Our family has a Thanksgiving tradition, like many probably do, of going around the table after dinner and everyone shares what they are thankful for this year. For the kids, it’s often a favorite toy. For the grandparents, it’s gratitude that everyone is together again.
A few years ago, I could barely wait my turn as my husband and I used it to announce to both our families that our son was on the way.
Now when I think of all I’m thankful for, I do it with a mother’s eyes.
- I’m thankful that I was able to stay home and bond with my children in those critical months right after birth. Too many mothers must rush back to work because this nation is only one of four in the world - among Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, and Swaziland - to not offer any paid maternity leave. Fifty-one percent of mothers in this country receive no paid maternity leave, making having a baby a leading cause of poverty spells in the United States.
- I’m thankful that when my son was born prematurely, he got the medical care and therapy he needed and insurance kept us from going into debt or losing our home. Now I’m grateful my kids are healthy, and I have coverage to take them to the doctor to help them stay that way. Until recently, the insurance coverage many of us take for granted was beyond the reach of too many of our fellow Americans.
- I’m thankful that if my kids have to stay home when they are sick, I can be home with them without jeopardizing my family’s finances. This isn’t true for so many folks, like the 1.6 million North Carolinians who lack a single paid sick day to care for themselves or a sick family member.
- I’m thankful that my children have enough to eat so they aren’t hungry unlike the 1 in 4 kids in our country currently experiencing food scarcity due to their families’ economic limitations.
- I’m thankful that they have a roof over their head, a warm, safe place to sleep, and aren’t in danger of losing their home as far too many children have in recent years.
- I’m thankful that they have gotten a good start in life through excellent early childhood education programs and will start school ready to learn. Too many parents don’t have access to or can’t afford the kind of programs kids need to build a strong foundation for their future. Continued budget cuts to successful early childhood programs like Smart Start, Head Start, and More at Four make this problem even worse.
As I make my list of all I have to be thankful for this year, I’m acutely aware that I shouldn’t take these things for granted, that far too many mothers don’t have these same things for their children right now. And I’m reminded of something my parents taught me. They always said, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” I have a lot to be grateful for, so I clearly have a lot to do!
As you sit down for Thanksgiving and count your blessings, I hope you’ll join me in resolving to do your part to make sure that other families get to enjoy those same blessings by this time next year.
Beth Messersmith is a Durham mother of two and member of NC MomsRising. She writes monthly for Go Ask Mom.