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January 22 2015

Stay-at-Home Mothers: Did President Obama Diss Them in the SOTU?

Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

Guess which kind of family was left out in the cold by President Obama as he unveiled his plan to help middle-class families in his State of the Union address?

--W. Bradford Wilcox in today’s Wall Street Journal

The answer is: "The traditional, two-parent family with a single breadwinner." In trumpeting a “fair shot” for everyone, the president “by design or omission” did nothing for the two-parent family with one parent staying home, usually the mother, to bring up the kids, according to Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia (and who will be a panelist at an IWF discussion on the future of marriage in Washington, D.C., on March 5).

President Obama’s proposals to triple the existing child-care tax credit and creation of a new $500 credit would apply only to families in which two parents work outside the house. As is often the case, the president is unfamiliar with or dismissive of actual statistics. The relevant stat here is that, according to data from the Census Bureau, about a fourth of American families with married parents and a young child have one parent at home. In many families, one parent takes time out of the workforce to stay with children.

Wilcox observes:

It seems patently unfair to offer a plan targeting middle-class families that excludes such a large share of American families.

If President Obama were serious about helping families, he might have taken some ideas from a plan put forward by Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, which would have raised the child tax credit to $3,500 from its current $1,000. This would do a great deal to help millions of families, both those with two parents in the workforce or those with one at home.  The Lee-Rubio plan is based on the recognition that all families shoulder the expenses and obligations of bringing up the next generation.

The president’s plan, as Wilcox writes, doesn’t reflect the values of Americans, who hold the stay-at-home mother in higher esteem than, apparently, the White House does:

The president’s plan is also mystifying because there is no popular groundswell to exclude or devalue stay-at-home parents. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, 60% of Americans say children are better off when a parent stays home, while only 35% say children are just as well off with two working parents.

Pew also found that, among parents with children younger than 18, a majority of both mothers and fathers say it is better for children when they have a parent at home. The same is true for women in general, of whom 55% say it is better for a child to have a parent at home.

Perhaps Mr. Obama is out of touch with the views of ordinary Americans. In a speech in Providence, R.I., this fall, he spoke about the dilemma facing many working families choosing between putting their child in low-quality or expensive day care and having a parent at home: “[S]ometimes, 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.”

Mr. Obama, we can safely say, didn’t intend to demean or dismiss the choice and sacrifices that millions of parents make to be at home with their children. He was, however awkwardly, trying to make the point that no mother should feel required to stay at home because the cost or quality of child care makes working seem imprudent.

Yet his comment certainly did not convey a positive or affirming message to the parents, usually women, who choose to stay at home.

The Federalist has a great piece by a stay-at-home mother who is “sick of being insulted by President Obama” and found the proposals and phraseology about families in the State of the Union address offensive.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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