It was the winter of 1998-1999, at home on bed-rest from pregnancy complications, I sat watching the President Clinton impeachment trial. Up until that point while waiting to have our second child, my plan had been to return to school for postgraduate studies in physics. Something drastically shifted in me, though, as I watched our government and society go through that struggle. I knew what I wanted to do: constitutional law.
During those months, I thought a lot about raising my children in the culture the Clintons were fostering, and how different it was from the country to which my parents had thought they had immigrated. I made a commitment and got myself into a law program at a good school within commute distance of our home. When people asked me why I wanted to go to law school, I would jokingly say that I was going to become a constitutional lawyer and save our country. A bit arrogant, I know, but certainly President Obama can sympathize.
Fast-forward to my second year of law school. My husband’s commute to work was longer than an hour each way through Los Angeles traffic, a decision we made to keep the children close to all our family and social support. When our two little girls were not in school or pre-school, they were with my parents. I was going to classes, working part-time at a law-firm, clerking for a judge, and doing research assistant work for one of my professors. My husband and I hardly saw each other and we hardly saw our girls. I broke. I was a human woman after all, and I couldn’t keep it all up. In the end, I had to make a decision: Stay in law school, concentrate on becoming a constitutional lawyer, serve and save my country; or quit, stop neglecting my family, go home, and be a wife to my husband and a mom to my daughters—saving my family.
Women Aren’t Prone to Put Payroll Before Kids Like President Obama
In a speech on Friday, President Obama said this about stay-at-home moms: “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.”
Out of all the wrong things Obama has said and done during his presidency (and there have been many), this one I can’t let go without a response. It feels that he has such a low view of children that he believes it’s more important for a woman to earn a higher wage than to be home caring for and educating them.
I know there are families where both parents must be out in the workplace to make ends meet. I would like to see those families supported by extended family, communities, and churches—that proverbial village all families need. What I’m hearing from President Obama is not so much that he cares about the well-being of these families, but that he cares about payroll numbers. His philosophy says that government preschools will take care of other people’s children so that they can do something else, something better for the balance sheet of the U.S. Treasury. It sees people as workers, the government as care-giver, and children as quasi-wards of the state.
Our Offensive and Defensive Home Team
My husband and I have a view of family and children that frankly runs deeper than what I can explain here. If President Obama would like to reduce us to an economic model, however, perhaps he will understand if I explain the economics of our one-income household like a football team: He plays offense and I play defense. Any team needs both to win. My husband brings home the regular paycheck, and President Obama’s scorekeepers at the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service know all about his stats. My role on defense mostly involves keeping the outside world from scoring against us: strategizing how to spend less and hold onto victory with what we have, but I also find “special teams” scoring opportunities. These stats are not always so easy for government officials to see, but they are no less important for the thriving of our family. Our way of thinking about it may not suit everyone. But it’s an important metaphor in understanding single-income households, the importance and dignity of the stay-at-home spouse, and their place in our society and economy.
Since President Obama says he cares about the choices of women, I want him to know that it was my choice to give up my dreams and the possibility of a future paycheck. I gave up my dream of doing something I believed I was gifted at and a chance to lift my country in one particular way. But what I gained in that choice was the opportunity to love and care for the eternal souls that were entrusted to me—my children. What I’ve seen in President Obama’s choices is a desire to cultivate a society full of people who want to claim rights, instead of a republic with the liberty to make wise and responsible choices for their good and the good of their families.