Thursday, April 12, 2012

There is always a choice

Few issues evoke such heated debate, as do the “Mommy Wars” as some call it. Is it better to be a stay at home mom, or to be a working mom? And under that umbrella is a whole slew of other mothering choices from breastfeeding to sleep training and beyond. When you think about it, why shouldn’t these issues be important? After all, everyone has a mother. Everyone is a product of his or her upbringing. Shouldn’t it matter at least a little bit? The answer is yes, and of course most people understand that. Hence the heated debates.

Considering the above, it might come as a surprise that someone (a woman, even) on national television would dare to assert that a mother of five boys who chose to stay home to raise them “has never worked a day in her life.” Even a slightly chauvinistic man would say, “Lady, you are poking a hornets nest with a comment like that!” As expected, the response to her careless comment was fierce. Many jumped to the defense of Ann Romney (including Ann Romney herself) on Twitter and the resulting controversy has prompted commentary from many.

President Obama made comments regarding a “lack” of choice in a speech last Friday.
“…And we didn't have the luxury for her not to work… And I know when she was with the girls, she’d feel guilty that she wasn’t giving enough time to her work,” said Obama. “And when she was at work, she was feeling guilty she wasn’t giving enough time to the girls. And like many of you, we both wished that there were a machine that could let us be in two places at once. And so she had to constantly juggle it, and carried an extraordinary burden for a long period of time.”

While I feel for the pain many working mothers must feel as they experience similar emotions while attempting to juggle work and family, can we be honest here and admit that in more than a few of these juggling acts the mother is CHOOSING to continue to pursue a career or similar goal despite her struggle? I realize Michelle Obama (and countless others) would be giving up something that they long viewed as a life goal to stay home with their children. That is significant. But having children is a big deal too.

In a recent post on this subject from the blog "To Love, Honor and Vacuum"  Sheila Wray Gregoire points out “In polls of what childcare arrangement people think is best for the child, a parent caring for the child always exceeds all others by far. We all know that parent care is the best care, unless you’ve got a really sketchy parent. So what Hilary Rosen is really saying is that even though parental care is best, and even though the child would do best if the mom were at home, and even though in this particular case Ann Romney didn’t need the income from a job that she would have, she should still work. So children’s welfare comes way down the list of priorities.”

In her own defense, Hilary Rosen said the following posted on CNN’s opinion page:
“It is a wonderful luxury to have the choice. But let's stipulate that it is NOT a choice that most women have in America today.”
First of all, I find it hard to believe that it is not a choice for “most women.” That seems rather subjective, at best. There are certainly some women for whom staying at home is not an option. But for more women, it is simply not an acceptable option.

Let’s be honest- there is ALWAYS a choice. It may not be a simple choice. In my personal life, the choice is based on what we believe to be God’s will for us. We understand the Bible to teach that the role of wife and mother is an all-encompassing one that is to be honored and respected. We didn’t have to do any “soul searching” to decide that I would stay home with our children. But even if the choice is simple, the solution is often complicated. “How will we afford it?” Again- simple answer, complicated execution. In order to afford to go from two incomes to one and raise a family, sacrifices must be made.

Maybe we can’t eat out at restaurants every week (or at all). Maybe we don’t shop for clothes at the mall, but at the thrift store. Maybe we don’t look like we belong on the cover of a magazine. Maybe we live in a small-ish house and our kids share rooms.  MAYBE we need to adjust our idea of what wealth looks like.
Guess what?  If your family income is $10,000 a year, you are wealthier than 84% of the world. If your family income is $50,000 or more a year, you make more than 99% of the world. Check out this calculator to see how rich you really are.

There is also the idea of missing out on opportunity and success. Despite my strong conviction that my intended role is that of wife and mother, it was bittersweet to leave my job. I enjoyed my job. I felt important in a way that other people in the world could see. Telling people that I am staying home with the kids unfortunately seems to require an explanation or an apology. In our society I have to justify and defend my choice to do the job that I believe God wants me to do. Not to everyone, but apparently to many women who choose to pursue careers outside the home, I am not “playing along.”  And simply by making the choice (based on my own convictions which I would not presume to force on anyone else despite what statistics might show is preferable) I am somehow shaming any woman who chooses differently. Might there be some existing guilt to be so readily offended by hearing that I am making the choice to stay home?

I will agree that it is more difficult to raise a family on one income than it used to be. Forgive me for not having statistics at the ready (I’m just a stay at home mom, after all) but I’m sure most people have anecdotal evidence that their parents and especially grandparents were able to make it work on one income. I believe this was due in part to the fact that fewer women were marching into the workforce and there were more jobs to go around. Additionally, since it was customary for the women to stay at home with the children, a living wage was considered one that could support an entire family. I’m not so sure that is still the case, since so many households are assumed to have two incomes. As women began entering the workforce in earnest and especially entering into management, the workforce nearly doubled, but did the jobs? Did the money? Could it be that it is more difficult for a father working to support his family on just his income now?  Could it be that the feminist goal of getting women their “fair share” in the workplace just sort of diluted salaries? Again- I’m not delving too deeply into this side of the issue since I’ve not done any extensive research into the subject. But it stands to reason that the feminist agenda could easily have made the choice to stay at home a more complicated one by first seeking to get women out of the house, and then regretting that they “just can’t afford to go back.”

1 comment:

  1. "As women began entering the workforce in earnest and especially entering into management, the workforce nearly doubled, but did the jobs? Did the money?"

    Congratulations! You must be one of those rare housewives who understand economics! :-) When the supply of workers goes up, the price of workers goes down, just like with any other market.

    When women flooded into the market decades ago, they reduced wages overall, making it much harder for women to "choose" to stay at home because they couldn't hope for the same standard of living on one income anymore. If women were to go home in large numbers (not holding my breath on that), their husbands would actually be able to command a higher wage. You know more about the economy than that Rosen chick does. MWAH!


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