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Real Mothers Don't Need the Mommy State Real Mothers Don't Need the Mommy State by Sunni Maravillosa While traveling recently, I was in a location for an extended period of time that had very limited radio access. With Metallica at 7 a.m. being a little too much even for me to handle, I spent a lot of time listening to the state's Public Radio broadcasts. Aside from learning how to control my gag reflex better than ever, the time invested was actually very interesting-it provided a window into the issues today's "liberals" and progressives see as important, and the spin they place on other views. One of the more repulsive hours I fumed through was an interview with Ann Crittenden, a former journalist who chose to have a baby and stay home with the child. She's recently written a book entitled The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued. After cooling off days later, I concluded that Ms. Crittenden's views were probably not widely shared or held, and that she was receiving her allotted ten minutes of fame. Imagine my shock-and the levels my blood pressure reached-when I browsed (I know, I know-I got what I deserved) and found a Mother's Day interview with her.  [link to this interview below] Ms. Crittenden's thesis seems to be that because mothers in America are not paid for the time and labor they put into raising children (and the corollary housework that typically accompanies it), they aren't valued. Sure, moms get lots of attention-what she calls "lip service"-but when it comes to getting goodies from government, or "fair" wages from eeevil big business, they're shortchanged, in her view. Her contention is based on stories similar to hers: a corporate woman decides to have a family, either exits the workforce, returns part time, or returns in a different capacity than the one she formerly had, and takes a series of financial hits that are never made up. As Crittenden puts it, "[Mothers] can't take the jobs that offer promotion quite often. They can't take jobs that require a lot of overtime or jobs that require a lot of travel.... It's now been estimated that if you have one child and you're a college graduate, your lifetime earnings will be about a million dollars lower than a woman who does not have a child. That is what I call a 'mommy tax'." Here's her take on her own personal situation: "I got an estimate from the Social Security [sic] on what I could expect when I retire. And I looked at the statement and it's full of zeroes, and I thought what is this? Every zero represented a year I was working for the family instead of my own career. That's the value the government or the society puts on it." In the fine tradition of "it takes a village to raise a child", it now apparently takes a government to value a mother. Crittenden's solution to this horrible problem? Why, paying mothers, of course, like they do in European countries, with paid leave and cash subsidies. The justification for paying women to raise the children they bear is highly informative: mothers are productive individuals creating a "public good" by raising children to be law-abiding, Social-Security-paying citizens. Judging by the tone of the interview I heard with Crittenden, this argument is very persuasive to a segment of the US population. They were outraged that the United States lagged so far behind Europe and other countries in parental pay and other perks, and want legislation to correct this egregious situation. I can somewhat understand the allure of this Trojan horse, being a full-time mother myself. It's a demanding job with killer hours and practically no vacation time (even time away from the kids is often time spent thinking about how they're doing, evaluating one's parenting skills and decision-making, and generally trying to improve one's ability to handle the task). There are days when I feel like no one is properly valuing the effort that I'm investing into raising my two children, and three stepchildren. The thought of being paid for this work must be seductive to those who don't bot her to think about where their "pay" will come from, the costs that would accompany it, and the message it will send to a child who thinks about what such a system implies. Because women who take time out to be mothers generally earn less than those who don't, because many choose to work part-time instead of returning to a full-time position, and because in many professions the career track calls for choices that are difficult for a mother to make, it may appear that motherhood isn't valued. But that perspective suggests that the only valuation that matters is monetary-which appears to be Crittenden's position. This means of valuing motherhood is very shortsighted, and could, if unchecked, lead to a fundamental, dangerous change in mothering. Crittenden and her supporters are pushing for mothers to be paid for their work, as is done in some European countries. Generally it's the national government that doles out the pay. Leaving aside the obvious issues of who decides how much a mother gets paid and on what basis that's determined, giving the US government this kind of foothold into parenting is a very bad idea. What happens every time the government enters an area of employment? That's right-licensing, regulations, fees, and cumbersome bureaucracy, just for starters. Some legislators have already called for prospective parents to complete mandatory classes before being able to become parents, or for licensing (again, presumably with mandatory "education" a prerequisite to receiving the license), with tax incentives being the primary carrot to encourage participation. If the government is going to get into the business of paying parents, there's much more justification for it to take these-and possibly other, and worse-steps. Paying a woman to mother her children also jeopardizes many of the emotional bonds that currently tie mother to child, and which are vital to a child's healthy psychological, if not physical, development. It's bad enough now to hear people in divorce court wrangling over tax deductions, instead of who gets good night hugs. Muddling motivations for mothering-is it to get the money, or because of the value inherent in the children and love for them?-isn't going to improve things. Under such a system, a child may well grow up wondering if he was conceived in love and desire for him, or if he is a "cash cow" for his mother. Loosening the bond between mother and child will give the state a very powerful tool for indoctrinating American youth from birth on. Feminism Lied The simple truth that lies behind Crittenden's complaint is that feminism lied. You can't have it all. If a woman wants to pursue a demanding profession or career, then family life will necessarily get less time and energy; if she chooses motherhood, then many of the opportunities her profession may have offered will be closed to her, or she won't choose to pursue them because of the burdens doing so would place on her family. This isn't a "mommy tax", or disvaluing mothers, or any such thing. It's basic economics. Choices have corollary costs-"opportunity costs", they're called. If a person chooses one path, he or she will necessarily give up the opportunities presented exclusively on a different path. If men were to decide to take years off from their careers to be stay-at-home dads, it would have the same impact on their careers. It's interesting that Crittenden, an economics journalist, fails to see the relevance of the concept of opportunity cost. Would she complain if a person took five years off from building a law practice to sail the world, and never "caught up" with peers on the career ladder? Would it be disvaluing if an individual chose not to enter the work force for years after completing a course of study, and when he did, found that he was no longer qualified for the best jobs in that field? I suspect Crittenden would say that such individuals need to deal with the consequences of their choices. That's equally true of women who choose to become mothers. To cast this phenomenon in terms of not valuing mothers is to totally misconstrue the situation. Apparently Crittenden and many others expected men to take up more of the burden of parenting after the original feminist movement enlightened them. On this subject, she says, "Often the feminist strategy when it comes to raising children has been, get the men to do it. Let's bring the men in and have equal parenting. Well, for 30 years we've been saying that and for some reason the men are not equal parents." I know the reason, after fewer than 3 years of being a mother: young children want and need the specific things a mother can give them-something most feminists can't admit, because it goes against their dogma. That's not to say fathers can't be terrific parents. I am fortunate to have a partner who's a loving, wonderful father to all his children. However, even when we were both home being full-time parents to the younger two children, we both noticed that they often preferred to have me care for them, even for minor things like making a sandwich. Psychological research bears out our observation: during the first three years of life, children do best when they're in a loving environment that has a consistent mother figure to focus a large amount of time and energy on the child's needs. Like it or not, there are differences between the sexes other than anatomical ones, and these manifest themselves in many areas, including child care. Speaking generally, females-usually the biological mother-fill the child's needs better than males. Men aren't equal parents-if such a thing can even be meaningfully measured-because children dictate otherwise, where that's possible. Marching in the streets burning bras isn't enough to counter millions of years of evolution. Crittenden's thesis that mothers aren't valued is simply wrong. When a mother-or any individual-chooses to drop out of making money, the person will make less money (duh). Social Security is rigged-er, structured in proportion to earnings, so if a person earns less, he or she gets less Social Security (duh again). Views like Crittenden's are a sick doublethink, a way a mother can choose to blame other people for her choices. Valuing individuals doesn't even enter into it; it's an avoidance of the fact that the mother is trying to skirt the consequences of her own decision to not do what the market rewards with money and not do what the state rewards with retirement pork. A mother-or any parent-who looks to society or government for recognition or value is looking in the wrong place. Parenting is, and should remain, a personal preference and choice, rather than a subsidized "lifestyle". Choosing to create a child with a partner is an intimate decision, one that ought not be colored by a prospective government handout. Value comes from creating those lives, and helping and watching them grow and develop, to become rational, freethinking, responsible individuals. It originates in countless moments of shared pleasure, pain, triumph, and defeat, from feeling your child's chubby hand tightly grasping your finger as he eagerly leads you to see his latest creation, from a kiss spontaneously brushed against your cheek, from the flush of pride in mastering a new task, from the comfort given in a moment of pain or failure-from all that and much, much more. I see my children, almost 3 years old and nine months old, happy and confident in their world, growing, exploring, and wanting to share it all with me, and they provide the value I seek, in their smiles, their joy in life. No job-no government handout-could match that value, in any denomination. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sunni is co-editor of Doing Freedom! 'zine [], an online journal devoted to helping people create more freedom in their lives. from The Laissez Faire City Times, Vol 5, No 23, June 4, 2001 LFC Times Home:


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