President Obama's Attack on Stay-at-Home Moms: Now with 100% More Context


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. [1] 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. [2] 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.

[1] all this information comes from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/04/08/after-decades-of-decline-a-rise-in-stay-at-home-mothers/

[2] http://www.asanet.org/images/members/docs/pdf/featured/motherwage.pdf

Showing 18 reactions

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  • commented 2014-11-11 12:32:41 -0800
    I was one of them on your facebook feed that was upset about this. Even reading the full context and his speech I am still upset about this. He is very derogatory towards the decision to HAVE to stay at home. What is that to mean to mothers who choose to stay at home?
    He implies that women who have no choice but to stay at home hurt the economy. If you read what he says you can draw conclusions from it that were obviously inferred. Women who stay at home hurt the economy. Women who have to stay at home are to be pitied. He did not acknowledge that the women who choose to stay at home contribute positively to society, instead everything about stay at home moms was derogatory. When you read the quotes from our wonderful church leaders in this article you see that they show love and respect for mothers both SAHM’s and working moms. The pres. Did no such thing. He is off his rocker if you ask me because he is wanting to raise funds for daycare to get moms out working to raise the economy. It’s sad how the president truly thinks a big problem with the economy steams from crappy daycares which are forcing moms to stay at home. I think much more good comes when a mom stays at home and does the rearing than the daycares and the fact that the president inferred the very opposite is why I am still upset with his entire speech.
  • commented 2014-11-08 16:23:55 -0800
    John Pack commented 2 days ago: Why is it that families can’t get by on one income any more? I make six times what my father made.

    Family structure (and ffunction) are determined by how the larger economy works. A century ago in urban America the socialised means of survival worked this way: each household labored to provide for its own survival by forming a unit that could provide a worker for the industrial or commercial economy at large. It required a full-time worker and manager (usually the wife) to organise home life in such a way that another family member (husband, then children more as the family matured) could be supported to enter the wage economy of factory or other work place. The cash earned by father was used by mother and helpers (children) to house, feed, and care for the entire family. That has changed. It is no longer the norm, nor is it easy, for a family to live on that single income, especially with the consumer ‘needs’ that exist today. A hundred years ago children didn’t need all the gear they need now – brand name clothes to display their identity, electronic gear to consume the products of mass entertainment, and so forth. Mom and Dad also have far more extensive need/desire to consume. Managing the household has also become far more expensive in cash terms, and much less expensive in direct labor terms, that it used to be, thanks to things like electricity, plumbing, refrigeration, cleaning products and machinery, ease of transportation, etc, etc. As a result we now have fewer children (they are economic liabilities, not contributors as they were formerly), later age of marriage and having children, and so on. The economy always determines the forms that families will take and how survival tasks will be distributed in them; the economy is the field in which, and the means by which, groups of humans distribute and share survival tasks among members. That is the basic reason why, John Pack, families can’t get by on one income any more. Consumer economies that depend on mass market consumerism work differently than industrial economies that depend on capital deployment for infrastructure and manufacturing. When economies change the social structures they produce change. As simple as that. It’s related to Marxian ideas about ownership of the means of production. Material circumstances determine the parameters within which societies build their means of survival.
  • commented 2014-11-08 11:56:18 -0800
    I’m one of those stupid people who “overreacted” to Obama’s comment. However, I did see it with some context, and then I read more context on your blog, and then I read more context on Snopes. (i’m not willing to sit down and listen to or read the whole thing, because when he speaks it all just sounds the same to me. I get bored to tears.) But now that you have given me even more of his speech, I am even more outraged! When Obama said “that’s not a choice I want Americans to make” the choice he was referencing was clearly between either staying home and foregoing income to raise your child or paying someone else to raise your child. Apparently, in Obama’s America, raising kids should be cost and sacrifice-free! Or rather someone else should pay and sacrifice to raise your child. I already sacrificed to raise my own children, and now they are in college. So now I’m apparently the “someone else” who is supposed to pay to raise other’s children. It makes so much more sense when you put it in context. I’m glad he’s not bashing stay at home moms who sacrifice to bear the cost of raising their own children. He just wants us to sacrifice twice! Thanks for setting idiots like me straight! When my daughters have children, can I send you the bill for their daycare? I’d hate to see my precious darling’s sacrifice at all for their own children the way their mother was forced to!
  • commented 2014-11-07 13:06:06 -0800
    @steven heller: If you only count federal income tax, what you say is true. But between federal income tax,Social Security/Medicare tax, state income tax, property tax, and sales tax, my federal tax is the lowest. Cumulatively, together with gas tax, the cost of regulations added to the prices we pay, user fees, and other miscellaneous taxes that adds up to 52% of the national income. That makes one person out of every two-earner household a slave.

    By the way, the soundbite isn’t taken out of context — it’s only that Obama not only disapproves of stay-at-home mothers but that he disapproves of those who use any daycare service that could be called “cheaper” or doesn’t have elite programming. Disapproval of three things does not mean that disapproval of one of those three is taken out-of-context.
  • commented 2014-11-07 09:59:10 -0800
    @john Pack: And yet taxation is the lowest that it’s been in 30 years at 17-ish percent (source: http://www.factcheck.org/2012/07/tax-facts-lowest-rates-in-30-years/) No offense, but you just don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s obvious that you have an agenda, but if you’re going to start making up facts, don’t expect not to get called out on them.
  • commented 2014-11-07 09:14:12 -0800
    Thanks for clearing the air of a hugely misinterpreted and misrepresented soundbite the president gave.

    It’s interesting that people want to debate in the comments about policy, when this post is focused on showing that the President was never attacking stay at home mom’s in the first place. By looking at the full context and siting the full sources, you’ve clearly shown that others were being fed misinformation and ever worse, sharing it with others.

    I hope this gets shared with more people to help them learn to look at the facts a little closer before jumping to conclusions the next time.

    Bryce
  • commented 2014-11-06 10:21:01 -0800
    Why is it that families can’t get by on one income any more? I make six times what my father made.

    Could it be that it’s because of government spending? Studies show that between all of the various taxes, inflation caused by government, and higher prices due to regulation that the average person pays 52% of their income to government. In a two-earner household, that’s one person who is now a slave to the government.

    Is that why it takes two earners now when one was enough in the 60’s?

    Do we need another government program and more spending, as Obama says? Or should we cut the government back to the spending level of 2000 (less than one-quarter of what it is today)?
  • commented 2014-11-06 08:32:44 -0800
    @greg Arnold — I really respect your comments here! Thank you for responding so thoughtfully to the content of the post. We clearly disagree on whether President Obama’s claims and the research backing them up are legitimate, but this kind of disagreement is to be expected over any important issue.

    @elduro Tuco — while it’s clear that you dislike the President, it’s not clear where you’re getting any backing for your rather insulting claims about his motivations. Could you help me understand what makes you think that “Obama would rather have moms in the workforce than at home”? Could it be that President Obama would rather give moms the choice, and to not punish them financially for a decision to stay at home with children?

    @john Pack — The whole blog post debunks your claim that this is simply about “making choices our president doesn’t approve of.” The President, as Alice so clearly explained above, doesn’t want families to be forced into a situation where they have to choose between caring for children and providing financially for themselves. If you could explain your position more specifically then maybe we could have a meaningful discussion.
  • commented 2014-11-06 05:47:26 -0800
    My post should say, "The conclusions drawn by both you and President Obama are flawed.
  • commented 2014-11-06 05:46:15 -0800
    The conclusions being drawn by both you and President Obama. His paragraph that you quote assumes that a woman is forever handicapped by choosing to stay at home. This is patently false. Certainly the woman that chooses to stay at home will not earn wages while staying at home, but to say that her income potential is forever hampered does not stand up to logic. Once a person gets to a certain amount of years experience it sort of washes out. Most non-entry level jobs want a minimum of 5 years of experience, so once a person gets those years, the number of years, become irrelevant. Second, Obama does say that quote that is taken out of context. My response is, “Why is that choice bad?” If two people decide to go this route it is their choice. Third, you say that paid family leave would help solve this issue. Personally I do not believe the studies that you are citing. I would like to see the methodology for collecting that data. Was the cost of day care the only reason for the choice or was it just one of several factors? To just cavalierly say that paid family leave would solve this is misleading. Providing long term paid leave is extremely costly, and must be considered.
  • commented 2014-11-05 15:25:27 -0800
    The whole paragraphs boils down to people making choices that our president doesn’t approve of. Therefore, we need more reckless government spending so that people don’t or can’t make those choices. One of those choices is to stay at home and put kids first.
  • commented 2014-11-04 22:49:36 -0800
    The bottom line is that Obama would rather have moms in the workforce than at home…… He wants to make it as easy as possible for moms to choose work over being a stay at home mom. Why? For an increase in employment numbers, for an increase in the amount of taxes collected, and of course so that Obama can take credit for giving people something that he bought with other people’s money. Making women more reliant on services provided by the Federal Government does little to empower, or liberate women, rather it enslaves them to keep these programs by voting for those politicians who will continue to buy votes with tax payer funded programs and services….. which of course is not part of the proper role of Government.
  • commented 2014-11-04 18:07:47 -0800
    I’m going to use your words on my blog post as well (I will link it). I’ve been face-palming at those posting the slanted version of this. Luckily, one of my cosnervative friends was responsive to me with “Thank for the info Jill. That’s good to know. I really feel that the reason we are all so defensive about the initial article that the media put up is because there is such an attack on the family. I know you would agree. I am not a fan of Obama but I do feel it unfair for the media to portray his message the way they did.” My issue is, if people aren’t going to like something, it should be for a truthful reason, not because of how something is slanted, twisted around and sprinkled with lies. Kind of like those that attack our faith. If you (general you) don’t like my faith, I hope it’s because you don’t believe what I believe and/or disagree with doctrinal things. it’s when someone attacks my faith because they believe the lies about it that really gets under my skin.
  • commented 2014-11-04 15:34:11 -0800
    @david—what part of the quote is Alice stretching?
  • commented 2014-11-04 15:30:33 -0800
    I think your stretching a bit when you try and interpret the Pres. Comments.
    His comment is a little vague, maybe it means that, maybe it doesn’t.
  • commented 2014-11-04 12:55:47 -0800
    Thank you Great Article!
  • followed this page 2014-11-03 21:34:05 -0800
  • published this page in Blog 2014-11-02 20:43:15 -0800

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