On October 31, 2014, President Obama spoke at Rhode Island College, in Providence, RI. He was speaking on the topic of Women and the US Economy. As I was perusing facebook later that same day, several well-meaning friends had put up links from news outlets about the President’s speech. Most of the news outlets were all touting the same comment, that the President had shown disrespect to stay-at-home moms(sahms). I was taken aback by this bit of news. I am and have been a sahm for 23 years now. I was taken aback because I thought to myself, would the President really say something so disrespectful to a group of women, that has grown to 29% of all women with children 18 and under(Pew Report)?
I am a conservative voter, thinker, and I follow politics. I read various news sources each day, watch the news, and while not agreeing with much of President Obama’s political ideologies and policies, I had my doubts that he had really disrespected sahms. I decided to do a bit of investigative research on what he actually said in his speech on October 31st.
What I found out was that the President was talking about the fact that Rhode Island has a paid family leave as a state law and he wished more states had such a law; 2 other states besides RI have such a law on their books. The President cited examples of women who can’t take much time off from their jobs for a proper maternity leave, or take time off if they need to care for a seriously ill loved one. He cited examples of women who do take that time away to provide care for loved ones, and when they take that leave, they risk losing their pay or their positions in their careers. He went on to state that sometimes families can’t find affordable and/or quality childcare or preschools, so a parent gives up their career to be with the kids when they’re small, and that that can negatively affect a family’s economic level. He didn’t slam sahms from what I deciphered from his speech. Here are the remarks he made if you want to read it for yourself.
As to his view of having paid leave for all who need to take leave from a career or job for personal reasons, I have to ask, who will pay for this leave in dollars and cents? Where will the company find the money to do this? If a state makes it mandatory, does this apply to all places of employment or just to large companies with deep pockets? Will this apply to those working minimum wage jobs? I can’t foresee that many businesses who have minimum wage employees can afford to provide a paid leave for those employees. Also, what is an affordable daycare? What comprises a good daycare and who monitors that? Let’s mandate free, quality Preschools? To get the free preschools, that would force the local public schools to add them to their school districts, but then again, that will cost rises in school tax levies which would then be put onto the school districts’ taxpayers, so saying it’s free isn’t really the truth. The President may wish the federal government can step in and create full-paid leave for those who have to leave a job for a while and/or fabulous daycares and preschools that are economically priced and convenient to where a family lives, but there is a whole host of unintended consequences that would result from such sweeping legislation.
When my husband and I began our family 23 years ago, we knew that I wanted to stop my teaching career to be a sahm. I have never regretted my decision to put my career on hold. As our youngest will turn 12 in 2015, I am gearing up for a return to teaching, whether as a full time teacher in the classroom or as a full-time sub, I have some flexibility in what I choose to do.
Life is hard and it’s not fair. Life doesn’t always flow like a Happily-Ever-After fairytale ending. Loved ones get terribly sick and need care. Babies are born and need care. Sometimes those life events throw huge monkey wrenches into our lives and the routine of living has to be put on hold for a while or for an entire season of life and those events have to be dealt with, they have to be endured. When the event is over or has moved to a new stage, then that career and the old ways of living may be returned to.
I suggest, Mr. President, that you leave it up to the individuals and their families how best to deal with those monkey wrenches.
I would suggest different speeches, instead of focusing on women and the economy, how about ways to make the economy better for all working Americans? Since this speech was made in late October, my cynical self thinks it was scheduled to aim a speech at women, in a hope to boost the vote for Democrats in the mid-term elections that were approaching, since the Republicans are supposedly “at war” with women. Rhode Island, situated on the East coast, isn’t a hotbed of conservative voters, either, so that was a safer place to make a speech to appeal to liberal sensibilities.
If you want to help the economy for women, Mr. President, lower the tax rates, change the way that the federal tax code penalizes married women vs women co-habitating with a man. How about finding ways to have colleges stop hiking up their tuition rates that force some college students to head into onerous debt just in order to earn their degrees?
No, I don’t see the President’s speech as a disrespectful rant at stay-at-home-moms. I see the speech bringing up some valid concerns that all Americans will eventually face, from time to time and I see it as difficulties Americans can deal with on their own without more intrusive laws from a federal government that just wants to “help” people. I’ll end with a famous quote and warning from the late economist Milton Friedman: “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” Also, this quote by Mr. Friedman, which I think proponents of government intervention for every problem under the sun should memorize: ” One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”