Don’t ALL Moms Work?

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen put her foot in her mouth last week when she suggested Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life” because she chose to be a stay-at-home mom to her five sons.

I watched a video clip of the exchange she has now apologized for after receiving considerable backlash, and to be fair, she clearly only meant that Ann Romney had never worked for pay in her life, suggesting that her financial ability to stay at home disqualifies her from commenting on the issues that are important to women in the workforce. It was more of a stab at the Romneys’ wealth than it was at Ann’s ability to work hard as a stay-at-home mother.

Unfortunately, her comment rekindled the age-old war of Stay-at-Home Moms vs. Working Moms. The last thing we need right now is another war on that battlefield.

I believe part of the offense comes in the assumption that mothers who choose to stay home do it either for financial reasons (because their spouse makes enough money to allow them to stay home and read home decorating magazines all day) or educational reasons (as in, they are too uneducated to get a decent job.) Certainly there are those who fit into both of these categories. In fact, I can think of some in my own circle of association.

While living in the Los Angeles area, it was not uncommon for women I knew to have full-time nannies who did everything from cooking and cleaning to driving kids to and from their classes and activities. My sister-in-law nannied for a woman who spent a considerable amount of time shopping and party planning while my sister-in-law did most of the childcare.

I also know a mother who spent the vast majority of her children’s life as a stay-at-home mom while living on welfare because she didn’t have a spouse or a high school diploma. She couldn’t get a job that would pay her enough to get out of the welfare program. Every time she would get a job, the rent payment for her government housing would go up so disproportionately that she was practically forced to quit. She felt the welfare program made it financially impossible for her to work even if she wanted to, not to mention her education level didn’t allow her to get a job that would cover the associated costs of childcare, gas, etc. This mom would have actually chosen to be a stay-at-home mom, but under better circumstances. She felt she was forced to stay home.

But there are still other possible scenarios, like the highly educated woman with good earning potential who chooses to stay home even though her standard of living could be higher if she were in the workforce with her spouse. Yes, there are women who deliberately forgo personally satisfying, high paying careers simply because they feel it is the best thing for them and their children.

Take one of my closest friends for example. She is a stay-at-home mom with a PhD and has been all but ridiculed by her other highly educated friends for making this choice. They feel she is throwing away her talent and education, and doing a disservice to her community by not using her skills in the paid workforce. This woman is raising three of the most remarkable young people I know and spends her discretionary time volunteering in the classroom and heading up school science fairs among other things. If that isn’t contributing to society, I don’t know what is!

I also know several highly educated moms who choose to stay home even though their spouse doesn’t have a very large income. In our current economic climate, people often suggest that both spouses have to work for financial reasons, but there are many women who–with full support of their husbands–choose to stay at home and raise their children even if it means money will be very, very tight. As in, not enough for a second car, cell phone, or cable TV tight. Money isn’t necessarily the deciding factor for these women.

It’s easy to point to Ann Romney and suggest that she was a stay-at-home mom simply because her husband made a lot of money. But is it possible with her degree from Harvard that she could have worked if she had wanted to, choosing instead to stay home because she felt it was important for her five boys? Of course! Is it also reasonable to suggest that raising those five boys who are now contributing to society in their own ways was indeed very hard work and also a valid way to contribute to society? Absolutely. And like many moms who choose to stay home when they could be working, Ann Romney has spent several decades volunteering in various charitable organizations–too many to list in this short post. That’s work too.

Of course, the variety of choices don’t just apply to stay-at-home moms. We could just as easily go through a series of scenarios for working moms. The mom who works full time because she really has no other financial alternative even though she would rather be at home.The mom who has a full blown career because she would go crazy if she had to stay home and change diapers all day. The mom who works part time just to have a little extra cash of her own and keep her brain fresh. The mom who doesn’t need to work for money, but feels it is her duty and responsibility to “give back” to society and use her education in the workforce. The mom who works while her husband stays home since she has a better earning potential. The mom who loves to work and feels it actually makes her a better mother and provides a strong example for her own daughters.

Basically, the diversity of scenarios and reasons why mothers choose the type of work they do are endless. From part-time work in the home with a paycheck to practically full time work outside the home in the community as a volunteer to very untraditional jobs with flexible hours both in and out of the home–the lines are getting blurrier by the year!

What we should all acknowledge is that the vast majority of mothers are most certainly working mothers, and they are most likely working very hard at the type of work they’ve chosen to do with whatever life situations and gifts they’ve been blessed with. Whether or not they get a paycheck for their work shouldn’t affect the value of their offering.

Our only job as fellow mothers should be to support each other and stop the judgement until we’ve walked in another mother’s shoes–be they pumps or house slippers. That is one of our main purposes at The Power of Moms, to be a support and “a gathering place for deliberate mothers.” That tagline is intended to include all mothers who take their mothering seriously – everywhere and in every circumstance.

In the end, it’s Barbara Bush’s concise assessment of the hullabaloo that gets my vote for putting an end to the mommy wars: “Forget it. Women who stay at home are wonderful. Women who go to work are wonderful. Whatever.”

Question: Do you think it’s time to put an end to the mommy wars? Do you agree that all mothers work hard in one way or another whether or not they receive a paycheck?

Challenge: Whatever your work situation as a mother, try throwing out your outdated baggage about the “other side” and reach out to all mothers with love and support.


  1. jen b says

    I’m tired of people not realizing that as a SAHM I never leave work. Ever. Who else lives at their job & has their ‘boss’ & coworkers there 24/7? It can be very mentally draining, never having that break at night or on the weekends. And, because I’ve made the choice not to work (despite the fact that I have an M.S), we can’t necessarily afford a sitter. So as a SAHM who works hard EVERY DAY, I think Hilary Rosen needs to have some of the experiences I have had–staying at home w/ 2 kids under 2 in a 1300 sq. ft., cockroach-infested military ‘house’–BEFORE she decides to shoot her mouth off again.

  2. Angela GP says

    Thank you for this article. Only two months into motherhood, I am already feeling the guilt placed on me by society as I prepare to return to full time work in one month, leaving my precious daughter at a (gasp!) daycare. I love my daughter more than anything. I also have a career that I feel very passionate about and know that I personally am a better person because of the work I do. This is a very personal decision and it is refreshing to have found this gathering place where our individual choices as mothers are respected and celebrated. As mothers we should lift each other up and benefit from the strength of motherhood as a community, not drag each other down in order to temporarily advance our own pride.
    Certainly, the media often takes things out of context and as such, it is only fair to comment on the complete intention of Ms. Rosen’s remarks. I appreciate that your article did just that and focused instead on the real issue; there need be no debate about whether or not being a mother is work, we all know it is the most difficult job. We need instead to support each others’ decisions as we all navigate through this joyful and strenuous journey of motherhood.

  3. ajorjco says

    Thank you Allyson~I think you summed up what the REAL issue is:judgement and comparison will only continue to divide us as mothers! Anytime we bring that in, of course there will be defensiveness and divisiveness. I appreciate your take on the Rosen/Romney issue~we could debate all day about who was right/wrong or we could give everyone the benefit of the doubt and believe they are simply talking from their own experience, which has a valid place in the picture as a whole.

    “What we should all acknowledge is that the vast majority of mothers are most certainly working mothers, and they are most likely working very hard at the type of work they’ve chosen to do with whatever life situations and gifts they’ve been blessed with. Whether or not they get a paycheck for their work shouldn’t affect the value of their offering.” WOW imagine if we actually did that worldwide! How much more energy we could redirect to the well being of families! That’s MY vote!!!

  4. michelle says

    lovely article. i am a SAHM to 3.5 kids. Hard work? yes. Although two are now in school, I have a toddler full time and will have another baby in a few months. SAHM is hard work, it can be mundane some days, you have financial strain that doesn’t allow you to go out and buy clothes because you can, there is no clocking off or screening my calls. But I take my hat off to working mothers. I don’t know how they do it. Working all day, then coming home and still being responsible for the same stuff we’re all responsible for in our home and with our kids. All kids are different, all adults are different, all parents are different. We have to know what works for us and go for it, at the end of the day we are doing what is right for our home, our children and our family.

  5. Meg Wall says

    What about the bigger issue of choice here? You write of those mothers who CHOOSE to stay at home, or of the welfare mom who was “forced’ to stay at home. I lament the hours I don’t have working in the home, most significantly, the time lost with my son. Rosen’s argument resonated for me – that there are very limited circumstances in which a woman has the “choice” to be at home AND to remain financially secure. I work all day, come home and work all night for my family, spend 30% of my wages on childcare, and respect that every mother has her unique burden to bear. I am way over the fact that life isn’t fair, and I am simply acting responsibly, as an adult, to provide for my son and my family on a very fundamental level. The greatest sacrifice in being a mother for me right now is that I MUST work outside the home. I’m missing out on a lot and I know it and it makes me sad. In an ideal world, each mother has a choice to be the kind of mother she wants to be. It is not an ideal world, so I try to cut each mother some slack, whether or not she is a SAHM or a WM. Whatever – she’s a mother, doing the best she can. I won’t judge you if you won’t judge me, and I won’t pretend that I understand the CHOICES you have had (or not had) in being a mother. Love each other. Period.

  6. Jeslyn says

    Great post. The most disturbing thing to me about most of these debates, whether political, socio-economic, or otherwise, is that the common denominator always seems to be Money. I’m tempted toward depression when I think that more and more individuals in this country and the world are viewing themselves and those around them through the lens of money. Mothers who work for pay contribute more than just a paycheck to their family, as well as mothers who don’t receive pay. All of the scenarios mentioned come with their own costs and compensation, neither of which are exclusively financial. To me, it’s a private and deeply personal decision that a person should be allowed to make without the stinging criticism of outsiders. And if we aren’t living that mother’s life, we are indeed outsiders, however much our life might resemble hers.

    Rewriting P. D. Eastman – Go Moms. Go!

  7. alexistanner says

    When I chose to be a stay at home mom, I felt like I had to come up with an excuse for why I wasn’t working when people would ask what I do. But my husband and I have decided that me being home is the best decision for our family. Even though he is still in school and our budget is tight. But I also respect moms who work because I think it must be so hard to be away from your kids and many moms that I know who do work want to stay home, but can’t for whatever reasons. I’m just grateful that I’m able to stay home and I hope working women and stay at home moms learn to respect one another and know that both are very hard work.

  8. says

    i just read a fascinating article on and thought of this article. It that reported attempted to place a monetary value on the work moms do at home. For stay-at-home moms, the site averaged that each woman handles an almost 95 hour work week worth nearly $113,000 per year. A working mom should add about $67,000 to her current salary for the nearly 58 hours she puts in at home. Work at home moms and fathers were not included in the report.
    The Full report is here:

  9. Darcie says

    Perhaps my favorite of your articles. I’m a mom of three (all under five!) and I work 2-3 days a week outside the home. I’m lucky to have never felt any judgement for my choice, I’m sorry others have. Moms all around are amazing, and if there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we love our children immensely!

  10. says

    Great article,

    This issue is near and dear to my heart. I would give up much of already modest lifestyle to stay at home with my son and possible future children. Under the guidance of my husband and due to unwise financial management early on in our marriage I need to work right now.
    Our goal is for me to stay home but right now it is not possible unless we want to sell our home, something we are both not willing to do.

    There is a terrible stereotype on both sides of this mamma fence that needs to stop. Not all working moms care more about their careers then their families and not all SAHM’s are playing Peggy Bundy.


  11. Marinda Bush says

    Totally agree. Well said. We all work, if we’re doing our best that is what matters. I appreciated that you defended all sides to this issue.

  12. crazymommyof5 says

    I did the single mom working 7 days a week thing.. now im a SAHM of 5. There is no happy medium… instead of judging each other we should be supportive of each other… women are under enough pressure to be “perfect” and “have it all”. We need to stop tearing each other down,and work on building each other up. Whether youre a Working or SAHM when do any of us REALLY ever have a day off… its a 24/7 job (unless you have a nanny).

  13. says

    I so, so appreciate your honest and balanced conversation on the topic. It is so “hot” and everyone (including me) is so passionate about it. I got burned earlier this week for sharing my thoughts, so I’m smarting a little still ;), but just to say that I appreciate you laying it all out there and giving people a healthy forum to discuss. Thanks!

  14. jensenshelly says

    I am a SAHM with a 10-month-old. I had a very nice career going for me and was using my masters degree doing what I was passionate about. However, my husband and I agreed that raising our son and future children by staying at home would be priceless investment. I made 60% of the income too, so we have had to be very careful to make this work. I have thought about returning to work,especially when offered a job by my former employer, but still I felt the call to stay at home and since we were making it financially I didn’t see a good enough reason to go back. I understand that some mothers can’t STAH and have to work. I feel for them because I can only imagine how hard that would be. That person has to work, plus do house hold chores, make dinner or else eat fast food, and the list goes on. The heartbreaking thing for them is that the babysitter tells them what new thing their child has done that day. Oh how difficult that must be for them. We all as mother’s have our own issues; working or STAH. We definitely need to support each other in this very challenging and important job of motherhood no matter how we do it.

  15. kushla says

    Hi Allyson, What a great article … there is still a need for women to show greater compassion to one another and I love the little quote you ended with at the end “Forget it. Women who stay at home are wonderful. Women who go to work are wonderful. Whatever.”

    I myself am a mother of 3 wonderful daughters and have found myself to be s SAHM and a working mother, since I run my own business online. I do the housework, take care of myself (read this as get an occassional massage, lol and meditate) and run my business while my children are at school. Once the children finish school … they have me (to share with their Dad, lol)

    I do think it is time to put an end to this war. I’m sure that we are all doing the best we know how each day.

    Love Kush.

  16. says

    My favorite article about mommy wars is this one:

    You’ve probably already seen it, but it is totally worth a read if you haven’t. Favorite quote:

    “I don’t much care if you breastfed your kid until they started kindergarten, or if you fed them formula from day one. I don’t really care if you turned your infant car-seat forward-facing prior to age 2, or if you homeschool, or if you send your kids to daycare while you go to work. Do you cosleep? Did you circumcise your son? I DON’T CARE. Do you babywear? Push your kid around in a stroller? Use a leash for your kid at Disneyland? Whatever. Good for you.

    When it comes to issues of motherhood, there is one issue I care about: some kids don’t have one. All of these petty wars about the choices of capable, loving mothers is just a lot of white noise to me. Quite honestly, I’m often astonished at the non-essential parenting issues I see moms getting their panties in a wad about. Particularly when there are so many kids in this world not being parented at all.

    I’m confident that most mothers are doing the best that they can for their kids, even if their choices are different than mine. I think it’s ridiculous that so much energy is spent on debating largely inconsequential parenting decisions when so very little attention is given to the children who DON’T HAVE PARENTS. Why isn’t this causing outrage? Making magazine covers? Inciting ranty twitter posts?

    This is the war I’ll be involved in: We, as a society, are not doing enough to protect at-risk and motherless children, both in our country and globally. ”

    The whole article is worth reading!

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