Monday, November 3, 2014

Obama's Amazing Speech Supporting Moms

(full disclosure, I consider myself a centrist, and have never voted for Obama)

Apparently there's a big crazy drama over Obama's latest speech where he talks about women in education and the workplace and the struggles and obstacles they face in balancing the demands of family and a job.   Many people are taking one sentence out of context and turning into outrage clickbait.   I have a question to you outraged reposters:  have you read the full speech?  Here it is, included a transcript word-for-word, from which I copied: 

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.

Guess what?  He's talking about my life!  And I agree with him 100%.  When I was pregnant with Ellie I left my dream job with Agassi Charitable Foundation so that I could stay home with her.  When she was 3 I started looking for part-time work to help make ends meet, and for the next four years I worked part-time in my field keeping my skills up to date.  Soon we moved and I *needed* to work full-time, me staying home was not an option.  Do you know what I found out about finding work after being home with a child?  Employers valued my education and experience less than  a newly minted graduate with a 4 year degree.  And when I finally did find work (Thank you, God) it was in an entry-level position at a wage less than what I had made 9 years earlier right out of college.  

It's a fact: taking a break to raise kids is devastating to your career.  A woman has to choose between working (and barely being able to afford insurance and daycare) or staying home and permanently handicapping your career if you ever need to work again.  And I agree with Obama:

"that's not a choice we want Americans to make."

I don't see how anyone can disagree with that. I was a SAHM and I loved to have the option, it was a luxury we were able to make work.  But not everyone is so fortunate.  The rest of the policies President Obama spoke about are family-friendly workplace policies, such as:
  1. Higher quality pre-school programs available to those who need it most
  2. Raise the minimum wage, the average mw earner is 35 and many are mothers supporting families.
  3. Equal pay for men and women
  4. Changing attitudes about employing mothers, such as:
    • JetBlue's flexible work-at-home positions
    • Google's 5-month paid parental leave
    • Investing in programs to help women enter higher-paid traditionally male careers (engineering, STEM, etc.)  
Now, I 100% believe that you can disagree with his policy ideas, in politics you can find statistics to support either side of an argument.  That's okay to disagree with his thoughts about equal pay or minimum wage.  But there is no logical or rational way you can interpret his statements to be against SAHMs.  Let's get that straight. In fact, I think we should give the guy credit for understanding the challenges women have to face probably more than most men:

I was raised by a single mom, and know what it was like for her to raise two kids and go to work at the same time, and try to piece things together without a lot of support. And my grandmother, who never graduated from college but worked her way up to become vice president of a bank, I know what it was like for her to hit the glass ceiling, and to see herself passed over for promotions by people that she had trained. And so some of this is personal, but some of it is also what we know about our economy, which is it's changing in profound ways, and in many ways for the better because of the participation of women more fully in our economy.

One last thought from a recently divorced, single parent friend:
I just want to share that I'm thankful for anyone (even if it's a politician I didn't vote for) who recognizes the situation Obama described (I recommend reading a more complete version of his remarks that changes the interpretation significantly, I believe) because it describes where I'm at right now: a young (read: still developing professionally and slowly because I've been doing the SAHM thing until 3 months ago) woman who is in the process of divorce and is making hard choices about career development and child care, particularly in the context of my current salary (and benefits which I'm so blessed to have) not covering ANY level of child care, let alone child care that I would feel comfortable leaving my kids in. I'm completely dependent on the child support payments of my stbx who lives in a foreign country with which the US government does not have an enforcement agreement. So I sure hope he keeps paying so I can keep my job and my kids can stay in their fabulous day care situation which will allow me to over time, make up some of the lag I've experienced professionally as a SAHM that will ultimately make me less depending on child support. I'm not trying to get pity here, or whine. I just want to share that women are in lots of different situations, but the penalty we face in the workforce for prioritizing quality child care for our children (whether we provide it or pay through the nose for someone else to) is real. And I feel that is what Obama was commenting on---I do not feel his full remarks can be reasonably interpreted as a slam against anyone's choice to be a stay at home parent.

1 comment:

  1. THANK YOU! I get riled up every time someone in my Facebook feed posts about being a SAHM attacked by Obama. And there have been many. :(