Did the President Really “Slam” Stay at Home Moms?

Hold on to your yoga pants, mommies.

Apparently, President Obama “slammed”, “insulted” or otherwise hates stay at home moms. The offending quote?

“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.”

 

Well, I don’t really see the insult there, unless you are an individual who is determined to be insulted by everything the President says, but I do understand why that quote, taken out of context, could cause some SAHMs to scratch their heads. This quote is taken from The President’s Remarks on Woman and the Economy in Providence, RI on 10/31/14.

My personal disclaimer: I am a registered independent. With regard to politics, most of the time I feel like I’m on the outside of a fishbowl looking in as warring factions of goldfish try to tear each other to pieces with their dumb little gaping goldfish mouths. I reserve the right to change the way I feel in the future, but I’m not apologizing for anything either. I didn’t vote for Obama either time, but I don’t harbor unhealthy levels of ill will or wish to disrespect him.

I usually don’t like to discuss politics with anyone, even my own husband (much to his chagrin, for he loves a good debate), but this particular issue irked me a bit- and probably not in the way you’d expect, considering my recent defense of moms in general.

I am frustrated that so many have chosen to take this quote drastically out of context in order to lambast the President and claim that he doesn’t think mothers should choose to stay home with their children. Maybe it’s because I was an English major in college, but it’s fairly obvious to me that the quote only works in the context of the entire speech. Just as it’s irresponsible to read bible verses out of context because you can totally screw up their meaning, it’s a rookie mistake to pull a single quote out of its context and base an entire idea off of it. So here’s the context (thanks to this Snopes article):

THE PRESIDENT: I kept on hearing about my mom struggling to put herself through school, or my grandmother hitting that glass ceiling. And I thought about Michelle, and I told some stories about when Michelle and I were younger and getting starting, and we were struggling to balance two careers while raising a family. And my job forced me to travel a lot, which made it harder on Michelle, and we would feel some of the guilt that so many people feel — we’re working, we’re thinking about the kids, we’re wondering whether we’re bad parents, we’re wondering whether we were doing what we need to do on the job. And as the catch-22 of working parents, we wanted to spend time with our kids, but we also wanted to make sure that we gave them the opportunities that our hard work was providing.

And then, of course, I think about my daughters. And the idea that my daughters wouldn’t have the same opportunities as somebody’s sons — well, that’s unacceptable. That’s not acceptable.

But here’s the challenge — that’s all good news — the challenge is, our economy and some of the laws and rules governing our workplaces haven’t caught up with that reality. A lot of workplaces haven’t caught up with that reality. So while many women are working hard to support themselves and their families, they’re still facing unfair choices, outdated workplace policies. That holds them back, but it also holds all of us back. We have to do better, because women deserve better. And, by the way, when women do well, everybody does well.

So women deserve a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And Rhode Island has got the right idea. You’re one of just three states where paid family leave is the law of the land. (Applause.) More states should choose to follow your lead.

THE PRESIDENT: Without paid leave, when a baby arrives or an aging parent needs help, workers have to make painful decisions about whether they can afford to be there when their families need them most. Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth to their child. I mean, there are a lot of companies that still don’t provide maternity leave. Of course, dads should be there, too. So let’s make this happen for women and for men, and make our economy stronger. (Applause.) We’ve got to broaden our laws for family leave.

Moms and dads deserve a great place to drop their kids off every day that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg. We need better childcare, daycare, early childhood education policies. (Applause.) In many states, sending your child to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: True!

THE PRESIDENT: True. (Laughter.) 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.

If we are paying attention to the context clues of the entire speech, we recognize that he is discussing the plight of American families that either need or choose to operate with two incomes, referencing the “many women are working hard to support themselves and their families” and “the catch-22 of working parents”. This is not a speech about stay at home moms. This is a speech about working mothers who are experiencing disadvantages on multiple levels, from a lack of maternity leave to lower wages to perhaps even being forced to stay home when they would rather not and, as he says, earning a lower wage for the rest of their lives as a result. And that isn’t a choice we want Americans to make, because it’s a choice based on gender inequality in the workplace and bad family leave policies.

 

I recognize why some people became incensed at the quote, but my understanding of their anger only goes that far before I get profoundly annoyed. What I see in their anger is a choice to jump to a conclusion and pounce on a chance to disagree with the President, rather than using the skills they learned in middle school to determine what is being communicated by paying attention to the entire context. This is not rocket science.

If you have problems with the President’s policies, or his attitude, or the way he runs the country, that’s fine. I’m pretty sure everyone disagrees with something he does. I’m no Obama evangelist myself. But the way the quote was taken out of context to fire people up is a great example of everything that is wrong with our battling two-party system.

Please, for the sake of a real working democracy, don’t give in to this kind of poorly-reported, poorly-researched hype. Do your homework (did I already mention this is stuff you learned in English class?) and make your arguments based on facts in their appropriate context, and for heaven’s sake don’t let someone else do your thinking for you.

Snay out!
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3 thoughts on “Did the President Really “Slam” Stay at Home Moms?

  1. I could not agree more. I was so upset when I saw how people were twisting this to make it sound like he was slamming stay at home moms when his intention was exactly the opposite. Someone posted something about this expressing frustration and the comments devolved into a rant about people having kids and then expecting taxpayers to support them, which was not the intention of Obama’s speech or my friend’s post. It just made me want to punch somebody.

    • Yeah, I felt the same way and needed to go write a blog post about it instead of get into an argument on Facebook. :) And with that I think I’ve filled my “talking about politics” quota until the next election.

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