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.“
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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.
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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.
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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: