In the midst of remarks about preschools, minimum wage and pay equality for women, President Obama made a comment about stay-at-home moms that has left many mothers fuming.
Speaking at Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island, on Friday, the president made a statement that sounds as though he wants the government to discourage mothers from staying home with their children and send them to preschool instead.
“Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make,” Obama said. “So let’s make this happen: By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool, and let’s make sure that we are making America stronger.”
In a response column published by the Christian Post, attorney Kristi Burton Brown gave voice to how many have been reacting on Facebook, YouTube and other channels.
“I hope you misspoke, but let me tell you how this comes across to stay-at-home moms,” Brown replied to Obama. “You’re telling us that the money we earn is more important than our kids. You’re telling us that leaving the workplace to stay home isn’t a choice American moms should be making.”
She continued, “As a stay-at-home mom myself, who is also an attorney, let me tell you that I want to choose my kids over my career. I honestly don’t care if missing two decades in the work force means that I’ll never make as much as a male attorney over the course of my lifetime. My kids – people – are much, much more important than my money – mere possessions. And my choice is just as valid and just as equal as the choices of the single mom who needs to find a quality daycare and a high performing school to put her children in.”
Mollie Hemmingway, a senior editor at the Federalist, acknowledged Obama may not have meant the insinuation that women should send their kids to preschool rather than stay home, but she still argued the president is missing the larger point.
“Putting the absolute best construction on this statement, we might say President Obama misspoke,” Hemmingway wrote. “Perhaps he meant to say he doesn’t want mothers to have to choose between staying home and lower future wages. I mean, he didn’t say ‘I don’t want mothers forced to make this decision,’ but we could imagine he might have wished he’d said it.”
Nonetheless, Hemmingway argued, even if that is what Obama meant to say, it reveals he doesn’t understand “how economics works.”
“When I had my first child, I traded the money of my newspaper job for the far-greater value (for me) of time spent with my totally awesome daughter,” she reasoned. “It would not make sense for me to be paid for newspaper work I didn’t produce. And had I wanted the income more than the time with my child, I could have made that decision as well. People are free, you see, to make the decision that works best.”
She also suggested the president’s comments reflect a general disdain many women feel from leftists who communicate a mother’s choice to stay home is somehow an affront to feminism.
“I hate the suffix of -shaming, but if we’re going to use it for looking askance at a teen girl dressing like a Kardashian at school, we can certainly use it for the type of rhetoric that shakes heads at women trading income for care of children,” Hemmingway wrote. “Every time you look at us with disappointment for our decision to stay at home with our children, that’s what you’re doing. People also do it with women who choose to provide for their children in other ways. Neither is a good look. But it’s particularly disappointing to see some of those bad traits in a speech from the president.”
Fuller context of Obama’s comment, from the transcript published on the White House website, follows below:
“Too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development. And sometimes there may just not be any slots, or the best programs may be too far away. And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.
“So let’s make this happen. By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool, and let’s make sure that we are making America stronger. That is good for families; it’s also good for the children, because we know investing in high-quality early childhood education makes all the difference in the world, and those kids will do better. So we need family leave, we need better child care policies, and we need to make sure that women get an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”