 05
“One of the most unusual new fronts in the never-ending abortion war in this country—the growing instances of ‘pro-life’ pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for oral contraceptives—a.k.a. the pill.”

The battle over birth control
By Gretchen Cook, Salon, 27 Apr 05
“The right has moved its war on abortion from the clinic to the pharmacy, where it now seeks to cripple the sale of contraceptives.”

Saying No to Drugs
By Vicki Cormack, Pop and Politics. From AlterNet, 18 May 05.
“Pharmacists in over a dozen states have been refusing to dispense birth control and morning-after pills based on the 'conscience clause.'”

A new federal move to limit teen abortions
The House considers new out-of-state restrictions.
By Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, 27 Apr 05
“The bill, called the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, or CIANA, would make it a federal offense to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion in order to evade a parental notification law, unless she has obtained a waiver from a judge.”

Opponents of Teen Consent Bill Mull Options
By Allison Stevens, Womens eNews, 29 Mar 05
“Pro-choice activists are mulling their political and legal response to the House passage on Wednesday of a bill that stiffens restrictions on minors seeking abortion.”

No Abortion, No Exceptions
By Stephanie Poggi, Center for American Progress. From AlterNet, 28 Apr 05
“For most low-income women, the "rape exception" that allows them to get funding to terminate pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest is a myth.”

Will the Real ‘Party of Life’ Please Stand Up?
By Bob Burnett, AlterNet, 4 May 05
“Democrats need to go on the offensive and remind voters that the Republican record does not show the GOP to be ‘pro-life.’”

Learning Curves
By Kara Jesella, Nerve.com. From AlterNet, 19 May 05
Our Bodies, Ourselves helped illustrate that women could march on Washington, fight the inadequacy of the health-care system, and still fantasize about being spanked.”

The Mother of Masturbation Speaks
By Ellen Friedrichs, Choice! Magazine. From AlterNet, 3 may 05
“Betty Dodson, the author of Sex for One, talks about how to keep sexual pleasure alive in the current political climate.”

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Other news and commentary of note:

From AlterNet (www.alternet.org):

Great Mothers and Good Mothers
By Dolores Huerta, AlterNet, 6 May 05
“Our children’s future is bleak unless far more of us act now: There is no need for a conflict between being a good mother and being civically engaged.”

Solomon’s Solution
By Trish Wilson, AlterNet, 21 Apr 2005
“Presumptive joint custody has become the norm in many states, as judges attempt to force cooperation in contentious divorces. But instead of bringing families closer together, mandated joint custody can tear them further apart.”

From TomPaine.com (www.tompaine.com):

Roses, Relaxation And Real Reform
Shelley Waters Boots and Mary Bissell, TomPaine.com, 6 May 05
“This year, instead of respite from our busy lives, we’re asking the government for the ultimate Mother’s Day gift: policies that truly support our children and families.”

Moms At The Office
Martha Burk, Ph.D, TomPaine.com, 6 May 05
“Companies must not wait for Congress to mandate so-called “family-friendly” policies like paid leave, flextime and job sharing.”

From Women’s eNews (www.womensenews.org):

Mothering From Afar Exacts Heavy Price
Bhatia and Braine, Women’s eNews, 8 May 05
“Mother’s Day usually brings women and children together. But as a growing number of Latin American women migrate to the U.S., many of these women will spend the holiday far from their children-- some of whom have forgotten them.”

Tiny Aid Group Rescues Mothers in Haitian Village
By Melinda Tuhus, Women’s eNews, 6 May 05
“As the latest maternal mortality statistics show, great numbers of women are still dying in childbirth and never making it to Mother’s Day. A small aid group’s work in Haiti shows how a few simple, inexpensive interventions could improve that picture.”

What Mommy Really Wants this Mother’s Day
By Karen Bouris, Women’s eNews, 6 May 05
“Wondering what to give the mother in your life this Mother's Day? Karen Bouris, publisher of ‘50 Ways to Improve Women's Lives,’ has a list of five gifts whose benefits will last longer than chocolate or flowers.”

Snuggle Time Off-Clock for 24-7 Moms
By Betsy Ring, Women’s eNews, 6 May 05
“After adding three stepchildren and a husband to her own brood of two, Betsy Ring is now "certified busy" with blended-family life. But all moms are working moms, she says, whether employed outside their homes or in.”

On Earth Day Women Battle Rising Mercury Hazards
By Molly M. Ginty, Women’s eNews, 22 Apr 05
“This Earth Day finds many women battling to reduce mercury levels in food, medical devices, solid wastes and power plants. Dangerous levels of the metal have been found in 1-in-6 U.S. women of childbearing age.”

Home Ec Stirs Domestic Politics into College
By Courtney E. Martin, Women’s eNews, 12 May 05
“Home economics is no longer just about failed junior-high sewing projects. Now it's a college discipline called family and consumer sciences and many of its students are graduating this month. Second in a series of eight on women and education.”

From Salon (www.salon.com):

Zen mama
By Noelle Howey, Salon, 21 Apr 05
“Judith Warner is making me wonder: Am I stressed out enough to be a good mother?”

From the Wall Street Journal Career Journal

The Emotional Toll of Being Too Involved in Your Kid’s Life
By Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal Career Journal, 15 Mar 05
“The fa
ct that overinvolved parents can cause problems for their kids is well-known. Now, new research shows they can drive themselves nuts too”

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May 2005

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