It’s the age-old question, supposedly first posed by Freud. It seems that now our political parties are asking the same question. ..and getting different answers. Recently Ms. Rosen, a liberal leaning commentator, made the comment that Mitt Romey’s wife “had never worked a day in her life” in reaction to Mrs. Romney’s own comment that women were more interested in the economy than personal rights related to birth control or abortion (though I always thought of those as economic in their own way). Now we women all know what Rosen really meant…that Romney’s wife never worked a day outside the home…never had to answer to an employer who determined her health insurance policy and what it covered or had to give approval for her time off (with or without pay) to care for family or herself. But there was an immediate reaction from stay-at-home mothers and even the White House that, of course, child care was work and worthy of respect.
I would never deny that being home with children (small ones especially) is not work (it’s easier when they finally go to school), and that an outside job might even be a welcome escape from the demands of child care at times. I’ve experienced both situations. The first year after my husband had a new job and I didn’t, I was home for the first time in my life, full time with my 2 youngest children (I had always been home with my children two months in every summer because I was a teacher.) It was work, but nothing like the pressure filled days of balancing home and career when I was working outside the home as well. In fact, it was instead a real vacation for me to be home that year. I was able to determine my own schedule most of the time. To have time in the day to form friendships with other women over coffee as our children played; to take the kids on outings to the park and to play with them; to be involved in activities of my oldest daughter in high school; to do the kind of gardening, canning, baking, etc. I never had time to do when I worked outside the home. However, the worst part of not working was economics- less money all around. And I felt less able to justify spending money on myself or things I needed.
I doubt Mrs. Romney ever had the worries about money as I did when I wasn’t working. I doubt she had to worry what taking time off with children would mean to her retirement. I doubt she had any trouble getting or affording child care when she needed time for other acitivites or even herself and her husband. And did she have a large garden and do all the cooking for the family as I did..and her own cleaning. etc when she was home with family?
Mrs. Romney not only hasn’t experienced what its like for most women to juggle career and home; she also doesn’t know what it’s like for most women to stay home with children in a reduced financial situation. She doesn’t understand the economic pressures most women are under- married and single. It’s a luxury to be able to stay home with children. I’m not saying her life has necessarily been easy, esepcially since she deals with M.S. But at least she doesn’t have the economic fears most women with M.S. have. She’ll have support – even if her husband would leave her.
What do women(at least the majority) want? They want equality in wages and promotions when they work. They also want reasonable support in caring for children and other family members when they work. They want the right to appropriate health care and to choose whether or not to have another child. They want decent retirement plans. Most of all – they want choice in so many ways. One of the reasons some women give for staying at home with children when they would rather work is the high cost of childcare. They find they can’t make enough money at their jobs to pay for it. Thus they do sacrifice their career record ( that does affect career advancement personal retirement) when they have children. My oldest daughter put off having another child until the first one was kindergarten because of the cost of care. While a few men stay home to care for the children, they are still atypical, and they are also making an economic sacrifice when they do.
If being home with children is so important, why doesn’t the Republican party recommend legislation to have such time spent as credit toward retirement. Would the gov’t ever pay a woman or man to stay home with the children for even one year? Would the “family” oriented Republican party recommend that? Most of the lip service given to the importance of stay-at-home mothers is just that– lip service.
Why did Mitt Romney insist as Gov. of Mass that women on welfare go to work when their children were 2 yrs of age to convey a strong work ethic? Is the luxury of staying home with children only for rich families like his?
And if, indeed, it’s the economy, how will the Romney policies improve a working woman’s lot?
I learned long ago that the party most likely to support my needs and interests is not the patriarchal one but the more empathetic one – It’s part of the reason I and many other women are Democrats.