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There are many wondrous "firsts" that accompany pregnancy and new motherhood: first ultrasound, first kick, first gaze into your newborn's face. But this period may also trigger your first experience with discrimination and open your eyes to where change is needed. "The women's movement in the '60s and '70s did a lot to create room at the top," says Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., executive team member of MomsRising.org, a rapidly growing political organization founded in 2006. "Now, younger women can be anything they want to be, but when they have children, they realize there is a bias against mothers—'maternal profiling'—and a major lack of basic support systems for families in this country."
Tiemann points to studies that show mothers earn just 73 cents to a man's $1, compared with 90 cents for non-mothers. In fact, moms are less likely to be hired at all. The good news is that momentum is building to help reverse these trends as well as to win paid family leave, better health care access for kids, and high-quality, affordable child care; and to get toxins out of families' homes as well as the larger environment.
It's a small world The Internet makes it super easy for even the most harried among us to participate. "Online networking provides the key that enables every mother to become an activist," says Tiemann, who also is the author of Mojo Mom (Spark Press). "Even if you have just a few minutes, you can send an e-mail to a legislator or read up on issues." Another idea is to integrate social change into a mom's night out with girlfriends by downloading the "Mojo Mom Party Kit—Becoming a Naptime Activist" at mojomom.com. (Some other good sites: BetterWorldShopper.org, EcoMomAlliance.org and MothersActingUp.org.)
The power of mothers banding together is unquestionable, according to MomsRising, which credits its members and affiliated groups with the recent passage of toy-manufacturing guidelines and paid family leave in Washington and New Jersey. What's more, you'll be setting an important example for your child. "Seeing us involved helps kids learn at an early age that a democracy depends on the participation of its citizens," Tiemann says.