Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Let's Get One Thing Straight; Obama Doesn't Hate Stay at Home Mothers

I was content to let this fiasco blow over, because it seemed so painfully obvious that the comment in question was being taken out of context. Debate is still raging, however, and so I'm going to go ahead and swoop in to settle it. Obama doesn't hate stay at home mothers. He doesn't think being a stay at home mom is a bad decision. He thinks being a mother period puts women at an unfair disadvantage, and he's RIGHT.

Leaving the workforce to care for your children is, in many ways, valuable and irreplaceable. Neither you nor your children can ever get back the time spent apart. However, it does put the stay at home parent at a significant financial disadvantage.

Stay at home mothers tend to be poorer, less educated, and younger than working mothers. On top of which, finding a job after being a stay at home parent is more difficult. Even if you were educated before staying home, you can find your degree obsolete, or find that you're competing against candidates with much more experience in your field for jobs. Employers don't tend to look kindly on multiple years of employment history gaps, and that will put you at a disadvantage as well.

Obama's remarks also touched on the bullshit standard (ahem, excuse me, difficulty) of working mothers' time being undervalued. When a child is sick, mom stays home, often without pay. When a child is born, mom stays home, often without pay. When a stay at home mother needs to enter the workforce, childcare is often cost prohibitive, meaning she will earn less in wages than she will pay out in child care. All of that adds up to less stability for women.

Why don't dads take time off of work when kids are sick as often as mothers? Why do so many women have jobs where they are forced to make the choice between a day's pay and being home with a sick child? Fixing these inequalities helps create more stability for women in our economy, and that serves the whole economy well.

Finally, it must be said that because stay at home mothers are already younger, poorer and less educated than their working counterparts, they are in the precarious financial situation of being completely dependent on their partner for money. Should their partner lose work, become disabled, or die unexpectedly, finding a job that will support the family is going to be immensely difficult for the majority of stay at home mothers. And that doesn't even take into account that financially dependent women are subjected to more abuse than women who earn their own money.

The facts don't lie. Being a stay at home parent is an amazing gift for the family. It is also a significant financial risk. Being a working mother is also an amazing gift to the family. Yet women are incongruously disadvantaged when it comes to childcare costs and sick time. I personally know women who had to go into debt to finance just a few weeks off from work to have their babies. Bullshit.

Women deserve better than this, our country deserves better than this, and we can do better than this. Stop blowing up about out of context remarks and start making positive changes for the women who give so much to our society.

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