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Erica Gallegos, also a co-executive director of the Child Care for Every Family Network, said there is now bipartisan support for more child care financing, and that even some of the more conservative legislators she speaks to understand the need to raise child care provider pay (over 94 percent of child care workers are women). One of the major issues in child care is staff retention, because the pay is often so low, and the District of Columbia for instance, has passed a law to send a one-time payment of $10,000-$14,000 to child care workers.

Incremental change will not fix all the issues in child care — all the experts I have ever spoken to agree that only a long-term federal investment will do that — because providing high-quality care and retaining experienced caregivers is costly. And while so many inequities remain for parents overall, the pandemic has been especially difficult for mothers without a college degree, and for Black and Hispanic mothers, according to an economic review from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

But without being Pollyannaish about it, women like Ms. Paluso and Ms. Gallegos give me hope for the future, and in turn, they are inspired by the parents and child care providers that they work with to organize on the ground. “They understand what the problem is, and it’s not them,” said Ms. Gallegos. No one ever bothered before to build a sturdy child care system because we’ve just depended on mothers to do that work for free. Now they’re building it themselves.

And that’s ultimately what gives me hope, even against a backdrop of bad news: A generation ago, the rollback of legal gender discrimination didn’t appear out of thin air. Things haven’t always moved in a straight line. Things happen because coalitions of activists fought for years. For example, Marylin Bender’s 1973 article about women denied credit mentions work done by chapters of the National Organization for Women, the Center for Women Policy Studies and women’s groups in Dallas, Minneapolis and St. Paul and Baltimore.

The ruling in Roe came after years of mass movement. As the historian Leslie Reagan notes in her book “When Abortion Was a Crime,” “The stunning transformation in law and public policy regarding abortion and women’s rights was rooted in the declining conditions of abortion under the criminal law and built on generations of women demanding abortions — and getting them.”

In the early ’70s, before Roe became law, an underground network in Chicago called the Jane Collective helped women get illegal abortions. Martha Scott, who was a stay-at-home mom of four young children back then, told WBEZ that she was moved to volunteer with Jane because “I just thought, if you really care about something, you have to act on it.” This past week, we have seen so many people, including mothers and their children, taking to the streets to continue to demand the right to control their own bodies.

The burden shouldn’t fall only on those most affected to fix what’s broken, but I know that American mothers will continue to show up and fight. And on this Mother’s Day, I’m grateful for the generations of mothers who fought before us, doing the sometimes painfully slow work of advocacy, and for the ones fighting in this moment, too.

Jessica Grose is the author of a Times Opinion newsletter on parenting.



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