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Karen Mangiacotti

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Mitt Romney on Working Mothers

Posted: 04/20/2012 2:21 pm

(Stay-at-Home Working Mothers, part II)

OK, I can't believe I am even doing this, but I think I am about to defend a Republican.

Karen Does It All

In my last post, I commented on Hilary Rosen's statement on Ann Romney who apparently "never worked a day in her life." Two parts of this statement got my panties in a bunch.

1) Raising kids is work. No way around it. Homemaker is a noble challenging profession worth defending.

2) It is unwise to dismiss opinion simply in response to a personal attack. Words should be judged based on their content.

Dismissing someone's opinion on economic issues because they were born privileged is like dismissing someone's opinion on birth control because they are gay, or dismissing someone's opinion of estate tax because they are poor.

Hilary Rosen ignored the content of Ann Romney’s advice to her husband (e.g., “what women really care about are economic issues”) and attributed negative traits to Ann Romney instead (e.g., she “never worked a day in her life”). Ad hominem attacks like this tend to be effective because as humans, we like to believe that people are either all good or all bad. Give us one bad trait and we’ll assume you’re talking about one entirely bad apple; we’ll forget all about her originally-reported opinion, which is that women care about the economy. A reasonable claim indeed.

That being said, the blog received many comments from readers about Mitt Romney’s statements on working mothers. Here’s what Mitt said:

Even if you have a child two years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, 'Well that's heartless.' And I said, 'No, 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.

According to a 2006 Congressional Research Service report, activities that fulfill the work requirement in this instance include training, job searching, community service, vocational educational training and provision of child care to a participant of a community service program. It seems like this is designed to support parents to enter the workforce in an empowered way. That seems like a step towards dignity to me.

The decision whether or not to work outside the home is a difficult one, wrought with compromise. Lower, middle and even upper middle class people need to weigh all factors and decide for themselves and their families what works best. Most of us make big sacrifices to stay at home, financially and professionally. Some people choose a career path that makes it easier for them to be available to their children. For example, teachers can be on the same schedule as their kids, or a night shift might allow more flexibility raising a family). We all compromise and sacrifice.

Thinking the government has a responsibility to let every parent stay home to raise their child is not entirely logical. It makes sense for the government to do what our tribal ancestors have done for thousands of years: Leave the care of the children to a few -- the daycare teachers -- while the parents join the workforce and contribute to the worth of the whole tribe. It makes economic sense to have welfare reform that incentivizes citizens to break the cycle of poverty, and I think there is dignity in that. It encourages personal responsibility and I am a big fan of that.

There have been times in my life when I’ve struggled as a single mother to support myself and my kids, and it is difficult and scary. Supporting parents while they work or perform community service or get more training to be a strong employee is a good plan. I’ll take a leg-up over a handout any day.

As someone who has always considered myself to be an über-liberal, I am as surprised as you are that I am going to bat for Mitt Romney. Seriously, we all may wake up tomorrow to frogs raining down upon us. But, dismissing someone’s idea because they are from the wrong party makes as much sense as dismissing someone because they have never worked outside the home.

 

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