EDITORIAL: Moms face challenges, so let's make motherhood a little easier

May 10—"It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don't think you're good enough.

Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong."

That's the beginning of America Ferrara's soliloquy from "Barbie," which made more than $1.4 billion to top last year's box office chart.

She goes on to recite a long but not comprehensive list of the contradictory demands — thin but not too thin, a boss but not mean, have money but not ask for it because that would be crass — that our society imposes on women.

It's fitting that Ferrara's character makes that speech to her own on-screen daughter because mothers face even more criticism in addition to all the other you're-doing-it-wrong-double-bind women face.

You need to stay home with your infant child, but you can't have paid maternity leave. If a new mother does "lean in" — to cite the admonition by former Meta CEO Sheryl Sandberg — she leaves herself open to accusations of neglect.

With arrival of the annual holiday to celebrate motherhood, it's worth remembering the sacrifices our mothers made to bring us into this world. And also the sacrifices our mothers continue to make so we can thrive.

We usually have little trouble admiring the mothers in our lives, and in showing that admiration to the mothers in our lives. All too often, though, that admiration doesn't always manifest itself in policy.

Society is, too often, unable or unwilling to care for the people who care for us — motherhood being the first care most of us receive.

Pennsylvania's state House took a step Monday to help mothers by passing a slate of bills known as the Momnibus package. The legislation includes provisions allowing Medicaid to pay for doulas and blood pressure monitors during the prenatal period.

Doulas are non-medical professionals who provide support and advocacy for women during the labor process. The March of Dimes reports that the presence of a doula correlates with positive labor outcomes.

While the measures passed this week are laudable, they amount to baby steps. If we're serious about honoring motherhood, as well as our own mothers, we can do more.

"More" could mean paid longer maternity leave to ensure that families can care for themselves while they are caring for an infant child. "More" could mean allowing more women working in the private sector to protect their employment status when leaving the workplace to give birth to a child.

"More" could mean guaranteeing adequate prenatal care for all mothers-to-be, not just those who can afford it or have access to insurance. More could mean applying the admiration we have for our own mothers to mothers in general.

Because if we're serious about honoring all mothers, we have to make motherhood easier.