Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comment that Ann Romney, the wife of presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, "never worked a day in her life" has turned into a discussion about women's choices, motherhood and the value of staying home to raise the kids.
"Stay-at-home mom" encompasses a lot of women. The U.S. Census Bureau says there were 5 million moms staying home to raise children in 2010; 23 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15 had a stay-at-home mother, up from 21 percent in 2000. In 2007, before the recession, stay-at-home mothers were found in 24 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15.
CBS' "60 Minutes" noted in 2009 that women of real power are at the helm of government and business enterprises. "But look for the women of the next generation — the ones everyone assumed would follow in droves behind them, and you're likely to find many of them walking right back out and staying at home."
Being a stay-at-home mom is a choice that includes women who've never sought outside employment and those who have left high-powered careers to raise children, experts say.
When ABC News asked women on the street what choices they'd made in terms of working and raising children, it found a variety — and pretty much universal agreement that families need to do what works for them and it may vary with circumstance. "Let's give people the choice to be able to do that," said one mom.
The data don't support the impression that staying at home is just for those who can afford the luxury, says Buzzfeed.com. It crosses economic categories and "increasingly" includes lower-income families, including those with less educational attainment who won't get high-paying jobs to counter the costs of working, such as child care.
The decision to stay home or work outside is not casual, notes Quad City Moms Blog's Erin Haluska. She has opted to stay home with her children. "Both decisions are very, very hard." It's also hard work, she said.
The Chicago Sun-Times quoted First Lady Michelle Obama on the topic. “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected,” she said.
In an opinion piece on CNN titled "Why the left fears Ann Romney," Teri Christoph and Suzanne Haik Terrell, co-chairs of ShePAC, dismissed Rosen's initial comment that Ann Romney "never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in the country are facing."
ShePAC is a group dedicated to support and elect conservative women.
"Moms all across the country look to the unemployment numbers, which have disproportionately affected women, and worry about their families' immediate future and security," they wrote.
Moms track gas prices, make healthcare decisions, maintain budgets, deal with debt and more, they said. And they warned that women aren't victims waiting for Washington to rescue them, but "they are fierce warriors who fight for their principles."
The president himself was pulled into the hubbub, according to the Wall Street Journal. In response to a question by a TV reporter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Thursday, Barack Obama said there is "no tougher job than being a mom. Anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement."
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