04/20/2012 02:31 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2012

Mitt Romney on Working Mothers

(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
; 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.