If we’ve learned one thing this week, it’s that the country values stay-at-home moms. We value the hard work they put in to raise our country’s children and care for our country’s families. After Hilary Rosen‘s serious political gaffe this week where she said that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life,” literally every political pundit or media personality in the country rose in agreement to defend the difficult work that goes into raising children. It was a pretty unifying moment on the Mommy Wars.
But this discussion about the value of stay-at-home moms has made a little confused. While everyone’s quick to leap to Ann Romney’s defense, as they definitely should, our culture rarely seems to put financial worth behind the actual work she dedicated much of her life to. In fact, we care so little about raising children, we don’t even support the mothers who want to take a short break from their normal employment to do so.
In plenty of discussions about maternity leave here on The Grindstone, our commenters have asserted that motherhood is a choice and therefore those women don’t deserve financial compensation for that choice. In fact, plenty of people believe that working mothers don’t deserve the promotions or career advancements that go to their childless peers, because these women have made a choice to honor other commitments.
The United States is one of few countries that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave supported by the government. Other countries provide new parents of up to a year or more of paid parental leave, wanting to encourage parents to bond with their children and help their development from the earliest stages.
Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes, pointed out this rather hypocritical conversation going on for many opponents of working mothers while appearing on Lawrence O’Donnell‘s The Last Word.
“And there’s something fascinating at the core of this. There’s a huge a of uncompensated labor in the country by men and women, mostly women, who stay home and take care of their kids. And there are countries where that labor is compensated by the state. So I would love to have that conversation, if they actually think it is work and they feel it’s work, why isn’t there any wage for that kind of work? Why is that uncompensated?”
Wouldn’t the logical beginning on that conversation start at paid maternity leave? It seems like a way to put some money where our collective morals seem to stand, in a place where stay-at-home-motherhood should be valued and respected? How much actual value were all these politicians and pundits talking about? Maybe we should ask them to put their money where has been all week long.
If we all value Ann Romney and her work raising five boys so much (which we should!), how much should that value cost us?
(Photo: GOP USA)