Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Motherhood, Status or Job?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Motherhood, Status or Job?

Article excerpt

"PLEASE BE KIND AND CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF. YOUR MOTHER DOESN'T WORK HERE."

- Sign above the office coffeepot. -

WITH MOTHER'S Day coming up, many of us will be sending those flowers and cards, making those phone calls, or maybe spending a few quiet moments with our memories - the comforting rituals to say, "Thanks, Mom, for turning me into a reasonably civilized, decent human being."

It's also a good time to wonder about Zoe Lofgren's candidacy for Congress from California and the odd predicament she found herself in when she went in to get herself listed on the ballot in San Jose.

California lets candidates give three tidbits of information about themselves - their "principal professions, vocations or occupations," as a state official put it in a letter later to Lofgren. She wants to fill the seat of Rep. Don Edwards, D-Calif., who is retiring. She thought she'd put down some of her work that related to her reasons for running. Like an entrepreneur who also teaches night school and who wants to change tax law might write in "businessperson/educator."

Lofgren described herself this way: "County Supervisor/Mother."

She could also have put down "lawyer," but, she says, she hasn't practiced for 13 years so it seemed irrelevant. On the other hand, she's been a county supervisor all those years and that's practical hands-on government work. And raising two children - Sheila, 12, and Johnny, 9 - has not only been one heck of a lot of work, but it's shown her some of the problems she thinks politics ought to be about solving.

"My son is in the third grade in a little school in downtown Los Angeles," Lofgren explained. "I read all these reports about impoverished children - but I actually see them every day when I take him to school. I see the other parents. I talk to them.

"You can read all the reports you want, but you don't really understand it until you live it, feel it and see it."

But California's law looks at it another way. Motherhood, by the law, is a "status." There have even been a couple of court cases to make the point. Mothers don't get paid. No paycheck - it's not a job. Which, if you stop and think about it - as Zoe Lofgren has been doing - says a whole lot about the "status" of motherhood and about how we decide what we value. …

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