A short video clip of President Obama has recently gone viral. In it, he states, “And sometimes, 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.”
Those sharing this video, many of whom are members of the LDS church, have used it to claim that President Obama is “attacking” stay-at-home mothers. As a stay-at-home mother myself, I decided that I should investigate. After all, the choice to stay home and care for my children is a significant part of my identity, and I truly believe it is the best thing for my family at this time. Furthermore, we’ve been counseled by our church leaders that “The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 255). And that “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Salt Lake City, 1995).
I’d like to share with you what I found.
I began my investigation by reading the full text of the speech in question. It can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/31/remarks-president-women-and-economy-providence-ri.
In case you don’t have time to read that speech, let me summarize and clarify some points for you. While the words in the video do come from the mouth of our President, they come at the end of this paragraph: “And too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development. And sometimes there may just not be any slots, or the best programs may be too far away. And sometimes, 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.”
What our President is saying is that he does not want American families to be forced to choose to have a stay-at-home parent because they have no other options. This is a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree!
Not all women want to or are able to be stay-at-home mothers, which, incidentally, is acknowledged and respected by the LDS Church.
Here’s Elder M. Russell Ballard on the subject:
"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else." (“Daughters of God,” Ensign, May 2008, 108–10)
Personally, I have been a mom who works full-time outside of the home, a mom who works from home, a mom who works part-time outside of the home, and, most recently, a full-time stay-at-home mom. I’m blessed and grateful that I have had the option to make all of these choices about balancing my family and my career based on my circumstances. Not all Americans are able to make these choices.
President Obama would like to help parents living in every part of the country go to work if they so choose by improving policies on family leave, maternity leave, quality early childhood education, and pay for women. All of these were points that he made in the same speech where he supposedly attacked stay-at-home parents. That alleged attack was not the point of the speech, and it should not be the take-away.
In order to better understand President Obama’s perspective on this issue, let’s look at some information about stay-at-home moms. As of 2012, 68% of stay-at-home mothers fit into the “traditional” picture of a married woman with a working husband. 20% of stay-at-home mothers are single parents, 5% are cohabiting, and 7% are married to husbands who are also not working. It stands to reason that some of these mothers are not actively choosing to stay at home, rather than working outside the home. In fact, while 85% of married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands say that caring for their family is their primary reason for not working outside the home, only 41% of single stay-at-home mothers and 64% of cohabiting stay-at-home mothers said the same.  Perhaps they would be working outside the home if they had access to quality childcare or could be paid for time off to care for a newborn or sick child.
Additionally, our President is correct when he states that a woman’s wages are affected by the choice to take time off to stay home. According to research, mothers are subject to a “motherhood penalty” in the form of earning lower salaries than their childless counterparts, especially if their employment is interrupted by time off caring for their families, leading to fewer years of experience.  If paid leave was offered and quality childcare was available, women who choose to work outside the home may not need to take this time off, so they may not face as large a decrease in pay.
As members of the LDS church, many of us choose to stay home and care for our families. President Obama does not want to take this away from us, but we who make this choice are in the minority. 80% of American children are being raised by parents who work outside the home, and President Obama would like to use policy to strengthen our communities by alleviating parents of the choice between working and doing what’s best for their children. For that, I commend him.
 all this information comes from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/04/08/after-decades-of-decline-a-rise-in-stay-at-home-mothers/