The last thing I want to do is fire another volley in the war between (not on) women: Those moms who work outside the home and those moms who stay at home.
Because all moms work. Period. Whether or not you get a paycheck.
But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seems to be flip-flopping on his view toward working and stay-at-home mothers.
Tuesday at the NBC News Education Nation Summit, Romney said it was better for young children if their mothers stayed home with them.
“It’s an advantage to have two parents, but to have one parent to stay closely connected and at home during those early years of education can be very, very important,” Romney said while talking about early childhood education.
Yet go back to last January on the campaign trail at a town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H. “While I was governor ... I wanted to increase the work requirement” for those on welfare assistance, Romney told his audience. “I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well, that’s heartless,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.”
What happened to the advantages of a stay-at-home parent to nurture that young child “during those early years of education?”
Does this mean that children of mothers receiving assistance — many of whom are single moms playing the roles of both parents — need to work at jobs outside the home for their own “dignity” more than their kids need mom with them?
Guess being a mom is work that doesn’t really count as work when you’re talking about employment requirements for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
Is it a double standard? Or worse, class warfare? Married moms who can afford to stay home are rewarded for doing so with tax laws (think marriage tax penalty), while poor, often single, “welfare” moms should work and send their kids to day care because maybe the children are better off there than at home?
Romney managed to alienate even some stay-at-home moms with his now-infamous 47 percent comment. Since stay-at-home moms don’t get paid, they don’t pay taxes, either, riling mommy bloggers across cyberspace.
I was lucky; as a writer, I could work part-time at home but still be there when my kids were little to change a diaper or kiss a scraped knee or pick them up from school.
I was also lucky because the economy was booming. My husband had a job with benefits. We still made sacrifices; friends with two working parents could buy nicer cars or take vacations to Europe. We made do with an aging station wagon and road trips.
Was it better for our children? I’d like to think so, but you can find research that points to benefits of both working and stay-at-home moms.
Even Dr. Phil has refused to take either side. “There is no right answer,” his Web site says. “Dr. Phil encourages each woman to make the choice that brings her closest to fulfilling her hopes and dreams."
Choice. We need policies that allow moms to make the right choices for their families.
Meanwhile, we also need an economy with enough decent-paying jobs to support making those choices.
But we don’t need politicians saying one group of moms should work, while other moms are better off at home.
Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @dianareese.