Welcome Home, Moms!

Author: Marilyn Medvidik Greene

Celebrate Life May-June 1995, p. 23

WELCOME HOME, MOMS! By Marilyn Medvidik Greene, copyright 1995 IN THE 90'S WORLD, when mom decides to leave work to raise her children she may feel she's the only one home on the block. This lack of companionship has actually been known to drive some women back to work. Is there any help out there? "Absolutely yes!" say the women of Mothers at Home, an organization founded in 1984. Their newsletter, "Welcome Home," is written by mothers, for mothers, to encourage them as they develop their own mothering skills and style. In a world that gives full-time mothering little respect, many women respond like Terry Jordan of San Diego, California: "Dozens of times I've read an article or poem in "Welcome Home" with tears flowing down my cheeks--not because the writing was sad, but because I felt understood and connected to a community of women who have made the choice to stay home." So who are Mothers at Home (MAH)? Actually, they're just who they should be--ordinary mothers who are at home raising their children, and who've made publishing the journal "Welcome Home" their part-time or volunteer work. MAH has 25 part-time paid staff, and some 50 volunteers. Their Management Team has a rotating co-directorship of two, to keep the burden of management from getting too heavy on any "mah" ("mother at home"), as they call themselves. Many work largely at home, telephoning and faxing back and forth as necessary, and coming to the office only occasionally. Others work at their family- friendly office, which has a large sunny playroom for the children, who remain within eyesight--and toddling distance--of mom's desk. The best introduction to what Mothers at Home is trying to say about motherhood is their book, "Discovering Motherhood," a compilation of some of their best articles for new mothers. As a mah who has herself lived through this, I found the articles poignant and encouraging. It is a major life change to go from "working woman" to "mother" and "Discovering Motherhood" covers this, from pieces such as "The Road Less Traveled," through "I Am Not a Housewife," "Dollars, Sense and Motherhood" and ending with such essays as "To Parent Is to Grow." Personal growth is probably not what most of us had in mind when we became mothers, but God certainly has His mysterious ways of working, as mah's of diverse socio-economic, political and religious backgrounds recount. "Welcome Home" is, as one might expect, a very welcoming newsletter. With readers contributing most of the articles, the stories are warm and personal, and capture both the nitty-gritty of at-home mothering as well as the emotional and spiritual revelations. Sherry Johnson related in the February issue how a mother of toddlers dreads when things are "Too Quiet," such as when her youngest daughters recently found the jar of Vaseline and rubbed it over their faces, in their hair, and on the carpet. As she says, "Naturally, this happened the day after I'd cleaned the carpet from when they quietly discovered they could get the diaper pail open and that its contents could make quite a smelly mess . . . [but] . . . When they get older and leave home I'm sure I will discover the real meaning of 'too quiet.'" The magazine also has articles on topical issues such as child safety and dealing with unemployment, and follows public policy and the media on issues affecting families. There are articles on raising children, too, but "Welcome Home" articles reach out through their writers' own mothering experiences rather than presenting "professional" advice as do the standard parenting magazines. Another goal of MAH has been to challenge misconceptions about both mothers at home and women working outside the home. The original founders, Linda Burton, Janet Dittmer and Cheri Loveless, wrote "What's a Smart Woman Like You Doing at Home?" to counter the stereotype of "supermom." MAH's Public Relations Director, Marian Gormley, tracks media coverage of mothers at home. She recently pointed out to "Advertising Age" in their September 19, 1994, issue that "Women at home are much more apt to go along with companies that don't stereotype us. If it's an ad for laundry soap, instead of showing her with her washing machine, they should show her outside on the lawn with the kids--getting grass stains on those clothes." One of the biggest misconceptions MAH challenges is the idea that almost all mothers are out working full-time. In fact, MAH has discovered that most mothers of young children are still at home. The 1994 Bureau of the Census Report "Who's Minding the Kids?" shows that of mothers whose children are under the age of five, 47% are not working outside the home. When mother/father combinations of child- rearing (10%) and moms who work at home (4%) are added in, the percentage of mothers home with young children rises to 61%. Many moms of both younger and older children actually work outside the home only part-time, which further improves the picture. Heidi Brennan, MAH's Public Policy Director, remarked: "One of the surprising things that we've found in the last several years was that there is a lot of emphasis on improving child care in our country, which is a logical thing to be concerned about. There are many children who now are in substitute care, but the way it's often presented in the media is that millions of mothers need substitute care or want substitute care and what we're hearing is that many women would rather be home. And when they do seek care, they'd like to have more options for part-time care or family-based care." The phrase "family values" brings to mind that foremost example of the American family, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. In the 1950's, Ozzie and Harriet presented an enduring picture of warm family life in their television series. With the death of Harriet Nelson last year, doomsayers said it was the death knell of the traditional American family. But as MAH's Marian Gormley pointed out, "Perhaps the real Harriet Nelson was a trend-setter, defying the work/home dichotomy. She worked as an actress alongside her family, just as today's mothers continue to create work and family life patterns that maintain the enduring values of home and community." If you're a mother at home you can benefit from a support group--some other mothers who are also at home and with whom you can get together to talk and support each other in the rewarding but challenging job of motherhood. Whether you have such a group or not, as Heidi Brennan remarked, "Welcome Home" provides a support group that doesn't require you to pack up the diaper bag, get in the car and go somewhere. Marilyn Medvidik Greene is a mother at home; she lives in Virginia. Mothers at Home is featured in the Celebrate Life! video "Discovering Motherhood" (order video # CL62; see p. 46 for ordering information). Families and the law

MAH tracks public policy and legislation, and they have testified before Congressional committees as advocates for at-home mothers. Currently Brennan is following two pieces of legislation that they feel are important for families and mah's.

The first is the "American Dream Restoration Act," H.R. 6, part of the Contract with America. The House Ways and Means Committee held hearings in January on the Act, which has three parts: a $500-per- child tax credit for families with incomes up to $200,000, with a partial credit if income is between $200,000 and $250,000; elimination of the "marriage penalty"; and proposed "American Dream Savings Accounts," which would allow couples to save up to $4,000 ($2,000 for individuals) tax-free per year for either retirement, purchase of a first home, or qualified higher education.

The second item is the "Homemaker IRS Equity Act," H.R. 708 and S. 287, which is designed to correct tax code discrimination against non- wage-earning spouses by raising the amount such couples can save each year from $2,250 to $4,000 (the amount that can be saved when both spouses in a household earn income). The bill is an obvious "family values" candidate, but needs co-sponsoring Representatives and Senators to keep it from fading into oblivion as it did last year.

Welcome Home

"Welcome Home" costs $18 a year; to subscribe, or for more information about MAH, contact Mothers at Home, 8310A Old Courthouse Rd., Vienna, VA 22182; 800-783-4MOM.

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