02 November 2014

So I Don't Argue with my Facebook Friends

Since a lot of my Facebook friends are posting and interpreting differently than I would a comment that Obama made, and since I just like to argue with internet strangers, not friends, I'm posting here.  You're perfectly welcome to argue with me if you like.

So here's what people are quoting:
And 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. 

I agree that the last line can easily be misinterpreted.  If he'd added "have to" before the last word, there wouldn't be anything to argue about.  But even though he didn't you can read everything he said here to see that he's concerned about families having to make hard financial decisions, not families choosing to have a parent stay home at all.

I don't think the Obama was saying in any way that he thinks that women shouldn't choose to stay home with their children.  I think he's a very family-oriented president who wants to make sure that every family has choices when they're raising their children.  I'm all for that.

I appreciate it when people are honest about the sacrifices that women make when they stay home with their children. We might say that she has to live in a smaller house, which is likely true, but it's more important to acknowledge that she's also sacrificing the ability to make sure she always has a roof over her head.  She's not just forgoing a salary while she's staying home, she's impacting her earning potential for the rest of her working life.

I haven't worked since I got married.  This is what we've chosen.  There have certainly been times when having me work would have made life a lot easier, but for both personal and financial reasons (it is really, really hard to find and keep a job that pays well enough to help the family budget (including daycare) when you move as often as we do), I've always stayed home.  I don't regret the choice, I don't feel like I need to defend the choice, I don't feel like I am a more worthy mother because I haven't worked, and I don't feel maligned for making the choice.

But I am completely financially dependent on my husband.  Death, divorce, and disability, while all remote possibilities, are still entirely possible. We have life insurance (and so, ironically, death would financially be the best catastrophe to death with), but disability (especially with possible accompanying medical bills) and divorce would both be financially devastating for me and my children. Sure, I have a bachelor's degree, but it's almost 17 years old and I have no work experience with it.  I think I could find a job, but supporting a family on it would be very difficult, and I also wouldn't have anything for retirement.  

There is nothing I can do to change that now and I wish I had been more aware of that when I got married.  I can never make up the last 17 years of lost salaries and earning potential.  Ever. The moving thing only makes that more impossible for me, but it hardly makes me unique in having the problem at all.  I cannot tell you how many friends I've watched deal with the aftermath of divorce after being SAHM moms for a decade or more, especially when their ex-husbands have significantly fewer financial problems because they have decent earning potential.  Being a SAHM is a sacrifice that impacts women far more than men and, like Obama, I don't want any woman to have to make that choice.


  1. I completely agree.

    Much as I haven't enjoyed staying in Florida for the past three years, it has enabled me to get back into the workforce after eight years home with my children.

    Like you, I have a lot of friends who have been SAHM's for that long or longer, and are finding themselves in a situation where they need a job, whether it's due to divorce, disability, or simply that in this difficult economy their husband's salary is not enough to support the family. It's hard to find a job without current experience even with a bachelor's degree, and many of these women don't even have that.

    I feel incredibly lucky that even though we never planned for me to work (the only job I had after I graduated was a $9/hour Provo secretarial job that I quit before I had our first baby), I was able to find a job that is a good fit and pays well enough that I could support all of us on it if I really had to. It feels kind of like a miracle, actually.

    I don't think I'll be teaching my daughter to plan for being a SAHM. Instead, I'll encourage her to plan for employment that she enjoys and can support her and potential dependents, and that if/when she has children, she and her partner should look at all their available options and find an arrangement that works well for them--an arrangement that can be as fluid and flexible as they need it to be.

  2. If I had daughters, I wouldn't tell them to plan to be SAHMs either and more than I tell my boys to plan to be SAHDs. I would love it if my boys had a chance to be at home with their children if that worked out for their family, but I want them to have choices and not just plan to work all the time or stay home all the time.