THE BLOG

Dear Daughter, Here's Why I Hope You Have the Choice to Work or Stay Home

04/01/2015 01:00 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2015
Jamie Davis Smith

The 'Mommy Wars' are experiencing a resurgence. One mom recently asserted that she works because doing so makes her feel fulfilled. In response, another asserted that she stays at home because she loves her children more than she loves things like luxury cars and vacations, things her second income could provide.

I hope that you will one day have a daughter of your own and know the boundless love and joy that goes along with being a mother. I also hope you find a career you love and know the great sense of accomplishment that comes with excelling in your profession. Although I have only known you for four short years, I already see you capacity for great tenderness, your deep affection for your siblings, kindness towards others and empathy. I am certain that these qualities will make you a fantastic mother. I also see in you a fierce determination to succeed, a tenacity to stick with a task until you have mastered it that is unusual for your age and a strong desire to take on leadership positions. I am equally certain that these qualities will help you rise to the top of any profession you choose.

Because of these qualities, I have little doubt that you will grow to be a woman who will love spending time with her children and who will also be fulfilled by a career. And so I hope that you have a choice, a real choice, between whether you stay at home with your children or work outside the home and that your choice is a matter of preference.

Although I love staying at home with you and your siblings, I know that you may not have the same choice, and that not all moms have the luxury of making this choice out of preference or personal beliefs about what is best for their families. Those moms need to be a part of this conversation, too.

There are too many mothers who must work because they are raising children alone and provide the sole family income, one that puts food on the table and a roof over their children's heads. There are others who must stay at home because a lack of affordable childcare or lack of support to help them care for children who are sick or who have special needs while they work. There are other women who feel they must work to afford a house in a safe neighborhood with decent schools, even if the house is far from new or luxury. And there are some women who stay home because they are not able to find a job with hours that will allow them to take a day off when their child is home sick or has a day off from school.

What I hope for you most of all is that by the time you are a mom, we will have moved to a place where both moms and dads have the support they need to make the decisions that are best for their families. These are things I hope we as a society have achieved when you are ready to become a mother many years from now.

1. Quality sex education in school and easily available contraceptives and abortion services, covered by insurance and provided without question. Sex education in case I don't get through to you, or you are too embarrassed to talk to me, when it is time to have "the talk." With this support, you can become a mother when -- and only when -- you decide that you are ready.

2. Guaranteed paid maternity leave that will allow you to choose the best time to become a mother. If you decide to become a mother, I want you to do so without fear of not being able to make ends meet after your child is born. I don't want outdated leave policy to influence your decision about how many children to have.

3. Guaranteed paid paternity leave so that your partner can help ease your transition into motherhood and be an equal partner in raising children. I want this so that you do not feel too overwhelmed by being a mother.

4. Universal, quality affordable childcare and preschool. So that if you choose to work, you can be confident that your very young children are being cared for in a safe and nurturing environment. I want you to be able to access care on your salary, for as many children as you choose to have, even if you are not wealthy.

5. Quality public schools everywhere, so that home prices are not driven up to gain access to scarce, high-performing schools. I do not want you to feel the need to send your children to expensive private schools in order for them to get a good education.

6. Flexible work schedules and paid leave for all parents. So that you can care for children who might be ill or have special needs.

7. The availability of real part-time options so that you or your partner or both can balance your time between a career and family if that is what you choose.

8. Equality in pay between men and women. So that you do not feel as though you, rather than your children's father, should be the one who stays at home based upon income alone.

9. Family-friendly workplaces. So that if you want to leave work for a couple of hours to read to your child's class or watch a school play, you will not be judged as not being serious about your work.

10. Lack of judgment. Both from other parents who might criticize you if you work outside the home for not loving your children enough or from those who might criticize you for giving up your dreams and not providing for your children if you decide to stay at home.

Most of all, dear daughter, I hope that you are able to do what makes you happy in life. I hope that you have the insight to know how fortunate you will be if you do have a decision to make about whether or not to work outside the home when you have children and are not forced into a decision for reasons beyond your control. I hope that you will understand that each person, and each family, makes the decision that is right for them and a mother's decision to work outside the home is not always driven by a desire for luxury goods. Know, too, that a mother's decision to stay at home with children is not always driven purely by a desire to spend every possible moment with them.

Lastly, I hope that we as a society do not fail you and can work towards changing attitudes and policies to make motherhood easier for your generation and beyond and that all mothers everywhere will stopped being judged for doing what they think is best for their children. For this is what all mothers do every day, whether they work outside the home or choose to stay at home.