Opportunity Cost and the Stay-At-Home-Mom

Opportunity cost 1There has been a lot of flap … and I mean more than the usual amount of flap over a comment Pres. Obama made last week regarding working moms and stay-at-home moms, and the meaning behind what he said. I have mostly stayed out of the flap, but after reading thru a comment thread on facebook about this topic, which only involved men, I wanted to say my bit.

Here is what Obama said, “”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. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

Some people have felt it was a slam on stay-at-home-moms, some have defended the statement by saying that it was intended to help women who work outside of the home. I will tell you what I think and why.

Before I do that, however, I want to establish baseline so you can understand where I am coming from. In my former life, I taught high school social studies. My favorite subject to teach was economics (I know my three, yes three, BYU Econ 110 professors are laughing at that now, but anyway …)

The first thing I would always explain to my students was, opportunity cost. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines this as: “The added cost of using resources (as for production or speculative investment) that is the difference between the actual value resulting from such use and that of an alternative (as another use of the same resources or an investment of equal risk but greater return).” In every economics textbook I ever learned from or taught from they always used the examples of guns and butter to explain this concept. I know, because those two things totally go together, right? But the example explained that you have a certain number or amount of resources. You have to decide how many guns, or how much butter you are going to make from your resources.

Really, though, in plain English what opportunity cost means is, you can’t do it all, or have it all, or buy it all, because you have finite resources which will not cover everything. Those resources might be time, money, talent, or a number of other things. But the fact remains, we all make choices every day, all day, in which we sacrifice one thing for another. Guns or butter, you decide.

In the context of what Pres. Obama said this is important. In my observations of him and the things he says, he works off of some very faulty assumptions. First, that you can have it all, or you should be able to have it all. For women that means you should be able to have a fulfilling career outside of the home, which pays a lot of money, and if you leave for a few years to go and have children, and take care of your children, you should not be “punished” with lower wages or position for your choice.

I chose to be a teacher, which is a job that does not pay well to begin with, but it offered me flexibility to enter and exit the field as I wanted, to start and raise family. So far I have not gone back to teaching, nor do I have any plans to in the near future. But if I do decide to go back, I can expect to be paid where my years of experience and education fit into the salary rubric. I understood when I left teaching that I was going to stop advancing on the pay scale. I accepted that as the opportunity cost of my choice to have a family and stay at home. I do not regret it. See, I am owning my choice and the consequences, or opportunity cost of my choice.

The second assumption I see the President and the progressive-left make a lot of the time is that all women want to work outside of the home for a paycheck, and that, this is the most important thing for all women, and that government should do everything it can to make sure women are working outside of the home. Like the first assumption, they are assuming wrongly about many women. This goes back to opportunity cost. For me the value of raising my children is higher than the value of a paycheck, and any sort of professional betterment I might achieve at a job. The government also needs to step back and let people live their lives, and take responsibility for their choices and the opportunity costs that go with them. What kind of nation would this be if there was no safety net of government lurking below us, and above us, ready to keep us from having to take our medicine? It’s not the government’s job to provide you with your missed opportunity costs. When there is risk involved with choices it usually helps us make better choices.

opportunity cost 2This leads to the final assumption, which is that there is only value in work that you can earn a paycheck for. Sure extra money from a second job would be nice for our family, if I chose to work. However, that money would not be equal to the value I receive in raising my children, the value of my time to do what I want with it, and to order my days how I want. There are more important things than money for many people. The work I do mothering my children is not quantifiable with a dollar figure. No amount of government subsidies will change that. Every woman needs to weigh that if she decides to work or stay home. What is the value and benefit of my choice? Is it better than the alternative? Again, this is opportunity cost at work.

In the context of being a Latter-day Saint, it is very clear what the roles of men and women are. I realize, as well that not every situation is perfect. There are many women who are single parents, and who have no choice but to work. My grandmother was widowed at the age of 42 with 5 young children to care for. She had to work. There are many families who need two incomes just to survive. My own mother spent many years working to pay for missions and college for me and my siblings. I understand and I am not judging women who work outside of their homes. What I am saying is there is opportunity cost involved with all of our choices, and it is our responsibility to accept the consequences of our own choices.

In the end, I did feel Pres. Obama made a jab at stay-at-home moms and the important and vital work we do. I’m not going to let it bother me though, because that’s what he and his people like to do — jab at people who disagree with them. In the end I know what I do is important, and no amount of money or professional accolades will change that. When I view my choice to stay home thru the lens of eternity, I know I am doing great and important things, and my spiritual blessings far outweigh anything a job has to offer.

53 thoughts on “Opportunity Cost and the Stay-At-Home-Mom

  1. Well done Joyce. I think many people forget there are costs for moms (or dads) to go back to work as well. Leaving aside the whole issue of having somebody else raise your kids, there are costs for working. You have to have stuff dry-cleaned, and you usually go out to eat, and there are commuting costs. Some people can get by with one car but if two people work you need an extra car, which is a huge cost. And of course there are taxes to pay on the second income. And when you throw in the costs of day care, and you calculate out how much extra money is brought in by the second person working it is very often the case (not always) that the extra income does not compensate for the actual costs. This does not necessarily mean that the second person working should not do it, but I think many people do not calculate these extra costs before deciding whether or not the second person should work.

  2. There have been some studies done about the cost/benefit ratio of a second income. Most of them have found that all of those expenses you’ve listed consume the second income, and leave little left over. I’ve read many articles about families who’ve made the decision to only have one income, by sacrificing things and really being careful of what they spend and so on. Without exception, all of them have said it was a good choice and has made their family happier.

  3. I sometimes think that the political left just want mothers to work so they can get more tax revenue (in the short term).

  4. I agree with much of what you write. But I think you are also using faulty assumptions. Specifically: “But if I do decide to go back, I can expect to be paid where my years of experience and education fit into the salary rubric.”

    Economic studies and labor force statistics do not support this assumption for most people (men or women) who leave the labor force for an extended period of time. Quite the opposite, most are dramatically underpaid when they return as compared to people with similar education, years actively in the labor force, and skill sets – several end up not being able to return to work at all because employers are likely to hire someone with a steady employment history.

    Opportunity cost is one of the most important concepts in economics, in its simplest expression it is the value of the next best alternative not chosen. It does focus the mind if used correctly. The presence of safety nets (or lack therefore) though does not change the applicability of the concept – it just slightly alters the relevant choice set. I think all President Obama is trying to explain is that people should not be punished an “extra” amount for staying home with the kids. Even liberals like myself know that the studies (often government) show the best way to raise successful children is in an intact stable family with married parents and adequate income and support.

  5. YES! YES! YES! We seem to have an administration that wants to infantilize our society: no consequences, endless “second chances”, and ALWAYS a soft landing – no matter what. Grow up, people! Made adult choices and live with those consequences. If you have, you might get pregnant; if you get pregnant, you will likely need to raise that child; if you need to raise a child, you – or a “partner”, or together – will need the resources to raise said child; acquiring necessary resources will be HARD work and you *might* need to make sacrifices and compromises. Why are we trying to sugarcoat reality for people? If you leave the work place, you will not get paid while you are gone, nor will you be promoted, nor will you accrue pension or retirement. If you chose to leave the work force, be sure it’s the right decision for you and all affected parties. Is this really provocative thinking? Do we really have to teach this? Are people really under the impression that there is a different way? Have we supported and sustained the under and un-employed for so long that they expect something different from their reality? WAKE UP, AMERICA! Your President thinks you are too pathetic to work hard and make decisions for yourself and live with adult consequences! What a travesty.

  6. John — your second paragraph misses my point. Even if other jobs “punish” people for leaving to raise their kids, that is the cost of their choice. Own your choices is all I’m saying. As an employer and a citizen, should not be expected to pay for your economic choices. You have to choose, and take the consequences. I also just referred to my choice as a teacher, I did not make that assumption for other careers.

  7. I LOVE that you talked about opportunity cost. We often forget that for every choice we make with our time and money (or other resources), there is ALWAYS something else we could’ve spent it on. When buying something, part of my thought process is, “well, if I decide to get this, I cannot get that. Or I may not be able to afford the other thing as soon as I had planned. We all have to sacrifice something sometime. When we are conscious of this, we are able to make better informed decisions.
    I think really that Obama is a politician and is looking to market to women. I can see where perhaps what he says sounds appealing and to some, justified. But, my practical self thought, if you extend extra benefits to women, then that will make them more “expensive” to hire, leading employers to find ways around those types of rules and regulations- just as they do now with taxes. And every new regulation and program costs more money in oversight and administration. It sounded kinda warm and fuzzy at first, but really, it lacks practicality. But, our system is such that if a politician wants recognition, he or she needs to find or recognize a problem and then enact some sort of legislation to “solve” it or save us from ourselves. Perhaps government legislation is not the only way to solve our problems.

  8. And I would add that as part of having agency and making choices is having the consequences of those choices. I feel that there are times that progressives, with the intent of saving us from ourselves, take away some of the consequences to our choices, thereby depriving us of our opportunity to learn. That reminds me of Satan’s plan. Lest I sound too heartless, there are times when we act as Angels at the behest of our Savior to help to mitigate some of the tough consequences some are subject to because of their choices. But, in my mind, this should be an opportunity for us to choose to help others, not to be forced, taxed, or legislated into doing so.

  9. “Economic studies and labor force statistics do not support this assumption for most people (men or women) who leave the labor force for an extended period of time. Quite the opposite, most are dramatically underpaid when they return as compared to people with similar education, years actively in the labor force, and skill sets – several end up not being able to return to work at all because employers are likely to hire someone with a steady employment history.”

    The next step is to investigate why those returning from an extended leave of absence are paid much less than persons with similar qualifications and experience who do not leave the labor force. What is it that reduces the leverage these employees have in negotiating compensation? My experience is that, if you look long enough at something that looks unfair (which is what I take “dramatically underpaid” to mean) then you discover that there is actually a rational reason for it.

    Part of it — I suspect a big part in certain occupations, though I do not have data to prove it — is that most new employees takes some time to earn their keep. In other words, she’s costing more than she’s returning to the company at first. When she gets settled in, then the company begins to get some returns on their “investment” in hiring the person.

    All investments, including this “investment” in hiring, are risky. An employee who has taken long leaves of absence in the past might well seem like a poor employment risk in the future. You may not like this, but it is rational on the part of the company.

    And there are likely other rational reasons a person with a history of taking long leaves of absence is just not a good risk for an employer.

  10. catrachohansen — If I believed snopes.com then you might have a point. Snopes.com is just two people — David and Barbara Mikkelson, who have no background in investigation, looking things up on the internet. For some reason people have decided to believe them lock stock and barrel. While their website is good for some things, I choose to make up my own mind when the President says things, and not trust what the internet tells me I should think. I think if you study what Obama has said in the past you will see a pattern that disparages women and men who hold traditional values. But, if you want to believe snopes.com go for it.

  11. I think snopes does a fairly good job most of the time, and I’ll often politely send a link to one of their articles when someone mails me a breathless account of some Internet rumor.

    But they occasionally miss. My experience is that they are most likely to miss when it comes to current politics. They have a definite bias,though I’ll credit them with trying harder than many Internet sites at setting their biases aside.

  12. Vader. I like your questions about why it is that it is difficult to get back into the workforce. Some may even say Obama is encouraging mothers to stay at home, for a time, if he wants to help women after they have been out of the workforce for an extended time.
    However, his comments need not only be directed at stay at home mothers. With the unemployment we’ve been having, there are a number of women and men who have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time and perhaps he was also addressing this problem? But, I digress.
    Even if we give Obama the benefit of the doubt on his remarks regarding stay at home moms, I still think the substance of his message lacks any practical application and is mainly empty political talk.

  13. One more thought. When I was growing up, my mom stayed home with us and we had significantly less material things than many of my friends. I saw the sacrifice- opportunity cost, if you will- that my family made for my mom to stay home and raise seven kids. That spoke to me about what my parents felt was important more than any amount of lectures or lessons could have. If there was no sacrifice, I wouldn’t have really understood the importance. Granted, we never went hungry, without shelter, or adequate clothing, but we knew there was indeed sacrifice.

  14. In effect, if not intent, Progressive policies seem to result in a cadre of elites who decide how the ‘masses’ eat, spend, work, learn, procreate and even die. Socalled ‘efficieny of scale’ is applied to areas where it makes no sense, such as in child care. It seems more efficient to have one or two adults supervising many children, saving the time and energy of their parents to add to the GNP. What makes sense in a factory turning out identical units simply does not work when it comes to raising children. Although numerous studies and statistics demonstrate that intact families with a parent at home to raise the children are optimum, the value of keeping women in the work force and children conditioned to view material rewards as primary indications of value and self worth drive the popular perception that ‘stay at home’ parenting is a waste of resources. As usual, most media sources promote this perception. Perhaps the recent election results demonstrate that many Americans are not so easily deceived.

  15. @ Joyce Anderson.
    “Snopes.com is just two people — David and Barbara Mikkelson, who have no background in investigation, looking things up on the internet”
    This sounds like you…

    So I can read your review, based on one paragraph of the speech or I can read the Snopes review, based on the entire speech. Regardless of what you think of the president and what you think he has said about women in the past you’re still analyzing only a portion of that speech. This is not intellectually honest on your part.

  16. DC — I never said I was an expert, and in fact, I will always be the first to say, make up your own mind and ignore me. I have never claimed to know everything, like the snopes people do. This post is wholly my own opinion, you are free to agree or disagree with me, or snopes or the Easter Bunny for all I care. For the record I did listen to and read the whole speech, this is the part that I chose to address. The whole principle of opportunity cost is a solid fact, that crosses party lines and political affiliations. Tell me what exactly about opportunity cost was dishonest? You seem to be unhappy that I don’t believe the snopes.com interpretation of this issue.

  17. Thats our reason why we homeschool! My stay at home wife makes much more than money. Boys raised in the ways of the lord and taught all things. Remember the worlds motto: You can buy anything in this world with money.

    If they cant monetize the event it doesnt exist in their world.

  18. Joyce, that was a fantastic post (and great engagement in the comments)!

    Regarding the snopes assertion (and a similar assertion on the Mormon Liberals blog), I think there may be an even more depressing thought. I wrote about it myself today, but in short, I think that Obama is reacting to a current cultural shift that’s already taken place – that more and more women *don’t want* to be at home, which is why he uses the phrase about them being forced to “choose” to stay at home with kids.

    And that, I think, is even sadder than him just knocking on stay-at-home moms

  19. AlohaLarsen, you address an issue that deserves its own post, the fact that women don’t want to be mothers and mother their children. I feel it is a tragic part of my generation (Gen-X). We’ve been taught by our flower children mothers that we needed to be liberated with a career. I know I felt that way for a long time, that my only value was if I had a job. There is a lot of value in being a mom.

  20. The quote about stay-at-home moms is taken out of context. Here is what Obama says immediately after: “So let’s make this happen. By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high quality preschool.”

    Obama is advocating greater access to preschool, not telling mothers to not stay home with the kids. The fact is that many mothers want to go out and work to make extra income to provide their children better lives, but they cannot because they cannot afford preschool.

  21. There is! I know that I can’t really ever appreciate the sacrifice involved in devoting yourself to being a mom, but I don’t think I can overstate what a blessing it was for me that my mom was able to stay at home, and that my wife can stay home right now with our family. I’m really lucky that way (both that we can work that out financially, and that I met and married a girl who found motherhood important!).

  22. Matt Clark said “many mothers want to go out and work to make extra income to provide their children better lives”
    Well, many of us think the best thing we can give our children is more of our time. I won’t go into the specifics of every situation. Every situation is unique. But, there is no denying that in general there has been a shift towards “more money=better life.” That has proven wrong over and over again. I agree with AlohaLarsen who says it’s really an indication of a cultural shift that has already taken place.

  23. Matt, I disagree that I took his remarks out of context. Because this was not about the preschool part of that comment. The whole “lets get kids into ‘high quality preschool’ is its own post — which would be, should the government be involved in education. I am only addressing the principle of opportunity cost as it relates to what the President said. But there again opportunity cost is going to rear its ugly head, and I still stick with my belief that the government is not responsible for making sure you get to make up your missed opportunity costs. I will say this, I do believe that Obama and his people want to push preschool to get kids away from their parents to indoctrinate them young. Again, that’s not going to be successful if women are confident enough to see the value in raising their children themselves, and making the choice to stay home. But then again, this post was about opportunity cost and not preschool programs.

  24. AlohaLarsen … thank you! Being a mom is hard work and there are definitely days I question my sanity for trying to do this. But, I don’t ever wish I hadn’t made the choice to have kids.

    As AmyE said, there are bigger benefits to saying home. More money does not necessarily mean better life.

  25. Wait, I’m confused. If the President supposedly wants stay at home moms, why is he enrolling the kids in preschool? I realize the two aren’t mutually exclusive (sahms can have kids in preschool), but generally, preschool is used as a substitute for day care as kids get older.

    There’s no doubt in my mind the President, and many others, would like to make it easier for more parents to pass off the majority of their “parenting” on to someone else.

    If family is about “time”, what does it say when our families spend less time together than ever before? Is it at all possible that the current social problems that ail us stem from the fact that for several generations now kids spend more time in someone else’s custodial care than the parents? And now the President (and others) want to push that down to an even further age.

    Reminds me of my enlightened European friend (who did some work for a consulting agency making recommendations to the UN) who once argued to me that it’s actually dangerous to have parents entrusted with the care of their children and it should instead be the responsibility of society and the state.

    We are so pour to judge the effect of our actions *generationally*. It’s a silly analogy, but one that has been in my mind of late. My mother makes better cookies than me, and my grandmother made better cookies than her. Some things get lost through the generations, even though no one could ever hope to objectively measure how much worse my cookies are (which my kids and neighbors say are great) than my grandparents.

    I have little hope to assume the cookie-loss transmission isn’t applying to other cultural elements. We do of course improve in other areas which does provide a good offset.

  26. My mother returned to the status of being an employee when I was 4 years old, by her own account, because she missed the validation of receiving a paycheck and money she did not have to account to my father for spending. In the following years I experienced a variety of caretaking situations, none of them institutionalized daycare, but all of them inferior to the years when mom had been at home. These included years of care by my elderly grandmother who lived with us on a small farm during the week and retreated to her apartment in the city each weekend. I made the decision that, should I ever have children, I would personally care for and raise them. Fortunately my husband earned enough that I never needed to work outside my home. Several of my daughters have made the same choice and have thanked me for setting them an example. Circumstances have forced others to support their families, while remaining aware that a mother at home is usually the optimal choice. Unfortunately many men have been raised to perceive their wives as more valuable as a wage earner than as a caretaker of their children and even those women who prefer to care for their children are made to feel guilty or selfish for focusing their time and energy on their offspring.

  27. Joyce,

    Fantastic Job!! I agree with your points. Progressives like to devalue the importance of Motherhood, and as an extension, the Nuclear Family as has been endorsed by God. I applaud every woman that has sacrificed the praise of the world and the lucre that follows, in exchange for the cries of their young children. In our ultra competitive, money-centric society – their choice has not been easy, and continues to be scorned, and even vilified by some. These noble woman, who sacrifice for others as a priority in their lives, are beyond the reproach and haughty laughter of those that pursue only themselves.

  28. “But then again, this post was about opportunity cost and not preschool programs”

    This was a post in which Obama’s out-of-context remarks served as a major backdrop against which to address opportunity cost, such as here:

    “In the context of what Pres. Obama said this is important. In my observations of him and the things he says, he works off of some very faulty assumptions. First, that you can have it all, or you should be able to have it all. For women that means you should be able to have a fulfilling career outside of the home, which pays a lot of money, and if you leave for a few years to go and have children, and take care of your children, you should not be “punished” with lower wages or position for your choice.”

    You’re blowing Obama’s comment way out of proportion. He is simply proposing ease of access to preschool for mothers so that they can work. In many families throughout the US, mothers simply have to work, for they are barely hanging by a shoestring. Many are single mothers who are deeply indebted and lack sufficient support. You’re completely oblivious to the harsh realities that so many face here in the US and have the attitude of blaming them for poor decisions. Let me tell you this, your family’s middle class status isn’t solely attributable to their hard work, but their race, class, environment, and an massive infrastructure build under the guidance of the US government.

  29. “Well, many of us think the best thing we can give our children is more of our time. I won’t go into the specifics of every situation. Every situation is unique. But, there is no denying that in general there has been a shift towards “more money=better life.” That has proven wrong over and over again. I agree with AlohaLarsen who says it’s really an indication of a cultural shift that has already taken place.”

    Amy E, of course, it would be ideal for all parents to spend more time with their children. According to the charity, Feeding America, about 17 million children live in homes where they cannot get enough food: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21636723. This isn’t a matter of some middle class people wanting to earn a double income, this is a matter of people simply not having enough to eat. Twelve million houses are headed by single parents in the US. We shouldn’t be trying to help them afford food for their children by increasing access to preschools so that they can work? Should we just stand there thumbing our noses at them and saying, “oh, you should have known about opportunity cost” and “how dare you try to work and raise children.”

  30. People are crying “out of context” like there’s no tomorrow, but it’s not so simple.

    In short, I think it’s completely unfair for Matt Clark to say that Joyce is “blowing Obama’s comment way out of proportion,” though it’s understandable that someone might think that if all they’ve read is the Snopes entry on Obama Mama Drama.

    Matt, you don’t really point out anything specific Joyce misses the boat on (I, for one, think she nails it pretty good). Rather, you soften the wording of the Snopes conclusion and apply to a complex social problem. In doing so, you raise questions for which there are no easy answers, forgetting that these aren’t questions that Obama was attempting to answer.

    Inexpensive daycare allows parents, especially mothers, who want to work do so without suffering the negative consequences of removing themselves from the workforce for extended period of time. We don’t want Americans, according to Obama, to have to make that choice. That’s a question of opportunity cost, and that’s precisely the question Joyce addresses.

  31. Sorry Matt, I’m still not convinced by your arguments — because this is not a post about preschool, it is about opportunity cost and the choices we make as women to stay home or go to work.

    I will say this again, it is not the job of the Federal Government to provide preschool, or education, or food to anyone. If local communities, churches, or even families want to do that, they should. And as Latter-day Saints we are commanded to pay fast offerings (which I do) and to give service in our communities (which I also do). And again, I am not addressing the whole “preschool issue” that you seem to be fixated on. Again, I will go back to opportunity cost and the price of our decisions. I also direct you back to my post, this is an OPINON piece, this is MY OPINON…guess what, you are not going to change my mind.

    If you look back thru the 6 years of Obama’s presidency, he does jab at those who hold traditional values, like women who want to stay home. And yes, I do believe that he and his people want to get kids away from their parents, which is its own post. So, I will say it again, I felt and believe this was a slam on SAHMs. If you don’t think so, great. I also do not believe I’ve been intellectually dishonest in anyway. But I think I am done discussing it with you Matt Clark. I encourage others to ignore Matt as well.

  32. I dunno, the comments seemed consistent with a General Conference talk by one of our own leaders: “I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.” That was Elder Cook from April 2011.

    The thing about many of these “opportunity cost” arguments is that they accept a male-normative view that a workweek SHOULD be 40 hours and you can’t take your children with you. I don’t agree. I think we should destroy that old system and come up with a better way to live. I have built a solid professional career being employed part-time, and have been able to hire about a dozen other women, many of whom did their work with children underfoot or in tow, the way farm women have always done work with their kids at their side.

    Of course there are some jobs where that wouldn’t work. A heart surgeon can’t bring their child into the operating room. But many jobs can be done on a less-than-40-hours basis, and studies show that part-timers are more productive. It is a win for their families and their employers.

    The great thing about the ACA/Obamacare is that it is de-linking health insurance from employment as has been the USAmerican tradition. This will be a great thing for entrepreneurs who previously couldn’t leave their corporate job if they had a family member with a chronic disease or pre-existing condition. And for employees who don’t want to spend night and day at their office.

    Also, I learned a lot of marketable skills as a mother at home fulltime, especially time management and triage. This translated directly into my work as a project coordinator. Please do not tell me that I was not working and thus deserve less pay. I should be treated as someone who was working in another field, which happens a lot in this economy as people shift careers. And I was.

    The problem I see with institutional daycare is that if every child was in formal care, where would the teachers come from? If there are only as many people who feel called to work in early childhood education as there are in engineering or any other profession, then how could we find enough wonderful educators to staff the centers for EVERYONE?

  33. Wise words, Naismith. You make an excellent point about breaking free from our old framework. I imagine Zion to be closer to what you described than our current strict separation of families during the workday.

  34. Joyce, you seem to have an unnecessarily narrow view of the Proclamation on the Family. Each of us have to figure out the best arrangement for our own families with the Lord’s guidance. There are innumerable factors to be considered, and we need the flexibility to adapt as circumstances change. The best thing we can do for our sisters is to withhold judgement and just offer support and encouragement regardless of their circumstances and choices.

  35. If we follow nature, the successful raising and training of the next generation is a primary concern to which all other activities are at best secondary. Human progeny generally do best in the care of a parent, however this is arranged. The model of a farm family where enterprise and childrearing go hand in hand has almost been obliterated by the factory model where most adults work in an environment antithetical to children while a few are consigned, usually by lack of more valuable skills, to care for the next veneration. In England Progressives designed the policies that mandated the destruction of a way of life where families lived above stores or small workshops and parents were only a few steps away from home. The bent model of the upper class where servants provided child care, ‘liberating’ parents to carry on their duties and pleasures unencumbered became the ideal. It is sadly common for people to ‘ape their betters’ and engage in behavior that is at best odd, at worst destructive because it is modeled by those considered elite. Thus middle class Egyptians began to marry siblings because the pharoahs did so, women began to bear children in a prone position because a French king wanted to witness the birth of his child by a favored mistress, and middleaged people get tattoos and belly rings just like a rock star.
    Fortunately most of us on this forum honor a group of elites who are worthy of imitation. There are many ways to achieve what I consider the ideal of having parents primarily responsible for rearing their own children, but providing more daycare where the parent rarely sees their child during waking hours seems counter to what nature mandates.

  36. The video clip includes an important additional sentence not quoted in the text. He stated a goal of enrolling 6 million more children in preschool. So it was not just about avoiding the supposed mommy-penalty of lower wages. The goal is to make sure as few women as possible are SAHMs.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-moms-who-stay-home-raise-kids-thats-not-choice-we-want-americans-make_817807.html

    The “economic fairness” angle is mere window dressing for the social engineering of further weakening as many families as possible.

  37. I think Joyce got it right. The government tries to save us from the “cost” of our choices, and by doing so, makes us indebted to it. But, on the other hand, the government is such a big, faceless, endless entity, that it is easy for many of us to feel like getting help or benefits is something we deserve. The government seems to have plenty of resources and I don’t have all that I need or want, so why not? The receivers don’t see the sacrifice of those who have given. This is why I like the idea of “saving us from the cost of our choices” to come from a more local source. For many, it may take on a different perspective to see a parent or friend giving someone money for rent, help with education, etc, and then seeing how the loved one is sacrificing to help provide this. This is why I like the way the church does welfare. It is on an individual basis, it involves family first, and it involves helping people spiritually and emotionally as well.
    I don’t think everyone should face the justice of every bad choice. That is not Christ’s way, but it is also not Christ’s way to take away all of the consequences to our choices. I felt that Joyce was saying there are sacrifices for the choice to be out of the workforce, and that is a sacrifice many of us willingly chose. And perhaps by taking away some of the sacrifice, we are unduly influencing or perhaps devaluing that choice.

  38. There are about 20 million children aged 0-4 in the US. I don’t know how many of them are enrolled in daycare/preschool, but I’m sure it’s a significant percentage. And the President proposes to put an additional 6 million in preschool? That’s nearly a third of all pre-kindergarten age children in the country. I’ve gone back and forth on the meaning of Obama’s statements, but the math seems to suggest that his statement “[t]hat’s not a choice we want Americans to make” should be taken at face value. What he’s proposing is a government engineered sea change in American childrearing.

  39. Ruth, you said, “Joyce, you seem to have an unnecessarily narrow view of the Proclamation on the Family”

    Wow, thank you so much for putting me in my place! I am judgmental and narrow minded, but you’ve saved me from that!

    Last time I checked, I was not judging anyone in this post, nor did say people should fit their family situation into some sort of narrowly defined mold. My point is that the government should not make up for your missed opportunity costs. That’s all.

    The Family Proclamation teaches that women should be the primary nurturers and caregivers to their families. I agree with that. Please tell me how that is narrow? If you also notice, I said I do not judge people for whatever their situation is — because believe it or not, I have many friends and family who work outside of their home, and I shared that in my own family my mom and grandmother worked outside of the home to support the family. Again, I redirect you to the fact that this was about the cost of our choices. I never said “Don’t make choice A or B”. Nor did I disparage women that work outside of their home. I fully realize we do not live in a perfect world, and that because of that women have to work. I suspect, you also do not like what I had to say in this post, because I disagree with the media spin and the President.

  40. Here is some pithy analysis of motherhood and politics by John C. Wright. I think it _perfectly_ describes the attitude Obama exhibited. (Emphasis mine.)

    “The Progressives in their smirking self-righteous piety and grotesque self-imposed ignorance are henchmen of the devil. Some know it, most do not. They stand between a woman and her human nature, her happiness, her children, and they speak the selfsame lie. The source of your happiness is the barrier to happiness. Destroy the source of your happiness, toss happiness aside, and you will be happy.”
    Mr Wright was agreeing with David Warren.

    I recommend reading both Wright’s and Warren’s linked articles to get the full picture.

  41. Couple of observations, from both sides.

    Before I married, I worked as a nanny-type babysitter for two families. Both times, I lost my job because the mom decided to stay home and raise her children herself. For the first one, it hit home with her when her baby started walking while they were at work. For the second, she just didn’t think anyone could do it as well as she could, and I had no problem with that. She gave up a lucrative career as an interior designer.

    When I got married, and immediately started having children, we decided I would stay home with them. At one point, however, I did go out and get a job. But, the costs of the job itself (babysitter for the kids, even for just a couple of hours, and the gas to get back and forth to work) made my job cost more than it was worth.

    Plus, I think my kids turned out pretty darn good!

  42. “The Family Proclamation teaches that women should be the primary nurturers and caregivers to their families.”

    Um, no it doesn’t. What it actually says is, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” This means that mom will have to answer for how the children are nurtured. It also means that she has the “final say,” if one is needed, when it comes to issues of child care.

    I was baptized in Europe, have lived in South America, and spend time in Southeast Asia. There are lots of ways to raise great kids, and I find it instructive that our church leaders do not try to inflict a USAmerican model on the worldwide church.

    In the part of Brasil where we lived, it was typical for kids to start formal school at age 3. People in our ward were very leery about us not having the 4-year-old in school yet. Also, because we lived in a small city, much of our shopping was done in small businesses, which invariably had a playpen behind the counter. Mothers took their babies to work with them. Employment did not necessarily mean daycare.

    In the US, some states have already instituted universal preschool, and it hasn’t resulted in massive negative changes. Indeed, there are documented benefits in low-income families. I personally would rather pay for preschool than prisons.

    Raising five children kind of spread-out in age, even being at home full-time I used childcare and had my youngest child in a co-op preschool. I would use childcare for the younger in order to attend an event or chaperone a field trip for the older ones. The preschool experience provided social interactions since our neighborhood did not have many children for easy playing opportunities.

    I guess I am not as negative about government as some. To me, it is joining together to wield purchasing power in order to buy in bulk, which is why it provides a cost savings. Looking back 100 years ago, many older people were in poverty in pain. Now thanks to social security and Medicare, the poverty rate and health status and dignity of seniors is much improved. I am happy to make those investments in the next generation as well.

    I love the Proclamation on the Family and the guidance it has given my life. I am glad for the years that I was at home with children. I would like to see every family have more choices, not fewer, in how they carry out this important work.

  43. Naismith, I feel like you are angry at me, because I have a different opinion. I’m not going to argue with you about how *I* understand the Family Proclamation.

    And again, you’ve gone off on preschool, which is not what this post was about … but whatever at this point.

  44. Just because I think there’s more to consider and we should focus on the positive work of lifting one another instead of tearing down those who disagree with us does not mean I favor Obama. Naismith laid out very well the unnecessarily narrow inferences of your interpretation of the proclamation (without any anger I could detect), so I won’t rehash them here.

  45. I’m sorry, but I did not tear anyone down with this post. Ruth, you and Naismith have totally missed my point. And, I feel that it’s pointless to try and get you to understand what I was trying to say. I don’t feel I have been narrow with my interpretations of anything here. Because, as I have said, this was a post about opportunity cost and our choices. That’s all.

  46. Going back to your original argument about opportunity cost:

    There is a large opportunity cost for society at large by not making concessions to mothers in the workplace and by allowing the market alone to dictate the value of working mothers as inferior to the value of working fathers. Yes, working mothers are less economically valuable to companies from a temporary capitalist perspective. But they are MORE valuable to society at large because they are making a huge sacrifice to have children who will grow into taxpaying citizens, paying into the system for decades to come. Children are economically worthless to their families, though emotionally priceless. But they are economically of great value to the state, if they are well brought up and well educated. It is in the best interest of the state to ensure that mothers are encouraged to make the sacrifices to have children.

    But today, birthrates are declining because the opportunity costs of motherhood are just too great for most women. Maybe not for LDS women like yourself, who value motherhood on an additional spiritual dimension, but for most normal, Gentile women, motherhood represents such an incredible opportunity cost, that they severely limit the number of children they have, or forgo them all together.

    So Obama is proposing that we do a few things to lower the opportunity cost. It won’t eliminate it altogether. It will always be a sacrifice to raise children. But we can help mothers by making the choice to become a mother not be mutually exclusive with work. We can make the workplace more family friendly and salaries less punitive. Obama’s policies are calculated to encourage Gentile women to have children, because women are choosing NOT to have them. We desperately need more taxpaying citizens in the upcoming generations. We are facing a huge crisis in this regard. Applying the LDS model to the Gentiles and pretending that this is all an attack on conservative mother’s personal choices to stay at home is misguided in my opinion.

    If you object to any government intervention because that is your libertarian philosophy, that is another argument. If that is your argument, you shouldn’t dilute it by saying this is a simple attack on SAHMs. Say what it is: “another socialist program which will hurt the economy.”

    If you object to Obama because you think that children should NOT be raised by working mothers, and you think Obama is encouraging this evil practice by enabling it, then you should come out and say it: “All moms should stay home and raise their kids and only work if outside the home if absolutely necessary.”

    But you are not making these two arguments. Instead, you are making a very tepid argument that Obama’s comments somehow a “jab” at the women who choose to be SAHMs, which I see no proof for. He wasn’t addressing women who CHOOSE to be SAHMS at all. He was another subset of women entirely: women who want to work and be mothers, which represents a huge portion of the American economy, and a huge portion of those raising the next generation.

  47. Interesting thread.

    In my observation, the media has become increasingly hostile to the idea of a woman making choices that protect her ability to care for her children. I am struck by the prevalence of women in gritty shows where bullets fly on a regular basis. There are also numerous interchanges on the few shows I do watch where women are unwilling to be married, or unwilling to compromise their own career goals in order to remain close to the significant other in their life (even when that significant other is their husband). The script I hear repeated time and again is a version of the man saying “Of course I wouldn’t think of asking you to stay here and forego such a great opportunity.”

    In other news, it was roughly twenty years ago when I asked my husband whether I should plan to ramp down my career to care for our children (I was pregnant with our first child at the time) or if I should continue to “go for it.” His response at the time was a request that we talk about it later. To me, that was a decision, and it resulted in me deciding that as the one with the health care, pension, and job stability, I would continue working and being aggressive in my career. The fact that I had a child from a previous marriage played into that decision, as I felt uncomfortable shifting the financial burden for that child’s care onto an individual who isn’t a biological parent. It wasn’t a discomfort I necessarily explicitly discussed with my second husband, though for all I know we did talk about it. We talk about a lot of things.

    When one of our children turned out to be autistic, we fumbled into deciding that my husband would become the stay-at-home spouse. I have seen peple claim that an autistic child costs $100,000 a year. But what they mean is that when you have an autistic child, you can’t have a two-income family. In some cases, having an autistic child can also compromise the wage-earning potential of the parent who is working.

    By deciding to have the father in our family be the stay at home parent, we have given up a variety of benefits. People simple aren’t as likely to arrange play dates for children when the other “involved” parent is of another gender, for example.

    Sound bites are the currency of modern politics. Whenever a politician finds themselves offending in a sound bite, it usually means they or their speech writer has a very different schema from the offended portion of their audience. And in the current land of tweets, blogs, and status updates, it’s possible to get buried under the derision of the vocally offended public much more quickly and extensively than was ever possible before.

  48. I hear mention of the attitude toward the stay at home parent. It is more than leftist, it’s a worldly attitude and also an attitude possessed by those who have a lot of money to spend.

    Daycare isn’t cheap. It averages one thousand dollars per month. For people like a lot of politicians who make millions a year, this is no big deal, so they act condescendingly to those who would have budget issues with this much being taken out of monthly earnings.
    It’s not just liberals who might say this, and while yes, I heavily disagree with liberal political ideas, let’s not get too stereotypical and blindsided in assuming where the worldly opposition comes from, there’s plenty of conservatives or religious individuals who ideologically oppose decent principles as well.

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