This will probably be the most political thing I’ve written on this blog. I’m not sure how I feel about that (I’m guessing it’ll be a one-off). Evidently I didn’t make enough people angry with my last post.
Either way, you’ve been warned.
Speech Anger and Speech Anger Anger
“Viral,” by definition, means that you’ve probably seen it, so I’m not going to recap it. Maybe you were even one of the people that got a little upset.
The Mormon Liberals decided that everyone who got upset was a dummy. We didn’t give Obama a fair shake.
(If only we would let him be clear!)
Perhaps they’re right. Let’s take a look at the speech and see what we come up with. I’m going to try and give you better context than they did. Because I love you.
(Ironically, the title of the Mormon Liberals post was “President Obama’s Attack on Stay-at-Home Moms: Now with 100% More Context,” hence the title of this post. They come to a different conclusion than I do, though not in the way you might expect)
Women and the Economy Speech Outline
- Ice breaking comments about family, trick or treating, unlimited White House M&Ms, and scary looking staff (hahahahahaha)
- We’ve made good economic progress
- More jobs!
- Low unemployment!
- Fast growing economy!
- Great education!
- Energy independence!
- Lower deficits, cheaper healthcare, yay!
- Yet, life is hard for the little guy
- Working while going to school
- Supporting parents
- Other stuff
- But I’m working it!
- “Harnessing momentum” (thank goodness he’s harnessing momentum!)
- Helping all the women
- Let me share some anecdotes about the women in my life
- It was hard for my mom
- It was hard for my grandmother
- It’s hard for the women I’ve met with today
- It was hard for my wife
- It’ll be hard for my daughters
- But we are having successes with women!
- They make up half the work force
- Recently, they’ve earned over half the higher education degrees
- There are more women graduating than men
(Now, here comes the important part. I’ll be slowing things down a tad.)
- But there are challenges!
“The challenge is, our economy and some of the laws and rules governing our workplaces haven’t caught up with that reality [of women being such a big part of the workforce]…. While many women are working hard to support themselves and their families, they’re still facing unfair choices, outdated workplace policies.”
- So here’s what we’ve gotta do
- Paid time away from work to care for families
- (Paid) maternity leave
- Inexpensive daycare
(The “inexpensive daycare part is where we’ll be spending our time, but first, back to the outline to finish out the speech.)
- So let’s get government sponsored daycare!
- Also, let’s raise the minimum wage!
- And let’s fix the wage gap!
(…because “hey guys there’s a war on women don’t you remember so vote democrat please thank you mmmkay.”)
- And we’re keeping Obamacare!
- Let’s do this! Obama on “three”! One, two, three, Obama!
(All in all, the whole thing is just a big Democratic policy love-fest.)
War Declared on Stay-at-Home Moms!
Now that we have the context, what of this war Obama supposedly declared on stay-at-home moms?
Remember, our economy and workplace policies are archaic. They haven’t caught up with the times. One of the changes we need to make to overcome these challenges is to support state-sponsored, inexpensive childcare.
“But why do we need inexpensive daycare, President Obama? How does that help?”
- Daycare is expensive, and so working parents are forced to use sub-par daycare (sub-par because it doesn’t provide the things that a stay-at-home parent, coincidentally, would provide…)
- Daycare is full, or too far away, and so somebody’s got to stay with the kids, and that’s usually mom. She suffers as a result, earning a lower wage the rest of her life, and that’s not a choice we want American’s to make.
Let you accuse me of cherry-picking in one form or another, here’s what he said without my paraphrasing:
“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. In many states, sending your child to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university. 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.”
A Subtle Cultural Shift
Mormon Liberals spins that “what our President is saying is that he does not want American families to be forced to choose to have a stay-at-home parent because they have no other options.”
At first I thought, “Huh? What does that even mean? What options?”
Seriously, I was totally confused.
After some noodling, here’s where my brain went:
- “Uh, when did the narrative change from ‘being forced to choose to work outside the home because they have no other [financial] options’ to ‘being forced to choose to stay at home because they have no other [child care] options’?
And all of the sudden, it hit me. I’d missed something. I was reasoning from an entirely different mind-set.
We’re not talking about people who want to be home. We never have been. We’re talking about people who don’t want to be home, and that changes everything.
Think again about that sentence that got folks’ blood boiling. What is this “choice” that Obama decries?
First off, the word “choice” is misleading. Obama frames circumstances, in both cases, as working parents being forced into something –
- Daycare is expensive, so working parents are forced to “choose” sub-par daycare
- Daycare is far away or full, so working parents (usually mothers) are forced to “choose” to say home.
They’re forced to make these choices because they don’t want to be at home. They want to be at work. Because of this, Obama tells us that the latter “choice” is not a choice we want Americans to make, partly because it leaves mom who want careers earning a lower wage over their lifetimes. We’re not talking about those who enter the workforce to help make ends meet.
And this ends up being, in my view, totally worse. It’s not one politician decrying the traditional family. It’s a politician acting on a subtle cultural shift that’s already taken place. Staying home is no longer the ideal which we sometimes abandon because of difficult personal circumstances. It’s an archaic lifestyle choice that people no longer want to make.
Given my expanded (yet perhaps still imperfect) understanding, here are some thoughts that I have.
First – I’m Still Disappointed
Even if Obama’s comment is in line with shifting cultural trends, it’s still a dig at prioritizing traditional motherhood. “The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes,” Mormon Liberals quote Harold B. Lee saying… unless of course it contributes to “motherhood penalty” for those who really want careers, in which case let’s get some socialized childcare going so you can get right back to work! And you should all want careers! Reality is changing, after all.
People have every right to be disappointed in what he’s saying. Sorry, Mormon Liberals.
(Also… as long as we’re fixing wage gaps created by “motherhood penalty,” can we fix wage gaps created by “LDS mission penalty”?)
Second – The Church Isn’t Shifting
The Church continues to push back against shifts away from the traditional family. The Family: A Proclamation to the World is almost 20 years old now, but is referenced as often as ever. A new mandatory CES course called The Eternal Family is in the works for Church universities and Institute programs. Elder Eying is going to Vatican City to speak at a marriage conference.
This is a complex issue, and I’m not really digging into it all that deeply, but the Church is not really shifting.
Third – Don’t Make Your Exception My Rule
The Family and the comments of Church leaders leave it open for people to make their own choices, and some people are choosing, for one reason or another, not to take the traditional route advocated for in Church doctrine. That’s fine! Some people can’t even afford the luxury of having a mother in the home.
Still, the emphasis the Church places on the traditional family can make these individuals feel uncomfortable and persecuted (I discuss persecution complexes in an end note below). They naturally fight back, seeking validation for their choices (I discuss one such example I lived through here).
No one is arguing that increased workplace benefits making motherhood easier are a bad thing. Of course that’s a good thing. Most of the things that Democrats want are, in fact, good things.
No one is arguing that people can’t make choices that fit their circumstances, nor that the Church hasn’t taught that stance repeatedly in the last 20 years.
But none of this changes the fundamental position taught in the gospel. It’s not your job to seek validation for your exceptions every time someone advocates for traditional family structure.
Fourth – Sometimes We Do Things We Don’t “Want”
Frankly, “wants,” on their own, are a terrible reason to do or not do anything. Isn’t it better to instead ask what the right thing is?
When I get home from work, I sometimes want to kick back and relax, play some video games, and maybe eat some Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos (dang, those things are amazing).
Except, I have three kids and a lovely wife. I should spend time with them. That’s the right thing to do.
(Heck, my wife just had twins three weeks ago. I can’t feed them, but I can massage her feet!)
I really want an Xbox One so that I can play the Master Chief Collection, not to mention some of the other great third-party games you can’t get on the Wii U.
Except, we’re moving into an unfurnished home, and we’ll need a washer. And dryer. And refrigerator. And I need to pay tithing. I should pay for those things instead. That’s the right thing to do.
Now, I can appreciate that these are some pretty basic (hopefully not flippant) examples. My point, which hopefully you can see, is that doing what we want and doing what is right are not always the same things.
So, some women want careers outside the home. Okay? How can we ensure we do the right thing, knowing that the traditional family is the ideal?
Fifth – I’ve Been Richly Blessed
My mom was a stay-at- home mom, and I don’t think it’s possible for me to overstate the wonderful influence that has had on me. My wife is currently a stay-at-home mom, and so I’ve seen firsthand the incredible blessings that come from making that difficult choice.
It’s not a choice that everyone makes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you how richly stay-at-home mom’s have blessed me.
And that’s why Obama’s comments make me sad.
A Sub-Mormon Persecution Complex
Mormons are accused sometimes of having a persecution complex. We, it’s suggested, are especially sensitive to the way we’ve been marginalized by society, which in turn biases us to more readily see contemporary persecution.
Focusing less on the legitimacy of such feelings and more on the consequences of those feelings, one blogger writes this:
“The extent to which Mormons still entertain a “persecution complex” is important, not only because it informs the way that Mormons understand themselves, but also because it also determines the way that Mormons relate to others. Some Mormons are concerned that relishing or perpetuating a legacy of persecution leads Mormons to isolate themselves from others, and to reinforce an “us vs. them” mentality that can be divisive and alienate Mormons from those outside the Church. To some, it also belies an insecure sense of self and an unhealthy reliance on “otherness” and opposition to others to help form one’s identity. These are legitimate concerns.”
I bring this up, not because I’m interested in a Mormon persecution complex, but because I’m interested in a liberal Mormon persecution complex.
(By the way, how awesome was last night?! Right now it’s, what, 8 senate seats with a possibility for a one or two more? Woo-hoo!)
Anecdotally, the liberal Mormons I’ve interacted with relate to me and the rest of the Church much like the blogger suggests that persecuted Mormons relate to society. Look, for example at the homepage of mormonliberals.org, where they preemptively declare, “WE’RE LIBERAL BECAUSE WE’RE MORMONS [so there!]” (emphasis and parentheticals added).
Now, is there really a persecution complex among liberal Mormons? Eh, I have no idea outside of my own experience. Anyway, it’s irrelevant for the purposes of this post, except that it’s one possible explanation for some of the “relating” I’ve seen since Obama’s speech.
I feel the need to make two caveats, because that’s the world we live in.
- You’ll notice I’m not making any value statements about being both Mormon and Democrat. I’m conservative – that’s not hard to deduce – but I support the Church’s statements about political neutrality and participation.
- Interestingly, the majority of Latter-day Saints aren’t Republican. Maybe the majority of American Latter-day Saints tend conservative, but we’re a worldwide church! The majority of Latter-day Saints are probably whatever poor people in South America are – I don’t follow international politics, like, at all, but I’m fairly sure that whatever that is, it isn’t “Republican.”