In which Barack Obama angers moms across the nation.

President Obama made waves this weekend with this quote:

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.

So what’s the issue here? What he wants us to hear is that when women take a significant chunk of time out of their careers to stay home and raise their children, their wages suffer for it. His solution is more funding for universal preschool (which, as a side note, is not something that has been shown to actually help children).

There are many problems with what the President said, but I’d like to highlight two here. (Click here for a great discussion of the economic problems with his statement.)

The first is that, realistically, any woman who has taken time off of her career to get a child from the newborn stage to the age where they’re eligible for preschool will already have taken enough time off to affect her earning ability. Universal preschool would not help that. Universal preschool only means that the children are in school at age three instead of age five. This really doesn’t help the working mom who wants to keep up with her career. She has already suffered the damage of taking a significant chunk of time off.

The second problem is that his gaffe (as many internet pundits are claiming) is very revealing of the priorities of this administration, and our nation. I believe the President is only using the earning disparity to turn the focus away from what many in our nation really think, which is this: children are not important, at least, not important enough to raise them yourself. He’s using the money as a distraction technique.

There are many reasons that somebody in the middle of a career would take time off that we would applaud. Nobody would bat an eye at a banker taking a year off to travel the world while he’s young and can enjoy it. If you add to this altruistic career choices that involve lower pay, we would not dream of criticizing the choice of a doctor or nurse to donate their time in a third world country. Or a lawyer taking a pro-bono case or a job as a public prosecutor.

So the issue is not the money. It’s the way the women fill their time. Traveling the world? Fine. Choosing the low-paying but altruistic career? Fine. Choosing to stay home and raise your children? Not fine.

How have we gotten to the point, as a nation, where a woman choosing to stay home with her child at the expense of her career is “not a choice we want Americans to make?” How have we so devalued children that we cannot see their worth above that of our earning potential?

The emphasis in the President’s statement is on the clause, “…earning a lower wage for the rest of her life.” But that is not where the emphasis should be. It should be on, “…leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids.” This is the most important job we can do. If you have children, raising them to be loving, caring, emotionally fulfilled adults who knew that their mom loved them enough to sacrifice her career is the best decision you will ever make. Do not lose sight of the fact that your children are your most precious resource.

Posted in Daycare, Having It All, Importance of Mothers, Using Our Minds. Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post. Leave a trackback.

5 Responses to In which Barack Obama angers moms across the nation.

  1. heather says:

    Well said, Anna. Thank you for putting it in perspective with the reminder that other reasons of taking a year off are considered perfectly legitimate, for instance, the Peace Corps. And if some might claim that that would not actually lower a person’s career pay when they returned, maybe we should raise the respect for mothers staying home with their children to the same level as the Peace Corps!

  2. Jessica says:

    Well said, Anna. If Mom has multiple children, that newborn to 3-yr old period could turn into 5 yrs or 7 or in my case, 9 years! So not only is that statement devaluing stay at home moms, but anyone who has more than a couple children? It is sad that people don’t recognize how many sacrifices and skills go into managing a household. I personally would hire someone who had successfully managed a home with several children over a recent college graduate!

  3. Jennifer says:

    Agreed! Our children are the most precious gifts that we have. More precious than the job that I could have right now earning 6 figures. Sure, we never take fancy vacations, or even eat out at fancy restaurants, but I know that what I’m doing is important.

    Here’s an idea for you, Barack Obama. Maybe you could stop wasting my money on your Universal preschool and give it back to ME so that I can raise my children. How about you cut taxes so that mothers can actually afford to stay home with their kids, instead of expanding government to fund cradle-to-grave government handouts and programs?

    That’s Progressivism for you- there is no value in a traditional family unit with a stay-at-home mom there to nurture and raise her children.

    After reading his speech on whitehouse.gov, I see that he has left out this whole concept of stay-at-home moms- it’s all about what the government needs to do for mothers so that they can be “successful” and earn more money (i.e. I will give you stuff, including free child care, if you vote for me). Who cares about the kids- let’s just put them in childcare and have strangers raise them so that mom can earn some money. There is LITTLE REGARD for the kids, except that they will get some supposed really awesome government-sponsored childcare/ preschool. Obama and his friends assume that this is equivalent to (or better than) kids being raised by a stay-at-home mom. Sad.

  4. Anna says:

    I must say, as a former very liberal Democrat, many of my views (in all spectrums, not just politically) have changed since having a child. I agree with everything written in the post and the comments, and Obama’s speech saddens me. It continues to stupefy me how much our culture and our leaders fail to honor children and childhood.

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