My Norma Rae Moment

While this might not be the perfect climate for unionizing, maybe moms should start by creating a system of support for each other.

Fellow moms, are you feeling a tiny bit under appreciated? Do your efforts go unnoticed and unrewarded? Are you working long hours, either late at night or early in the morning, to finish up the laundry and do away with dirty dishes?

This might not be the perfect time to suggest this—as organized labor could soon go the way of the ERA in this country—but moms, I propose we form a union.

Frankly, I can’t believe I’m actually suggesting unionizing, but if ever there was a need for a group of underpaid and overworked workers to join together to improve their lot (I believe the original intent of labor organizers), I’d say it’s mothers.

I guess that makes me the official Norma Rae of moms.

Regardless of your political leanings, economic status or employment standing, I‘d have to believe that most mothers would agree that we don’t receive any compensation for our never ending efforts. Sometimes even a simple “thanks” would suffice.

In her upcoming anthology, TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, journalist and mother of four Samantha Parent Walravens brings together 48 women to paint a picture of maternal struggles at every end of the mommy spectrum.

Walravens, who grew up in Rumson, said she hit the mom wall early in her parenting career. She retuned home after a full day in the office to find her husband and two-year-old sitting around the kitchen table looking for dinner. She said she just snapped and pulled out a box of cereal and threw it on the table and announced, “Here’s dinner,” and stormed away.

She told me when we spoke on Tuesday that according to a 2009 Department of Labor study, mothers perform twice as much housework and three times the amount of childcare as their partners.

Walravens said it made her angry that so much fell automatically on the shoulders of women and that it’s no wonder so many mothers drop off career tracks to care for their children. It just seems like the path of least resistance for many women.

 As she read through the over 100 submissions she received in compiling mothers’ stories, Walravens said the resounding refrain was that women have a hard time creating that elusive work-life balance.

“The message I got back was ‘We can’t do it all and we’re sick and tired of being told that we can’,” said Walravens, whose book will be published by Coffeetown Press on May 1.

The stories aren’t judgmental, said Walravens, but instead are honest accounts of the challenges of trying to balance kids and a career from the frontline of parenting.

As highlights, Walravens pointed out contributor Cathleen Blood’s essay, “Mother’s Day Is Not For Wimps,” in which the author receives a homemade card from her daughter filled with affirmations and superlatives only to be told by the child that she really couldn’t think of anything great to say and so copied the card from a classmate.

And in “The Mommy Box,” Jessica Scott, a commisioned officer with the U.S. Army, shares her struggle with leaving her children to go on a tour of duty in Iraq.

What has been particularly satisfying editing TORN, said Walravens, has been the community of mothers that has sprung up among her contributors, creating that much-needed support system.

“Connecting with other women has pulled me out of some of my darkest moments,” said Walravens. “We all share the same struggles—we need to stop judging each other.”


Shannon K. Winning March 31, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Amy - It's so good to see you in print. Let's catch up for coffee one of these days. Shannon Kelly Winning
Patricia Phelan Clapp April 01, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Loved it!! I also know Samantha (Walravens) and, besides being a fabulous writer, she is a wonderful person! What a nice surprise reading your story which was written as a salute to Sam's new book, Torn! Nice job, Amy! And for the record, Norma Rae has always been one of my heroes! Keep it up, girlfriend. Your stories always hit a note. Patti Phelan Clapp
Gavino April 03, 2011 at 01:18 PM
Of course, by extension, dads are management... It's funny - in my late 50s now, having raised 3 generations (3, count 'em THREE) of children, and in contact with other men, my friends, family men all, all having contributed to the raising of many children, all having raised children not of their own issue (as it were...), there are two commonalities - 1) fathering continues LONG after mothers have been enshrined as saints, and 2) to expect respect, much less appreciation, is unrealistic. I have a suggestion - how about we drop the idea of a moms' union and adopt instead a parents' union? A child-rearers' union - one that even includes grandparents who wind up raising their incapable childrens' children as well (and no, I am not one of them)? How about we end these silly and counter productive "sexual politics" and start concentrating on what REALLY matters - the lives of ALL people, and the respect they should be getting?
River Road Books April 05, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Samantha Parent Walravens will be discussing her book "Torn" on Friday, May 13th 7:00 pm at the Nauvoo Grill in Fair Haven. Seating is limited, call River Road Books for reservation. Copies of her book can be purchase prior to the event at River Road Books. Proceeds from the sale of her books will go to the Cristine Meredith Miele Foundation for breast cancer research.
Mash April 28, 2011 at 06:08 AM
I agree that the issue of work-life balance is not just a woman's issue. The well-being and upbringing of our children is an issue that affects mothers and fathers alike-- and this book directly addresses that reality.


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