Daniela Garcia, background, observes her son Bobby Miller, 21-months, preparing for Mother's Day by getting his first haircut while watching cartoons on a mobile phone held by his father, Daniel Miller, from barber Mike Douglas at East J Barbers in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, May 7, 2022. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Susan Young is the Bangor Daily News opinion editor.

I’m not going to lie: Mothering is hard work. There are days when you’ll wonder if you’ve done anything right. Worse, people you don’t even know will judge you. Relentlessly. They’ll tell you how to parent. They’ll make you second-guess everything you do.

Motherhood is also full of amazing joys. First smiles, first steps. A hand-drawn card where you look like Medusa. It’s the thought that counts — and that puts tears in your eyes.

Before you know it, the toddler who drew on the walls in permanent marker, the teenager who screamed that they hated you, the prom queen who looked resplendent in a tuxedo, may be miles — or even a continent away. Your heart jumps with every text, soars with every new accomplishment.

Motherhood is many things. What it is not, however, is a crass definition from a politician who seems more intent on being mean, on garnering attention than on working to solve the problems that real Americans face every day, the problems members of Congress were presumably elected to at least try to solve.

Birthing children is an amazing — and painful — gift. But, it is far from the only way that someone becomes a mother. Mothers who have adopted children. Mothers who have children through surrogates. Mothers who marry spouses who already have children. Mothers who take in children, as official foster parents or as informal guardian angels. They are all mothers.

For Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to say otherwise, as she did recently, is reprehensible.

Beyond nasty and restrictive definitions of motherhood, there is much work for policymakers — in Maine and in Washington — to do to make life better for parents and, by extension, for everyone.

Here’s just one example: Child care is in such short supply in Maine, and across the country, that signing up for care long before a baby is even born isn’t a ludicrous idea. Yet, even that won’t guarantee a day care spot.

And the shortages persist as children grow. The Portland Press Herald recently chronicled the challenges of signing children up for summer camps, an essential form of summer child care for many families.

At a time when businesses across the state and country are still finding it hard to hire enough workers, access to child care should be a high priority. There are many reasons for this so-called workforce shortage, including inadequate wages and working conditions. But, lack of affordable child care is a factor in current hiring woes. A national survey last year found that nearly half the women who left the workforce cited child care as one of the reasons. For some, this is a choice to prioritize raising children. Others, however, would prefer to work but can’t because they couldn’t find care for their child or children. This can be a drag on our economy.

The child care crisis needs to be addressed, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that more government support is needed. Child care workers need to be paid more, but families can’t afford to pay more for care. The economic model is broken. In such cases, government intervention may be the only solution.

Maine lawmakers are considering many bills to address the problem. An extensive bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, who has been advocating for improvements to the state’s child care system for years, would increase and improve child care subsidies while also raising salaries for child care workers. Another bill, from Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, would expand public preschools. Both bills call for studies of ways to increase the availability of affordable child care.

Republican lawmakers have also introduced legislation to ease the child care crisis. A bill from Senate Republican leader Trey Stewart would update and expand tax credits to employers that provide or pay for child care. A wide-ranging bill sponsored by Sen. Marianne Moore of Calais calls for changes to child care subsidy payments for some parents and providers and would change some regulations for child care providers.

As lawmakers debate these, and other proposals, their goal must be to make safe, affordable child care more readily available to Maine families. That likely means improving working conditions and pay for child care providers.

Mother’s Day isn’t until next weekend. But, I wanted to give everyone an early reminder to make brunch reservations, order flowers, make a card or book an exotic getaway (a mom can dream, can’t she?). Exotic or not, I will be away for a couple weeks and this column will take a break. In the meantime, happy Mother’s Day to all moms, no matter how you got that title.

Avatar photo

Susan Young

Susan Young is the opinion editor at the Bangor Daily News. She has worked for the BDN for over 25 years as a reporter and editor.