BY WILLIAM C. HENRY The political over-importance and consequent over-propagandizing attached to Hilary Rosen’s recent questioning of Ann Romney’s work record brings to mind a previous column I authored concerning birthright/inheritance and the hyper-critical role it plays in determining one’s economic future — and the fact that this whole child-rearing “choice” kerfuffle only serves to further emphasize the point. How so? you ask. Well, because today’s moms’ “choice” of child rearing methods is determined almost entirely by economic status rather than any altruism or feminism on their part, and is but another example of the overriding influence that something none of us had anything whatsoever to do with has on determining the very availability of one’s “choices” in life. Perhaps more importantly it also highlights a far more serious reality which all this inane Rosen/Romney pettifoggery should have been replaced with in the first place, namely: the unconscionable Republican obstructionism that has refused to address, express any concern over, or, for that matter, even acknowledge the existence of, the spreading plague of economic disparity in America and its debilitating effect on anything and everything child-related in this country.
Ultimately, when it comes to deciding whether or not to stay home with the kids, the vast majority of American single moms (be they of the soccer variety or otherwise) are left with little real “choice.” In fact, if they themselves were born into a poor or lower-middle class environment — and it now appears that sooner rather than later just plain “middle” will apply as well — their future educational and consequent workplace/income opportunities have already been disproportionately altered.
There is a ton of statistics bearing on the subject but only a few that really matter here. According to the most recent studies the United States ranks 4th among developed nations in number of households (34%) functioning with a single parent or guardian, and 3rd with respect to the number of single parent households where the single parent works outside the home. Generally speaking, single parents (and they are overwhelmingly women) of below average economic means are faced with two equally undesirable “choices”: 1) Apply for and receive the 5 year TANF (the Clinton re-election ploy that has failed miserably) and pray you can obtain qualified expert legal assistance to guide you through the labyrinthine federal and individual state exceptions to the 5 year limitation rule; or, 2) Try to land a job outside the home that will provide sufficient income to pay for daycare and all the other assorted necessities of daily life (a rather daunting prospect considering that in today’s economic climate they’ll be competing with recent college grads for spots behind McDonalds’ grills).
And, it isn’t just single moms who’s child-rearing “choice” is often extremely limited. These days most two-parent households that wish to achieve and maintain a decent standard of living for their families are left with the unavoidable but not altogether disadvantageous “choice” of both dad and mom becoming breadwinners. Furthermore, more and more studies are showing that a mom’s working outside the home in and of itself can have little bearing on the ultimate happiness and development of the children. It’s not so much the “choice” that matters, but rather the attitudes and adjustments the parents make in accommodation of that “choice.”
So, do me a favor, Ann — and no one, certainly not I, faults you for electing to be a stay-at-home mom given your circumstances — please don’t you or Mr. Romney and his political party attempt to parade your particular “choice” as some sort of badge of honor. No doubt your husband, and in all likelihood your children, thank you profusely for your efforts. It was a grand gesture on your part, but you were very lucky my dear. Your particular stay-at-home “choice” is actually a privilege granted primarily to those well-married moms at the upper end of the economic spectrum. Unfortunately, “stay-at-home” is a selection all too often missing from the list of “choices” available to those in the middle and at the opposite end. You were born with a platinum spoon in your mouth, and you’ve remained extremely well sated ever since. The vast majority of American moms weren’t, nor will future ones ever be, quite so fortunate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.