Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Latest from Harrisburg

Here's the update on the attempt to outlaw maternal discrimination in Pennsylvania, a bright story about taking 5000 plus names to the state capitol, and a dim ending from a staffer who says the bill won't be voted on in committee this session. Here's the long update from the website, thanks to Cooper in Pittsburgh, and Kiki, of course.

The upshot: anyone stopping by the Playground today should email Todd Roup, the executive director for the PA Senate Labor and Industry Committee and tell him it really is necessary to bring the bill SB440 to committee this session, since he's told Kiki that it's impossible:

I'm writing, this morning, about how we even get to the point of taking political action, of picking up the phone, of having the conversation, of seeing ourselves as able to do these things, and seeing these everyday sorts of political actions as a normal, even normative part of motherhood. For now: let's just do it. Send the email. Say: We want you to bring SB 440, and end to maternal discrimination, to the Committee for a vote so it can see the light of day on the Senate Floor. We want this bill passed. Soon.

Just do it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A New Vision of Motherhood

Over at Everyday Mom I've been writing about what a motherhood identity that is policial and smart would feel like. The question came up for me this time around, because I've had trouble getting excited talking with other parents of young babies (Amelia Jane is now 9 1/2 months old). I'm friendly, and I introduce myself, but honestly, I'm really bored trading info about how old the kids are, and what they do, and whether they're in childcare or not. I do my best, and last time around, I loved mom-and-dad chitchat. I really did. I wanted to know all the details, I craved knowing what other babies were doing, and how their parents were managing. I made friends over and again by hearing and sharing these details.

This time, it's not enough, this lowest-commom-denominator talk that we do. I've been musing over what might take it's place. When Samira was young and I hung so many hours at the Lake Claire playground, my favorite was when someone would have caught the daily headlines and repeated them back to us at 4 pm as we gathered after the kids' naps. I loved when my friend Lisa would come by and tell what was happening in China. Yesterday, I ambled over to the excellent High Point Cafe. At the table next to me was a mother with a one-year-old baby (yes, we did the baby-age-trade) who was reading a magazine, a political magazine. Yes, this mother was reading The New Republic as she one-handedly helped her baby hold a bottle, and as she sipped coffee.

I was elated. Motherhood has long been seen as the opposite of all that is reasoned, smart and public sphere, and even in its current incarnation and association with well educated mothers, this hasn't changed. Any time we break that mold, any time we are active in our social worlds, smart, anytime we read something that isn't an insipid women's magazine, and yes, I really mean that, show me a mainstream women's magazine that really truly takes us seriously, we start breaking that mold. I'm on the lookout for mold-breaking, and I'm on the lookout for how we start to form shared models of motherhood on very different terms.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Isabel Kallman tells her story

About a year ago or so I wrote about the New York Magazine feature on Isabel Kallman and her Alpha Mom TV station on Comcast's Video On Demand. The article trashed Isabel, described her as a crazed Upper East Side Mom who was sending her child into early therapy and certain emotional doom. It sounds funny now, perhaps, but the article was damning and hurtful.

The article ran in June. Later that summer, my phone rang. A nice voice said "Hi, this is Isabel Kallman, from Alpha Mom TV." Thus began a long conversation, and a friendship. Turns out I had been one of the few bloggers not to rush onto the Alpha-Mom-is-terrible bandwagon, that I'd written something about how the story line seemed vaguely familiar of the scary moms described by Judith Warner's Perfect Madness, and that we should be carefully critical of media like this. Turns out, too, that the real Isabel is nothing like the monstrous woman described in the article. She's a totally great, smart, down-to-earth woman who is viviacious and friendly and generous. She wanted better information when she was pregnant and a new mother, and having some resources, a Wall Street background, and a brain for business, she went about creating an on-demand TV station for moms. When you take a look at Alpha Mom TV, you realize it's astoundingly focused and caring. I've joked that Isabel and her crew videotape $400 sleep consultants in NY, and then share the session with the rest of us in America. She works closely with Soho Parenting, and other groups. And she's thinking carefully about how to use alternative media to get the word out on good solid information about parenting. I tell you, when I went through pregnancy last year, with the horrid midwives who told me not to prepare ahead of time, and then left me alone the entire time I was in active labor (and much of the time before that, too), it was Alpha Mom's several segments on positions for labor and backlabor that were the only information I had. They helped. They were what got me through a difficult situation.

Count me, in other words, an Alpha Mom fan, and a fan of its creator, Isabel.

Now, many months later, Isabel is speaking out. After the trashing in New York Magazine, Isabel was contacted by all the morning shows. She could have gone on, told her story, made a big deal of it, started another episode of Mommy Wars fuss. But she didn't. That's not her style, not one bit. So check out her story in her words over at Huffington Post.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Letter from Cooper about Kiki

Hey everyone, here's a letter from Cooper Munroe, who's mad and is going to gather us together to get PA law changed so employers can't discriminate against mothers when it comes to hiring. Apologies in advance, This too-busy mom has no time to code the websites, so just click and copy them to get to where you need to be. Read on:

Hi Everyone,

We need your help, and vast reach, to get the word out on something very important.

At BlogHer I saw the documentary film, The Motherhood Manifesto, and through the film I learned that in Pennsylvania, where I live, it is legal to ask someone in a job interview if they are married or have children. Yep, dark ages. As you can guess, this hurts mostly moms and single moms. BUT - THIS IS NOT JUST IN PA!!! PA is one of 28 states that is in this predicament, and we, and the other states, aren't covered by the federal regs either.

Here is a list of states where discrimination is covered, and not covered, in employment laws (see the marital/familial status column): Pretty surprising, and it will be sure to piss you off.

Since BlogHer, I have been working with Joan Blades (co-founder of and others at, as well as women in Pennsylvania to help get legislation passed (it has been stalled in the state house and senate -- for 6 years!) that would make this practice illegal.

I wrote an article about it that ran yesterday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, please read it if you get a chance, it explains the problem:

If Pennsylvania can do this, it means so much to moms and families everywhere, and could create momentum for many critical issues involving moms and families, not just on this type of discrimination. PA could start a chain reaction, and we need to drum up some noise. has create a web page for this, and we have been blogging over there too: We have information, links to PA legislators' phone/email info and a petition. You don't have to be from PA to send a message that this is important.

It is especially important to get signatures on the petition, fast:

Anything you can do to get the word out would be awesome. So many times I talk about this people say, "I had no idea!" and that seems to be the biggest problem, the lawmakers think since no one is talking, nobody cares. From what I know about the bloggers, we can change that pretty quick.

Thank you!

Cooper Munroe
Been There, Been There Clearinghouse,

Monday, September 11, 2006

MomsRising's Kristin, on

Great interview with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner of and The Motherhood Manifesto.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

At Home Infant Care, now in Congress

Thanks to Devra at Parentopia for the alert on this bill in Congress now, introduced by Rosa DeLaura, on funding for At-Home Infant Care (AHIC). I wrote about AHIC in The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars, from the perspective of how the women at WEEL in Montana had organized, lobbied, and made AHIC into legislation at the state level. How excellent it would be for families to have more support for staying home with infants if that's what they want to do.

Here's the press release.

Friday, July 28, 2006 (202) 225-3661

DeLauro Bill Offers Families Option of At-Home Child Care for Infants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.-3) today introduced
"Choices in Child Care Act of 2006,” legislation that establishes an at-home
infant care program that will give thousands of working families the help
they need to balance work and provide quality care for their infant children.
The legislation gives parents the choice of using a state child care subsidy to
obtain infant care outside the home or of keeping the subsidy so they can
stay home and care for their child themselves without risking their family’s
financial security.
“When Congress passed welfare reform in 1996 it also promised to provide
increased funding for child care services and that it has failed to honor that
promise,” said DeLauro. “The result is that stagnant federal funding and state
cutbacks have left working families with less access as well as reduced
levels of assistance. As such, we must work to increase the federal commitment to
child care funding. But at the same time, we should provide parents with
more choices –– particularly at the earliest stages of life.”
Research shows that the quality of care-taking in the first months and years
of life is critical to a newborn’s brain development, social development and
well-being. In fact, 55 percent of women with infants younger than one years
of age work. Yet there is currently a severe shortage of safe, affordable,
quality care for infants. The number of licensed child care slots for infants
meets only 18 percent of the need. The shortage is particularly acute in rural
areas, and especially in rural areas with many low-income residents.
One obvious solution for parents who need affordable, high-quality care for
their infant is to provide that care themselves. Unfortunately, in many low-
and moderate-income families, having a parent quit his or her job or reduce
work hours to care for an infant is not financially viable. Doing so would
plunge the family into an economic crisis.
The bill amends the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to allow low-
and moderate-income parents the option of forgoing a state child care subsidy
for infant care outside the home and instead receiving a comparable stipend
to provide the care themselves while keeping the family economically stable.
“The time has come to restart the dialogue in this country about the
importance of federal child care funding,” said DeLauro. “One way we can do that is
by supporting parents who want to stay home with their infants.”