Obama Loses Stay-at-Home Moms’ Support (If He Ever Had It)

Obama Loses Stay-at-Home Moms’ Support (If He Ever Had It) November 1, 2014

There’s quite a brew erupting in social media over remarks by President Obama this week about stay-at-home mothers.  I am reminded, as I was when he made the infamous remark in 2011 about not wanting his daughters to be “punished with a baby”, that the President and I reside in different universes on social issues.


Speaking yesterday in Rhode Island,
the president called for more taxpayer-spending on early education programs in order to “make sure that women are full and equal participants in our economy.”  He said:

“Sometimes someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.

*     *     *     *     *

Excuse me, Mr. President, but I believe that’s EXACTLY the choice we want Americans to make.  We want you, Mr. President, to support and strengthen American families through tax incentives which encourage parents to stay home–not programs that separate children from their parents and which try, with limited success, to match the education and character formation that mothers were already providing in the home.

Don’t misunderstand me:  I don’t hate working mothers.  For single mothers and those who need to work–even those who simply choose to work–I hold no animus.  They deserve our understanding and respect and, where possible, our help.  But where possible, children should receive the best care available–and that, I believe, is the care that only a mother can provide.

  • Stay-at-home mothers can nurse their children rather than resorting to bottle-feeding, thus bonding more deeply while meeting the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that women breastfeed for at least twelve months.   
  • Mothers, who have an instinctive love for their children, can provide one-on-one personalized education designed to maximize the child’s development.  The best intentioned classroom teacher will, of necessity, offer a standardized curriculum with occasional moments of one-on-one assistance.

There’s more:  Mothers can cook fresh, wholesome meals rather than relying on carryouts and fast foods.  Stay-at-home mothers need less money, saving the dollars that would be spent by a working mother on gas, a working wardrobe, lunches out, and childcare.  Stay-at-home mothers can present character-building and values education, including religious instruction, without fear of complaints from atheists or others who don’t share the family’s core values.

*     *     *     *     *

When I was pregnant with our first child, I bought the feminist message:   I was a strong woman, I was highly qualified, I was valuable in the workforce, I could do EVERYTHING!  And then she was born.  When I held my daughter for the first time, I knew that holding her, loving her, teaching her was the most valuable contribution I could ever make in this world.  At the end of my planned maternity leave, I returned to the office sadly; shortly after, I quit my oh-so-important job and went home to do a much more important job, a job with eternal consequences.

I wrote a few years ago about my own internal conflict regarding work vs. parenting.  There is so much pressure from society for women to remain in the workforce.  When I chose to stay home, I did not feel the strong support of everyone around me.  Often other women were polite, but obviously surprised by my choice.  I wrote:

My life, it seemed at the time, revolved around cleaning toilets and changing diapers.  Oh, sure, I had made the choice to stay home to mother my children.  Together we read stories and baked cookies, sang the ABCs with gusto, embarked on sun-splashed walks in search of caterpillars and wildflowers.  But when would I ever have an opportunity to use my business education, my college degree, the skills for which I’d trained?

I wrote about meeting the highly successful NASA Space Ambassador Sharon Newman Bordine, who had been a stand-in for Christa McAuliffe, the “teacher-in-space” aboard the Challenger when it exploded in 1986.  I said at the time:

The point/counterpoint was discouraging: 

SHE:  touring the world, speaking for NASA, and getting engaged in the Holy Land.
ME:   hand-picking Play-Doh out of the carpet, running the vacuum, and serving up macaroni and cheese on paper plates.

But I came to peace with my life choice–and really, I’ve had it all.  I’ve enjoyed a career, but will never regret the time I devoted to my children.  I concluded:

It’s just too tempting, as you wipe smudged little faces and tackle yet another mountain of dirty dishes, to forget to thank God for those most precious of life’s blessings.  But today, if I could choose one day to live again, one poignant memory to forever hold up to the light, I’d rush to embrace those soft little bodies, begging for just one more goodnight kiss, one more silly song, one more question. 

Being a mother is, after all, the greatest adventure of all.

*     *     *     *     *

This morning, I read an excellent letter to President Obama from Kristi Burton Brown.  Kristi, writing in the Christian Post, worries about the President’s statement, which is very concerning to stay-at-home moms around the nation. “In fact,” she writes,

“…your statement makes us wonder if you consider us as equal and contributing members of society. We’ve always been a substantial part of society, and we’re becoming even more so. From 1999 to 2012, the share of stay-at-home moms grew by 6 percent , after a nearly three-decade decline in our numbers. In 2012, there were 10.4 million of us around the nation.”

Brown, an attorney and stay-at-home mom, takes the President to task, scolding him:

I hope you misspoke, but let me tell you how this comes across to stay-at-home moms. You’re telling us that the money we earn is more important than our kids. You’re telling us that leaving the workplace to stay home isn’t a choice American moms should be making. 

Well, first off, we care about the choices our husbands and kids want us to make; about the choices we ourselves want to make – not the choices you claim we should be making. I can guarantee you that, when given the choice, kids would choose their moms over money.

And, as a stay-at-home mom myself, who is also an attorney, let me tell you that I want to choose my kids over my career. I honestly don’t care if missing two decades in the work force means that I’ll never make as much as a male attorney over the course of my lifetime. 

My kids – people – are much, much more important than my money – mere possessions. And my choice is just as valid and just as equal as the choices of the single mom who needs to find a quality daycare and a high performing school to put her children in.

Read the rest of her letter here.

We’ll see how this plays out–but Mr. Obama, you really stuck your foot in your mouth now.

Oh, in case you think he’s been misquoted or didn’t really mean what he said, here’s the video:

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  • tt

    I think he meant that we don’t want those women to face lower wages if they return to work. Not that we don’t want them to be SAHMs. But way to react to a misinterpretation. The context was talking about equal pay and a frequent argument against equal pay is that women deservingly are paid less because they do, or may, leave the workforce for a time to care for children.

    • usaok59

      That is NOT what he said. And anyone who has heard him speak over the years, knows he does not value women or the family.

      • carol koller

        That is absolutely false. It is the opposing party who has stopped the equal pay act, restricted women’s health care, lobbied against allowing access to birth control, voted against legislation to protect women against domestic violence etc…. should I go on???

    • Ipukakaren

      Actually this speech was about tax-funded preschool, and the idea that if all children went to it, mothers could stay in the work force. Well why even have children if as soon as they are born, you hand them over to the state for the majority of their care? I think mothers choose to be SAHM so that they can have an actual presence in their children’s lives at their formative years, understanding the consequences of that decision.

      • 1MiddleRoader

        While it is true that quality daycare and universal pre-K would help moms stay in the work force, that is not why I support them. They would help identify learning disabilities that are much more treatable at an early age. We owe it not so much to working moms but to our children.

  • americanlatina11

    Remember when his campaign said that Ann Romney “has never actually worked a day in her life.” Pathetic. Democrats hate women.

    • tt

      She has, quite literally, never held a paying job. That is not an insult. It is just a fact. And she has lived an incredibly privileged life while never holding a paying job. It did indeed seem to make it hard for her to relate to women who have less privileged circumstances. And, btw, his campaign did not say that. An invited guest on a political news show, who happened to align with the president’s party, said it. She did not, however, represent the president or his campaign in any official capacity (in the same way this blogger, thank heavens, does not represent the Catholic Church).

      • Jude

        Not getting paid does not equate having never worked.

    • 1MiddleRoader

      Remember when Obama came to Romney’s defense, saying (of Hilary Rosen’s remark), “It was the wrong thing to say. “It’s not something that I subscribe to.” and “There’s no tougher job than being a mom.”?
      This whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. The remarks were addressing people (generally women) who want to remain in the workplace (those women the blog writer says she has no animus against), but can’t, or have difficutly b/c of the lack of quality and affordable day care. The choice is not between working vs stay at home moms, but between working moms who have “choose” to leave the workforce, but really don’t want to. Obama doesn’t want them to have to make that “choice”. We can have a debate over family leave, the quality of day care, and universal pre-K, all of which Obama addressed in his speech, but to say Obama insulted the stay-at-home moms, is a bit of a stretch, IMO.

    • carol koller

      Wow! Then why do democrats overwhelmingly get the female vote? That is quite a generalization you have made.

  • http://www.homeschoolingforthewholefamily.com/2014/11/why-presidents-remarks-about-moms.html

    This is my take on the subject as well. Even if he meant to say that “it is not a choice we want women to have to make” his leanings toward institutional care of children as indicated by his support of free child care, reveal that his true thoughts are that women should be in the workforce adding to the tax base.

    • tt

      Some women do not have a choice. Many of those women are the same women that pro-life people are hoping to dissuade from abortion. What do you want them to do? Have those babies then be homeless and hungry as long as they are not working? Can’t have it both ways. And what do you propose a woman who loses her husband do? My mother has a friend whose husband was tragically killed when her kids were 3, 7 and 9 years old. She had to go to work, thus she needed child care. What did you expect her to do? Live in a car and let her children starve? There is a bigger picture that we have to look at and no one is forcing you to put your children in preschool or day care if you do not have to or do not want to.

      • Jude

        Did you completely miss this part of the post?:

        “For single mothers and those who need to work–even those who simply choose to work–I hold no animus. They deserve our understanding and respect and, where possible, our help.”

        Or were you just setting up the lamest straw man argument ever?

      • I haven’t checked back on this thread for a while, but wanted you to know that I am not trying to demean a woman who chooses to go to work. We all have different paths in life and what works for my family may not work for another. I was just responding to his statement, accidental or not, that women shouldn’t have to stay home. I am all for healthy and intentional choices in how each family manages the situation they are in.

  • Amaryllis

    Well. I agree that that was awkwardly phrased. But.

    Maybe what he meant was, if we value stay-at-home motherhood and homemaking so highly, we need to put our money where our collective mouth is, and start including unpaid domestic work in our economic analyses. Maybe he means that stay-at-home parenting ought to “count” for Social Security retirement and disability insurance, which right now it doesn’t.

    Maybe we’d all be willing to have our Social Security contributiions increased to pay for that kind of expansion? Anyone think that’s likely?

    Or maybe he meant that, since things are the way they are, dependable child care will allow families that need those two incomes, or single parents who are supporting children on one income, not to have to choose between decent care for their children, and a poverty-stricken old age?

    Maybe he meant that time out of the work force for childrearing shouldn’t be a permanent career black mark.

    And maybe he meant that, if there was true pay parity between men and women, and if dependable child care was available, whether either parent leaves the paid work force — and which one– would be a true choice rather than a social default that penalizes mothers.

    • Jude

      Democrats rarely see the difference between what they want and what is economically feasible (or even desirable to the rest of society). A great line from Dennis Prager: “Just because you are passionate about something does not make it a right.”

      • Amaryllis

        True enough, I suppose, but how is that relevant?

        The question is, since stay-at-home parents take a life-long financial hit, and since that is not likely to change under our current economic system, should the choice (if you’re lucky enough to have a choice at all) to leave the paid workforce be forced on women by the lack of dependable childcare? That’s all.

        (And I wouldn’t trust Dennis Prager to tell me that two plus two equals four, without counting on my own fingers.)

  • Tish Morgna

    Socialism/communism REQUIRES the death of true motherhood. It requires that women be away from their children so that the state takes over the education of the children. It requires that all children be taught to be good and loyal servants of the state.

    • Sven2547

      I am genuinely amused that so many people actually think Obama is a Communist. It’s stunning.

      • Ryan

        I don’t know about communist, but he is certainly in the direction of socialist.

        • Jansmt7

          You say that like it’s a bad thing.

          • Donalbain

            Or even a true thing.

      • Donalbain

        It is hilarious for me that people even describe him as left of centre. In the UK he would fit pretty nicely into the centre of the Conservative Party.

    • carol koller

      It is interesting how accusations like “communist” or “socialist” come out of the closet in America when we don’t agree with something. Just the other day I was visiting the LBJ Presidential library and there was a sign from the 1960’s that read: “Interracial Marriage is Socialism”….

  • fredx2

    Gee I thought it was the task of government to allow us to make our own choices. I guess we have the wrong President for that. He wants to make the choices for us.

    Little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?

    “I want to be an equal participant in our economy”

    Somehow I thought life was about more than being a cog in the great wheel of the economy.

  • Sasha

    Here is the link to the President’s speech text. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/31/remarks-president-women-and-economy-providence-ri

    I believe he was addressing the need for affordable childcare for working women. He does not mention the term “stay-at-home-mom” at all in the speech. Yes, I can see how some people may misinterpret the remarks when taken out of context. Please take a minute to read the whole speech or search elsewhere for the entire video not just the short clip in this article. This sort of thing happens to politicians of all parties where one or two sentences taken out of context get circulated and the real point was completely missed.

    • Amaryllis

      From the speech:

      In many states, sending your child to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university.

      AUDIENCE MEMBER: True!

      THE PRESIDENT: True. (Laughter.) And too often, parents have no
      choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have
      the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s
      development. And sometimes there may just not be any slots, or the best
      programs may be too far away. And sometimes, someone, usually mom,
      leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her
      earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s
      not a choice we want Americans to make.

      That’s the choice we don’t want American to have to make– the choice between leaving your child in substandard daycare and leaving your job. Because for a lot of women, that isn’t a choice at all.

      • Donalbain

        Its almost as if you can’t trust a sound bite these days! This whole thing of reading for context is hard!!!

  • Subvet

    As a stay-at-home father of three autistic children I can only remark, “Ya don’t say!”

  • Claire Schuler

    Here is the ISSUE—As a woman who left ‘the work force’ to raise my now 8 yro….I have lost about 6 years of ‘experience in my field’. This I can not get back. Was it worth it to stay at home (as a single EDUCATED mother) HELL YES. My daughter is at the top of her class, STILL, after skipping second grade. She is independent, intelligent, and cultured. What Obama NEEDS to do, is give a TAX CREDIT (a large one) to families where one parent stays home. Perhaps figure out a fair way to do it, cause for 5 years I didn’t earn more than $4000. Perhaps he should make it a priority for companies to hire women for 8-4 (or rather 8:15/8:30 to 3:30/3:45) so we can be home when are children need us (for those families who chose to only have one child, or have children close in age where they are all in school at the same time. FIGHT FOR US! I understand what he is saying about quality child care, but even then…I don’t want OTHER PEOPLE spending more time with my daughter than I am. I am going to be subbing (which is what I did while she was in preschool and kindergarten) which only pay $60 and $100 (before taxes) a day. IF I am lucky I will get more than 2 days a week. And the rest of the year, I work for the gov’t, no benefits, and it knocks me out of the running for health care- make too much for medicaid (the way it is in Virginia) and not enough for coverage. ALSO, it causes my daughter’s medicaid to drop her 🙁 WTG Virginia 🙁

  • Mara319

    And pray tell, does Michelle Obama work a regular 8 to 5 schedule outside of the White House and does she earn her own pay check?

    • au

      That’s absurd. Before he became president she was the primary breadwinner.

  • TBITC

    I like so much of what you have written, but it is bigoted to pretend that men cannot care for children and should be deprived of the choice to stay home with children.

    • kathyschiffer

      TBITC, this was an article about Obama’s attitudes toward women. Yes, there are many fathers who do a wonderful job as stay-at-home dads. I know a couple of writers who do that–write from home and care for small children.

      I feel certain that this will not become the norm because men don’t want it to, and because they don’t have the God-given privilege of nurturing their children, both before and after birth, from their own bodies.

      Saying “A” (that I support stay-at-home moms) is not intended as a slight against “B” (stay-at-home dads).

      • I checked your bio, and I can’t identify your qualifications for unilaterally stating what men want. Your bio indicates that you have been a publicist, a conference director, a radio producer, and a blogger – none of which would indicate even the slightest qualifications to speak for men. Can you please clarify on what authority you base your claims?

        • Mike Ward

          I think she is correct that men in general would rather be bread winners than stay at home with the kids.

      • TBITC

        Hi Kathy,

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. Based on your response, and the article you have written, I think that I understand where you are coming from.

        But, let’s be clear. You are a bigoted dinosaur from millions of years ago in social timescales. You might not realize, but there is no such thing as “God given” rights of mothers to “nurture” their children.

        In the present day and age, men are more responsible parents. They both nurture AND earn a living to support their children, but most importantly, men are emotionally regulated. That is what matters to children. Also, they do not have an entitlement/parasite mentality to infect within their children.

        Here’s a suggestion for you, go study the research on outcomes for children from broken homes. You will find that it is the presence of a father that is determinative. Read that again. Surprised? Researchers actually found that the presence of a mother has no bearing on outcome, but the absence of a father is devastating.

        Despite men being of singular profound importance for nurturing children, and despite often spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in custody battles, in 85% of all cases, children are sentenced to a life without their fathers, being cast unto doom, by family court. It is the thinking that you espouse that is to blame, that is that “mothers” have some magical God-given privilege to nurture their children because they “came” from her body.

        TBITC

  • Tempesjuice

    As a stay-at-home Mom, I have not only given up years of wages and experience in my field, I was unable to maximize my IRA contributions. My Social Security retirement, such as it is, has stagnated. Having become disabled in the meantime, I have been out of the workforce too long to be eligible for SSDI, but my skills are rusty or out-of-date anyway and I’m of an age that only increases my difficulty in going back to work. I have the good fortune of a solid marriage to a man who did not sideline his career but if we divorced, I would not be in good financial condition. Added up, the decision to stay home with children is incredibly expensive. Whether we return to the job market or not, the choice leaves us vulnerable at retirement age, when we are least able to improve our state. That said, the solution to the pains of this sacrifice is not better, more affordable child care.

  • DC Rambler

    1 percent of the people have half the wealth..Income inequality is at record levels and the middle class has evaporated..Congress writes laws that favor big business and their donors.
    Now, you can write a nice little piece about a speech by the president that had a line that ruffled your feathers but that’s like using a squirt gun on a forest fire..

  • Zeke

    Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t hate working mothers.
    And quite obviously, Obama doesn’t hate stay at home mothers. This 26 minute speech was about policies to help women participate in the workforce without sacrificing the welfare of their children. Only a Catholic with a political/religious axe to grind would mine a 27 second soundbite that omits the context and suggests that Obama prefers women to work rather than stay at home.
    Democrats support longer maternity leaves, higher minimum wages, and most importantly, health care for women who can’t afford it. Republicans are explicitly against these things. Shame on you.

    • Amaryllis

      No, I have to take issue with the “only a Catholic” part. I’ve seen this same outrage about this same sound bite on other Conservative sites regardless of religious affiliation of lack thereof.

      Ms Schiffer’s point of view is neither limited to Catholics nor representative of all Catholics.

      • Zeke

        You’re right – I should have said “Christians”.
        Those with an alternate religious affiliation, or lack thereof, are an insignificant portion of the Republican party faithful. Nor are they welcome.

        • Amaryllis

          Maybe so, but the converse isn’t true. “Christian” and “Republican” still aren’t synonyms, not even “Christian” and “Conservative.”

          Despite the best efforts of the Republican Party, the Southern Baptist Conference, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to make it so.

  • Will

    Some European countries have very “liberal” family leave policies. Almost seems they care more about the family than we do. Our tour guide in Prague said they get pay (and their job held for them) for two years when they have a baby. Another baby and get another two years.

    • Donalbain

      Yeah but socialist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Will

        Know the meaning of the word before you use it.

        • Donalbain

          I had hoped my hyperbole was clear. See some other comments in this thread for my real views. The ones with fewer exclamation marks are more likely to be my real position.

  • Katie’s Mom

    I spent 17 years as a SAHM. I don’t regret a day and do consider it a blessing to have been home with my 4 children. But that’s 17 years of no Social Security or retirement earnings. And now that husband is busy spending the money I helped him earn by raising his children (largely on my own) and working (unpaid) in his business, on his new wife. Had I known how things were going to turn out, I’d have worked those years, so could retire sometime before I’m 80. The President is right. That isn’t a choice I should have had to make.

  • Mike Ward

    Obama probably mean’t to say, “And that’s not a choice we want Americans to (have to) make.” That’s is, instead of choosing between staying at home and maintaining earning potential, Americans should be able to do both. But that isn’t what he said, and I think it may have been a Freudian slip where he slipped by accidently saying what he really thought, but there is no way to know for sure.