Paul Greenberg is taking some time off. He wrote this column in February 1998.
Credit goes to Christopher Dodd, senator and Democratic apparatchik from Connecticut. He's come up with one of the most demeaning cracks in recent times about mothers who choose to stay home and raise their families rather than enter the workplace.
Moms who don't use day care, said the senator, are indulging in the "wonderful luxury" of staying home instead of having to enter the workplace. To hear the senator tell it, these women can say, "I would like to stay home, I have a spouse that is earning enough," and can choose "to play golf or go to the club and play cards ..."
Take that, home schoolers. Take that, moms who would rather raise their pre-schoolers themselves, even at a financial sacrifice, rather than drop them off on the way to work.
Take that, professional women who have had it with the rat race by the time the baby comes along, and who decide that there is nothing more important than shaping the formative years of their children. And who would rather not delegate that duty, chore and joy to strangers during working hours.
The choice these moms make is not for everybody, but it's right for them and their children. They shouldn't be shamed out of it by a heedless culture that looks down on full-time mothers, much the way advanced types in the 1930s looked askance at breast-feeding when bottled milk was so much more "scientific" and up-to-date.
So take that, wives and mothers who, as much as the family could use the extra income, stay home so they can--no, not play golf or cards--raise the kids. Do you think Christopher Dodd has any idea of how taxing raising an infant, then a toddler, then a young hellion can be?
Homemakers of America have been dissed enough by intellectual fashion without being treated to Chris Dodd's misconceptions about what they do all day. Here's hoping the senator hears from the mothers of Connecticut who are working at home--if they can spare the time and trouble to put him straight. It might not be worth the effort, for his remarks indicate an invincible ignorance about how the human family works and the importance of child care by those closest to the child.
Staying home with the children isn't for everybody. Poor moms or those just above the poverty line may not be able to afford it, which is why the federal government needs to do whatever it can to ease the unconscionable tax burden on working families. And if it can't do that, senators like Chris Dodd could at least refrain from insulting those mothers who work at home. They're shaping the world where and when they can be most influential. Martin Luther King used to say that you can't really teach anybody anything unless you love them, and these moms are doing both full time.
Increasingly, our sick culture has dismissed the importance of family and home in favor of a seductive upward mobility. Children are to be shunted aside in favor of success, and if you seek the results, just look around. Any parent who ever left a little one at day care for the first time and saw the look in the kid's eyes knows what we're talking about.
It is mindlessly assumed that no success in the home is worth losing out on the rewards offered by the glittering world outside, when in reality no success in business or politics or professional career can make up for failure in the home. Ask anybody who's had a child go astray, or lost children through divorce, or who can't find peace or time at home. No amount of fragile success can make up for such a loss. Or its repercussions in the next generation.
It's not just children who learn from parents, but parents from children. They renew us callow adults, keep wonder and curiosity alive, and remind us of what is truly important and what success really is. Raising a child, especially a teenager, may be the greatest education and test a human being can go through.
And yet most of us, when we hear stupidities addressed to women ("Do you work, or stay home?") may not protest, or even laugh at the comic assumption that somebody who's staying home with five kids hasn't made anything of herself.
There has never been a more effective, self-sacrificing department of health, education and welfare than the family. We will do things for our children that nobody could pay us to do for anybody else.
Nothing that power or fashion can inflict on a nation may prove irremedial if a new generation is raised with more attention, higher standards, and a fuller understanding of what duty commands, and what love and grace make natural. Maybe that's why the world begins anew with the birth of every child.
Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Editorial on 03/23/2018
Print Headline: Mothers' work