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Fighting for working moms' rights

or know -- a mom, you likely know how stressful that role can be.

But what you may not know is this: In the United States, women get less support in trying to carry out that demanding job than women in most other places around the globe.

Don't believe it? Try this fact:

A tiny handful of countries in the world do not provide paid maternity leave to new mothers -- compared to 177 nations that do.

The U.S. is in that minority. Along with Papua New Guinea and Swaziland, to take two other examples.

"We're way out of the mainstream," said journalist Sharon Lerner, author of "The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation," a new book from Wiley publishers that includes Lerner's research into the challenges facing American moms today and an analysis of possible solutions.

Lerner will read from her book and lead a discussion with the public at 7 tonight in Talking Leaves Bookstore at 3158 Main St. The event is free and open to the public.

A Brooklyn resident, Lerner told The Buffalo News by phone from her home office that she had started working on the research that fueled "The War on Moms" before she gave birth to her two sons, Samson, 4, and Elijah, 2. Her husband, Lucas Dreamer, was raised in Buffalo.

But after her boys were born, Lerner said, she found herself stretched into a bind that many moms know: trying to find support for child-rearing in a country that doesn't seem to value that role.

"We're doing worse than every other industrialized nation in terms of support for women after they've had a child," said Lerner, 43. "One of the reasons I wrote this book is, I felt women didn't understand that.

"This book is about the reason it's so difficult here -- which is because we've made it that way."

For her book, which Lerner calls "journalistic" rather than academic in approach, she conducted interviews with many moms across the country.

Lerner, a former radio and print reporter, used the women's experiences and anecdotes in describing the situation facing 21st-century mothers in the U.S. -- a place where, in many states, there is no paid leave for women who bear kids.

"Unfortunately, what often happens is that women are often shunted into working more than they'd like -- or not working at all," Lerner said.

"The War on Moms" covers a lot of ground, but three of its main areas of focus are:

*Paid and supported parental leave time. After an American woman has a baby, does she have job protection and paid time to care for her infant? In many cases, the answer is no.

*Flexible work options. After childbirth, Lerner said, many women want flexibility above all else in their work schedules. "Is there a way for you to earn money and take care of your family?" she queried. Many women told Lerner this doesn't exist as a possibility for them.

*Affordable, high-quality child care. For women returning to work, is there a lot of high-quality, budget-friendly child care available?

"Just in those three areas, we're way behind," Lerner said. "These are the three things we need to do."

Lerner said that what was most useful to her in writing the book was expanding her perspective to take a look at what other countries do, around the globe, to support mothers and fathers.

"When I did that with motherhood, I was totally floored," she said. "Relative to other rich countries, women here work a lot, and they do it with less support than in other countries."

Lerner said she is looking forward to her Buffalo visit, and expects a lively discussion of the issue at her local appearance.

"Everywhere I've gone," she said, "there have been really animated and lively discussions."

For more information on Lerner's talk, see tleavesbooks.com/lerner.htm.

e-mail: getwell@buffnews.com

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The War on Moms

By Sharon Lerner

Public discussion tonight in Talking Leaves Bookstore at 7

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