All this talk about Ann Romney‘s privilege — and therefore ability — to choose stay-at-home motherhood for her five boys has the entire country revisiting the “work” that is motherhood. Regardless of whatever gaffe some CNN pundit makes, her comments about Ann Romney “never work[ing] a day in her life” have recharged a debate that mothers on all corners of the playground have been having for years — and not the SAHM vs. professional working mom one. Although Mitt Romney has since to square his wife’s stay-at-home work with the “dignity of work” for low-income women, a new piece of legislation may bring the two worlds together.
Huffington Post reports that The Women’s Option to Raise Kids (WORK) Act cuts a small piece of that SAHM privilege for women on welfare, allowing them a brief window where they don’t have to choose between their kids and dinner. HuffPo reports:
Under current law, raising children does not count toward the required “work activity” that must be performed by recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the federal program that emerged from the 1996 welfare reform. Some states make an exception for mothers with children less than a year old.
The Women’s Option to Raise Kids (WORK) Act, a copy of which was provided to HuffPost in advance of its introduction, would allow mothers with children ages 3 and under to stay at home with their children and continue receiving benefits.
Rep. Pete Stark, a Democrat from California, apparently was inspired to develop the bill in response to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere confirming that Ann Romney’s stay-at-home motherhood was indeed work. Yet, given the very limited resources that low-income women have at their disposal, this form of work or career is simply not available to them — despite the recently nationally affirmed sentiment that raising kids is a full-time job.
Stark recognized the opportunity and jumped on it with some important federal changes for many, many mothers:
“Mitt Romney was for forcing mothers into the workforce before he decided that ‘all moms are working moms,'” Stark told The Huffington Post. “I think we should take Mr. Romney at his most recent word and change our federal laws to recognize the importance and legitimacy of raising young children. That’s why I’m introducing the WORK Act to provide low-income parents the option of staying home to raise young children without fear of being pushed into poverty.”
And while we’re on a hot streak of chatting about the legitimate work that is motherhood and public policy, why not give the Swedish a run for their money and extend that measly maternity leave? With all the praise pouring out about motherhood being a job, we should parlay the nation’s sudden fondness and recognition for mothers into some cold hard legislation.