Mothers to remember, mom-laws to know

What is a “fit” mother? The law tries to decide. And sometimes it makes the law makes it hard. Try breastfeeding in a restaurant.

Gaia - EARTH DAY - Creative Commons
Gaia - EARTH DAY - Creative Commons

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2015 – In celebration of Mother’s Day, here are a review of some of history’s mothers and a summary of the lot of moms in today’s world.

Mothers owe their day’s celebration to Anna Jarvis. In Grafton, W.Va., in 1908, Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day celebration to encourage families to honor their moms with simple, at-home gatherings. The holiday quickly became commercialized, and Jarvis became a vocal protester of Mother’s Day charity events and of selling flowers and candy.

Gaia, the first goddess in Greek mythology, who was also known as Mother Earth, created herself out of “chaos” and “conjured” Uranus (the starry sky) from nothing, establishing that mothers were capable of anything. This truth is seen often.

Eve, the first biblical woman, listened to the serpent, ate the apple and got booted out of Eden. As additional punishment she was made to feel great pain during child labor. During child-delivery, mothers heard screaming “Oh God” are really blaming Eve. On behalf of mothers, thank you, Eve.

Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt, took “family connections” to the highest level. She may well have been the most powerful mother in history. Nine months after giving birth to a son, she rolled up in a carpet, literally, at Julius Cesar’s palace and persuaded him to give her full control of Egypt instead of having it added to the Roman Empire.

She later had three more children with Roman general Mark Antony. She committed suicide, but not because of the kids.

June Cleaver, played by Barbara Billingsley on the hit television show Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963), embodied the perfect mother of that era, providing warmth, wisdom and supportive love to two precocious sons.

Today’s perfect mother cannot be defined, but the image of the Beav’s mom remains.

Marge Simpson is seen keeping her family in check on The Simpsons. Perhaps it is her tall blue beehive hairstyle that elevated her in a 2004 vote for the UK’s Most Respected Mother, when she beat out Cherie Blair (British barrister and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife) and Victoria Beckham (model, pop-star singer, fashion-designer, businesswoman and wife of soccer superstar David Beckham).

Maybe it was something about Marge’s voice…

Marie Barone, played by Doris Roberts on Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005), won three Emmy Awards portraying the nosy, insufferable, manipulative and meddling mother. We knew when we watched, though, that Marie’s behavior was always grounded in love for her children.

Today, laws touch on every aspect of human endeavor; it then follows that there are laws that affect and are directed at mothers.

Are you a bad mother because you let your children walk through the park alone?

Are you a bad mother because you consider having, or have an abortion?

What is a “fit” mother?

Many laws deal with situations when family units destruct. Laws that affect women in their role as mothers include child custody and visitation (which include rights of grandmothers and mothers-in-law), child support and even international custody disputes, where two sets of laws are involved.

The goal of all laws involving children’s welfare is to provide for their “best interests.” That term is unfortunately too often disputed. Parents in divorce and seeking visitation and custody arrangements have spent gazillions of dollars on lawyers, experts and “hired gun” mental health people to serve their definition of “what is best.”

The first milk; the best milk; so why do some make it so hard?

From the first mother, Eve, there was breastfeeding. It is a natural thing to do. Excepting some, of course, and not intending to stir any debate, today’s health professionals and public officials agree and promote breastfeeding to improve the health of the child and the mothers. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect against bacteria and viruses, and children who receive mom’s milk have fewer ear, respiratory and urinary tract infections. Children who are breastfed tend to need fewer healthcare visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations.

So why did it take until 2010 for federal law to require employers to accommodate this basic human activity? The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to require an employer to provide reasonable break time, and a place other than a bathroom, for an employee to express breast milk.

B-F in public? Forty-nine states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. Idaho’s only law on breastfeeding is to allow women who have jury duty to be exempt if it imposes an undue hardship.

B-F indecent? Twenty-nine states, D.C., and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.

But I have jury duty? Seventeen states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow jury service to be postponed.

Unmarried mothers (36 percent of all mothers in 2011, and if age 20-24, over 60 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau) have rights, mostly superior to those of the fathers.

Healthcare decisions, considered mostly an individual right, allow a pregnant unmarried woman’s decision about medical care to trump the father’s wishes, including the right to decide on whether or not to have an abortion.

Unmarried moms, in most states, are considered the full legal custodian, granting them sole physical custody of their children and granting them liberty to make all decisions about where the child stays and what medical care the child receives. If the father wants to visit or take custody, the mom can legally say “no” and that remains the status until there is a court order.

Being a mother is the most important job in the world. For all persons, whether they want to express it or not, thank you mom. Happy Mother’s Day. No need to consult your attorney.


Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

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Paul Samakow
Attorney Paul Samakow brings his legal expertise and analysis from the trenches of the courtroom to Communities Digital News. A native Washingtonian, Samakow has been a Plaintiff’s trial lawyer since 1980 practicing in the DC metro area. Paul can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email @ [email protected], or through his website @ He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.