A Mother’s Reality
COMMENTARY

May 12, 2023by Antjuan Seawright, Founder & CEO, Blueprint Strategy LLC
A Mother’s Reality
Floridalma Ortega-Ortiz, with two of her children, works with her husband selling goods. (Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

I remember looking through old photo albums with my mother once and seeing pictures of her when she was just a kid, before my sister, brothers and I were born, and thinking, “Who is this woman so full of bright energy and hope?”

I hardly recognized her and every year since, particularly as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I remember that woman in that photograph. I remember the sheer joy in her smile and know that she poured all that joy into us.

But there is a reality there that’s rarely seen, even though it’s there for anyone who bothers to look.

For instance, on average, women across America earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns while Black women earn only 65 cents and Latino women earn 60 … and it hasn’t gotten any better in 20 years.

Is your mom worth less than a man? Mine isn’t. Can you imagine any man working 38% harder? I can’t. But that’s the reality she lives with and when we ignore that injustice we’re ignoring her.

Here’s another one. In 2018, half of all American counties lacked a single OB-GYN. As a result, even though 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States are preventable, America’s maternal mortality rate jumped 89% from 2018 to 2021 and, if that wasn’t bad enough, Black women are three times more likely to die in pregnancy than their White counterparts.

That’s the fear our mothers live with, the fear that bringing new life into the world might cost them theirs. Can you imagine your mother having to face that fear alone because the politicians are more interested in banning books and fighting Disney than they are in saving her life? That’s the reality she lives with.

Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime in America. That’s not hyperbole. It’s reality, and the impact on our nation, from our families to our economy, is immeasurable. Our mothers are bearing this abuse silently with little or no support and it’s killing them.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women in America have experienced some form of domestic violence. In other words, if it’s not your mother then it’s your grandmother or your aunt or your sister.

That’s one in four women suffering severe physical violence like beating, strangling or worse at the hands of an intimate partner. Imagine what this Mother’s Day is like for them.

Even with President Biden’s executive order increasing child care access, how many of our mothers can’t get a job because the cost of child care is more than their annual salaries? How many are looking at an 80-hour work week because that’s the only way to afford even a single bedroom apartment on minimum wage? Why are women burdened with significantly more student debt than men even though they’re getting the same degree? How many mothers lie awake every night praying their children won’t fall victims to police brutality? How many are burying their children after someone opens fire at their school?

A girl born today has fewer rights than her mother since the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade and put their lives at risk, making their own choices about their own bodies a felony. 

What makes a male politician think he should have more to say about my mother’s reproductive freedom than my mother does? He gets to leave when he gets a woman pregnant. He gets to disappear and act like it never happened. She doesn’t.

Her life is the one at risk. She has to face preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and postpartum depression, and she has to do it alone, without medical support or screenings because Judge Reed O’Connor in the North District of Texas said her insurance company doesn’t have to pay. 

Oh, and she has to face this all on the job because she can’t get paid family leave. Does that seem right to you? Doesn’t your mother deserve better?

From gun violence and domestic abuse to transportation, food insecurity, climate change, health care and credit restrictions, all of our mothers are facing the same challenges we are and more because they’re not just living for themselves. They’re living for us and they face the worst the world can deal out so we don’t have to.

But it’s more than that. It’s the casual misogyny and easy dismissal she faces when she tries to speak up. It’s the automatic assumption that all her problems would be fixed if she had a man in her life. It’s every cut she receives every day from objectification and sexualization to being labeled a “man hater” if she tries to stick up for herself.

That’s your mother they’re talking about. Are you going to let them get away with that?

So when I look back on that old photograph and see a young woman with her whole life ahead of her, I barely recognize the face that looks back at me because she hasn’t known the countless wounds of motherhood that wait for her. Still, there’s something there … something I do recognize. Because, despite the struggle and the sacrifice, the blood, sweat and tears, one thing remains shining from her eyes … hope.

And I recognize it not just because she’s always been there through triumph and tragedy alike, but because it’s the same hope I see in the mirror. It’s the same hope she poured into my heart to give me strength when all else failed. Her hope is my hope and I refuse to let it down.

I know it’s the same for you. It’s the same for all of us. That’s why we can’t turn our backs to our mothers’ reality. Just like she fought our fights for so long, now it’s time to fight hers. It’s the least we can do.

Happy Mother’s Day.


Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, and a CBS News political contributor. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea 

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