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Flowers, cards, macaroni art ... mothers will have a few treats coming their way this Mother's Day. But for 50 American women, jewelry designer Kendra Scott is offering something extra to help lighten their load amid a pandemic that's put unthinkable pressure on parents: a $2,000 "Mother's Day Personal Time Off (PTO) Fund."
Scott's #WearItLikeAMom contest — which ends April 22 — invites U.S.-based moms and guardians who have at least one child and are aged 18 or older to enter by sharing a "real-life mom moment" on Instagram; no purchase is required, and entrants are under no obligation to wear a Scott design, which typically retail for $40 and up, in their photo or video. Among the entries already submitted, moms are shown cuddling their kids, recovering from childbirth, helping with homework and pumping breastmilk.
The Texas-based Scott, who will be giving away $100,000 all told, is no stranger to philanthropic initiatives; her first design business catered to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and she's supported a number of women and pediatric causes through her Kendra Gives Back program. But as a single mother of three, witnessing the pandemic's impact on mothers and their mental health motivated her to take action ahead of Mother's Day on May 9.
"Over the past year, we’ve all faced so many unforeseen circumstances and I’ve seen firsthand the toll that it can take on our mental health — especially for mothers," Scott tells Yahoo Life. "Even though this year has been hard in many different ways, moms have held it all together somehow and proved to be our superheroes. As a mother myself, I was completely inspired by the strength and resilience of all the moms around me, and I knew I had to help uplift these inspiring women in any way I could. Empowering women and children to live their best lives has always been central to the Kendra Scott mission, and this year moms deserve that empowerment more than ever."
Scott hopes the fund will "give more moms the space and resources to focus on their mental health," which could mean putting $2,000 toward childcare expenses, rent, groceries or other needs "so that women will feel enabled to take personal time off and focus on themselves."
"Every mom deserves the opportunity to put her mental health first," she adds.
Scott's giveaway has made headlines because of its generosity, but also because it comes amid increased calls for financial and mental health support for mothers as the pandemic lays bare the often invisible labor they perform. That's something activists and policymakers say the U.S. government should cover as part of federal infrastructure. As Yahoo Life has previously reported, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani has urged President Joe Biden to implement a "Marshall Plan for Moms" that would include a $2,400 monthly stipend and a task force led by a "caregiving czar" ensuring parental leave, affordable childcare and pay equity. The Time's Up movement is also devoting $20 million to a #CareCantWait coalition demanding more affordable childcare and at least 12 weeks paid family leave for all working people.
Until then, brands like Kendra Scott are picking up the slack — similar to GoFundMes raising money for medical bills in lieu of universal healthcare, or the #ClearTheLists back-to-school fundraisers donating necessary school supplies to teachers whose districts don't provide funding to cover those costs. C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, tells Yahoo Life that any support is helpful, whether it comes from brands reaching into their pockets or employers with generous parental leave policies, noting that "for many women, companies are the front line." Federal policy is also typically slow to make happen, she adds.
But the need so often outstrips opportunity in these situations, she notes, pointing to the turmoil caused by the dress giveaway Reese Witherspoon's clothing line, Draper James, hosted for teachers last year, which is why broader policy changes are necessary too.
"What happens is the need is so overwhelming, the companies can't absorb it," Mason says. "What that tells me is that we need some permanent fixes and private companies are not going to be able to solve these really very huge problems and core issues. ... There's just so much need."
Mason is, however, "cautiously optimistic" that a new administration and an amplified awareness of issues faced by caregivers amid the pandemic will usher in change. Indeed, the president's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus bill, signed into law in March, expands child tax credits and allows states to give new mothers up to 12 months of postpartum coverage under Medicaid and CHIP, while the proposed American Jobs Plan would make childcare facilities more accessible in high-need areas, and encourage employers to build on-site childcare centers for their employees.
"I do feel like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to curate a fair workplace where women feel that they are valued for all of the things that they bring to the table as mothers, as workers, as caregivers and that they feel respected," Mason says. "So I feel optimistic in that way. I think the pandemic has provided an opportunity for us to retool, rethink and re-imagine. What I'm fearful of is that even though there's strong public will to change policies to create a more equitable economy and workplace, that there's so much gridlock at the federal level that we won't see some of the gains and changes that are possible in this moment."
Scott agrees that more widespread support is called for — but is happy to offer a helping hand to 50 moms herself in the meantime.
"As painful as the past year has been, there have also been some extremely important conversations come to light that highlight the need for more support in terms of childcare and mental health," the designer says. "In many ways the pandemic has highlighted the hardships mothers face, regardless of a pandemic, and I hope that we come out of this difficult time understanding the need to commit more support for mothers and women across the board. And I believe in doing all I can to facilitate those proactive conversations that will hopefully lead to positive change for moms and mental health."
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