See update below.
How many readers out there are or were working mothers who put their kids in daycare after your maternity leave was up? Keep your hands up while you read this.
I guess the guys on the Democratic side of the aisle just can’t wait to get the motherhood crap off their todo list. Atrios links to a post at the Big Orange Satan about a pretty fricking thoughtless bill that not only manages to fall right into a trap that the Republicans have set but at the same time pisses off all the working mothers who have careers, probably a secondary planned effect. From the BOS post, here is the description:
“A handful of House Democrats, encouraged by the recent bipartisan agreement that stay-at-home moms should be considered just as hard working as anyone in the workforce, will introduce legislation to apply that standard to mothers on welfare as well.Under current law, raising children does not count toward the required “work activity” that must be performed by recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the federal program that emerged from the 1996 welfare reform. Some states make an exception for mothers with children less than a year old.
The Woman’s Option to Raise Kids (WORK) Act, a copy of which was provided to HuffPost in advance of its introduction, would allow mothers with children ages 3 and under to stay at home with their children and continue receiving benefits.
The WORK Act won’t really give all women the same choices Ann Romney had. As she explained:
“No, I did not work. Mitt thought it was important for me to stay home with the children, and I was delighted.””
Under the WORK Act, however, mothers whose husbands don’t have profitable stock portfolios to support them, but who also think it’s important to “stay home with the children” and would be delighted to do so, would have to return to the work force when their child turns four. Still, such legislation would be a much-needed step in the right direction. And it’s one Mitt Romney should be first in line to support. After all, as his wife told us last week:
“This is obviously an awesome responsibility, to raise children. It’s, to me, the most important thing we can do. I will tell you that Mitt said to me, more times than you would imagine, “Ann, your job is more important than mine.” He was making money and doing the things, raising funds and investing and helping other companies, and he would come home and say, “Ann, your job is more important than mine.”
Ok, let’s break this down nice and slowly for the childless men out there:
1.) Mothers who also have careers, *and actually like them*, take only as much maternity leave as they can reasonably afford, because under the Family Leave Act such leave is unpaid and because some of them, such as scientists and other career professionals can’t afford to be away from their work for very long. The right to work in whatever profession we wanted was a hard won thing for women.
2.) Now, we are offering to pay women who are on public assistance for up to four years to stay home with their kids like Ann Romney did. Somehow, we can not manage to find any women in the country who will go on record saying that their career is as important as motherhood to them or that daycare did not permanently stunt their children’s emotional development. We also can’t find any mother on welfare who will say that she would rather go to work or get an education than collect a check that will keep her and her family in poverty indefinitely.
3.) For all of those mothers who have careers, and enjoy them, the price for going back to work has been to pay astronomical childcare costs. If you don’t have kids, you don’t even want to know. Yes, they do get to write some of that off on their taxes. The problem is, the more professional you are and the more education you have, the higher your salary and therefore, the less you get back. Maybe it’s not a problem in Kansas but there’s a reason why New Jersey taxpayers end up sending more money to Washington than they get back. And it is really expensive to live here. My former salary was equivalent to that of a PhD chemist and I live in a 25 year old townhouse and drive a second hand car. Even on my nice salary, it was not a swank living here in the deepest, darkest suburbs of central New Jersey, which is considered part of the New York City metropolitan area. Nope, it was not plush at all. I am definitely in favor of high quality subsidized childcare for everyone.
4.) For women scientists who choose to take time off from their jobs to do an Ann Romney, well, their careers just might as well be over. From the latest edition of American Scientist, we get the following study, When Scientists Choose Motherhood:
The usual explanations for the shortage of women focus squarely on sex discrimination at various life stages. As a result of such discrimination, the argument goes, girls and women drop out of math-based endeavors or change their focus. Some scholars have argued for the effects of early socialization practices that lead girls along a path that downplays math—pink versus blue attire for babies, Barbie dolls proclaiming “Math class is tough,” middle-school math teachers calling on boys more than girls, high-school girls urged to be cheerleaders or writers instead of scientists. Others invoke gender stereotypes—sets of shared cultural expectations that suggest, for instance, that females are not gifted in math or that the responsibility for raising children belongs primarily or solely to women. Still others look further down the pipeline, at disenfranchisement of women once they enter academic-science careers, focusing on claims of “chilly climate”; unequal pay and promotion; devaluing of women’s work styles and biased assessment of their efforts; and old-boys’ clubs that isolate women. Researchers have also studied the role of sex differences at the extreme right tail of the math distribution—more boys than girls demonstrate extremely high levels of math ability on standardized tests such as the SAT. Still others suggest that women simply prefer to use their math and science skills to be veterinarians and biologists, for example, rather than engineers and computer scientists, and that the difference in the numbers can be explained by this freely determined preference.
We argue for the importance of another factor in women’s underrepresentation: the choice to become a mother. To place the role of this choice in context, we consider its impact on women’s careers relative to the impacts of other variables that may reduce women’s participation in the sciences. Our own findings as well as research by others show that the effect of children on women’s academic careers is so remarkable that it eclipses other factors in contributing to women’s underrepresentation in academic science.
Read it and weep. Hard.
So, what is the end result of this WORK Act disaster? Stupid lefties, feeling like poor mothers on welfare crave to stay home with their children instead of trying to get off of welfare have decided it is better to throw money at the problem to alleviate their guilt. They reinforce the “politics of envy” that Republicans are going to roll out. Plus, there are better ways to spend that money so that women have a way out of poverty but lefties, I refuse to call them liberals anymore, do not want to think this problem through. They’d just rather come off looking like heroes, defending motherhood, and probably leaving those women more dependent on guys.
Working women lose. We have just reinforced the cultural notion that women’s primary responsibility is fulltime motherhood. If they’re really into their work AND families, there will be even less incentive for our culture to work out a way that helps them accomplish their professional goals by championing part time maternity leaves, state subsidized childcare, working from home, etc. Instead of assuming that all women of childbearing age will work at some point, and will need high quality childcare at an affordable price, and working on policies to achieve that goal, we will leave working women high and dry. BUT, if they choose to take four years off to fulfill their natural desires to be mothers (gag me, you guys are starting to sound like Michelle Duggar), well, it’s ok if they sacrifice their career goals and future earning potential to do it.
They will also have to continue to pay through the nose for childcare that is sometimes hard to find and expensive as all get out. This is the penalty that working mothers are going to be subject to because we are favoring stay-at-home motherhood in official legislation. I will call it The Working Mothers’ Penalty.
It lets men off the hook. Nowhere have I heard it suggested that we should make men accountable for their behavior at home and at work. What if the father is the one who collects assistance and decides to stay home with the kid? This is not as far fetched as it sounds. I have known instances of mothers abandoning their infants and then the boyfriend/father assumes responsibility for raising them. Are we going to protect that family unit or are we just going to assume that fathers on TANF really want a job? We also aren’t holding men accountable for treating their female colleagues as second class citizens, slighting their skills, stealing their projects and sabotaging their productivity. In fact, we are going to give them even more incentive to do so because we are buying into the Quiverful notion that all women just want to fulfill their obligations as full time mothers and are not pulling their full weight at work.
Oh, and did I mention that it relieves politicians of some of the responsibility to finally do something about the unemployment situation? Instead of doing the heavy lifting of curbing Wall Street from encouraging companies to ship our jobs overseas or go “weightless”, they can just sign on to a bill that will encourage women to stay home.
Who wins? Looks like Republicans and men have won this round and women have lost. They’re going to play up this idea that we are going to pay poor people to be lazy and indolent while working people pay ever increasing amounts of their own paychecks to support them. Nevermind that these women are not lazy or indolent, they’re just left with few options. We buy into the notion that kids that go to daycare early are somehow cheated and have problems. On the contrary, I have a 16 year old who went to daycare at 2 months and is smart as a whip, has a good sense of humor and can use the right silverware at dinners out. Not only that, but I nursed her for 2 years while I was still working. It can be done. And we have given men more reasons to try to force professional women out of the workplace to capture the dwindling salaries that remain.
Just stop, lefties. You are grasping at straws and right now, we don’t need any more of your “help”, thank you very much. You are not thinking the consequences of your actions through and you are going to end up setting working women back even more effectively than the Republicans have so far. In fact, you have no strategy, no comprehensive vision of how modern parenthood or the workplace should be structured to optimize the responsibilities for women and men of all income brackets, and no logical, rational, well-thought policies at all. You are reacting, not planning and as a result, have just involuntarily mommy tracked a whole generation of women.
As for Bill Clinton, my respect for him and Hillary on the issue of welfare reform grows every day. At least I now understand what they were trying to accomplish. That’s one of the reasons why I voted for her, twice, in the 90’s. I knew his wife had insights as a working mother that other first ladies didn’t. Remember the fit the Republicans had about her support of childcare? Now, I realize how badly we have been screwed by our own party. Well, former party, in my case. You guys need to get your shit together before I sign up again.
Update: The Germans are also dealing with the stay-at-home-mother subsidy and are having second thoughts:
“We have found that because of the parental leave payment more mothers are returning to work when the children reach 1 or 2,” says Katharina Wrohlich, a social policy researcher at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin. “Now with this money, it will be a step backwards, because the incentive is being created for the woman to stay at home. So it is something of a zig-zag policy.”
She says the longer women chose to stay out of the labor force, the harder it is to get back in and the greater the risk of poverty. “We know that the shorter the interruption the better it is for the long-term wages, for the risk of unemployment and very importantly for pensions.”
German women already suffer the biggest gender pay gap in Europe and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently criticized the persistent income inequalities and singled out the lack of adequate childcare as a barrier to women earning more.
Furthermore, some experts warn that the children’s welfare is not necessarily best served by keeping mothers at home.
In particular children from immigrant backgrounds whose parents might not speak German fluently can be put at a disadvantage if they enter school at the age of 6 without kindergarten experience. And children of parents who are less educated also benefit far more from an early learning environment.
And why was the subsidy proposed in the first place?
The coalition government agreed to the measure under pressure from the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). Critics say the subsidy simply panders to conservative voters who object to other government plans to extend childcare, regarding it as a threat to conventional family structures.
Gender roles in Germany can still be quite traditional, with the pejorative term “Rabbenmutter,” literally meaning “raven mothers” used by some to imply that woman who leave their children to work are selfish.
The previous Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of the CDU, had annoyed many in the CSU by pushing forward plans to significantly improve the supply of public childcare, as well as by providing generous subsidies for parental leave, or “Elterngeld,” in part to make it easier for mothers to return to work.
Critics have warned that the new childcare subsidy could be counter-productive, acting as a disincentive, particularly to low-paid women, to stay out of the workforce for longer.