WORK Act Gives Low-Income Women A Piece Of That SAHM Privilege

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WORK ACTAll 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.



  1. Avodah

    April 19, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Sssooooo, who is gonna pay for this? Do you want to pay more taxes, Koa? I sure don’t. Why don’t we have affordable daycare options so the moms can work outside the home until they get back on their feet.

    I swear to God, this blog actually kills my brain cells.

    • Jen

      April 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

      How about we end the wars that are only making the corporate military industrial complex richer, close tax loopholes that allow Warren Buffet to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary, start asking people who earn huge amounts of money off the backs of those they refuse to pay even a living wage to kick in and actually do something for the country that has made them richer than several nations and stop constantly picking on the poor? We are so willing to give money to corporations and to killing machines, but the very suggestion that we take care of the very poorest in our society and that we start actually caring about people over profits kills your brain cells? Must be a scary brain to live in.

    • Love4Tax

      September 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      The corporations Buffett has ownership in pay 39% income tax, Buffett then pays an additional 15% when he realizes his capital gains -> Double taxation. Buffett says that paying a higher tax rate does not change his behavior, and this may be true because of his age. As a recent business school grad who has spent the past years studying accounting, finance, and economics, I can tell you that international business is a HOT area right now. As of this year, the U.S. has the HIGHEST corporate tax rate in the world, other countries around the world are slashing rates to court our corporations and our jobs. It’s working!The new generation of CEOs/CFOs/BODs realize that they have other options than running in the U.S. Ongoing unification of international and U.S. GAAP accounting standards is one of the factors that removes the fear of going overseas. Corporations, by their very nature, are responsible to produce profits for their shareholders, NOT to act as a charity. When they do well, in turn, we have more jobs. If anything, we should be lowering corporate tax rates to remain competitive in the global economy.

    • Love4Tax

      September 21, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      Oh, and corporations that fail to keep up with the pace of globalization, cannot be relied on to survive for long.

    • CW

      April 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      Actually, we could probably go a long way towards paying for a year’s worth of paid maternity leave for all moms if we got rid of the daycare tax deduction. If a woman doesn’t want to stay home with her baby, then that’s her prerogative- but why should the taxpayers pick up a good chunk of the tab for her decision to outsource the caretaking of her child?

    • Jen

      April 19, 2012 at 8:26 pm

      CW: First off, there are many many many women who don’t get to make the decision to stay home with their child that you and I (and so many other highly privileged women) were able to make. For them working isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity if they wish to keep their families fed, clothed and sheltered. The tax deductions for daycare simply allow these women to not lose half the wages they make paying out of pocket for childcare.

      Additionally, there are plenty of wonderful parents out there who do choose to work and I don’t see anything wrong with the government “picking up the tab” for them anymore than I have a problem with the government subsidizing SAHMs. I know plenty of amazing mothers who work outside of the home for a variety of reasons unrelated to finance. Sometimes it’s because they feel their work makes a difference in the world or because it’s something they are highly skilled at and don’t wish to stop doing just because they are parents. Some moms (and dads) simply love their job and some need that time in adult space so that they can come home and be awesome. Everyone is different and frankly so long as a man or woman is doing right by their kids they are great parents whether they stay at home or work like a dog. To suggest otherwise undermines the variety of experiences out there and indicates that you feel the parents who don’t follow the roles prescribed by “traditional” “values” are somehow less than and that frankly is wrong and harmful.

  2. Stay Home Mom

    April 19, 2012 at 10:02 am

    What a crock. Only in America!! Why the hell are low-income people so damn entitled? I left a $65k/yr job to stay home. My husband is not rich. He works in education for God sakes. Private school at that (less $$) . But I busted my ass to save every time for an entire 12 months before I had my son to afford being home. We didn’t buy baby furniture at Pottery Barn or splurge on a $500 stroller. Everything we did was in preparation to survive on one income b/c that is what mattered to us.

    My husband & I made DRASTIC cutbacks & sacrifices so it could happen. We don’t have iPhones. I drive a 10yr old car. We sold things around the house to pay down debt. We moved to a lower cost of living area to offset property taxes. I never once expected the government to PAY ME to make that choice. I had the choice and WORKED to make it happen. And FYI I grew up low-income and made a life for myself. I took out student loans to put myself through school. I paid 1/2 of them off before I resigned. I accepted a $9/hr job at a huge company when I was 21yrs old to build a career. Ten years later, I left it all to SAHM. Not expecting anyone to compensate me for it. People are so damn lazy & entitled it makes me sick.

    • Psychedelic

      April 20, 2012 at 1:45 am

      Poverty is not a fun-filled walk in the park, and you know it. You just wish YOU had this opportunity when YOU were raising kids, and now you’re jealous that society is finally treating mothers living in poverty like REAL PEOPLE. Surely you understand how hard it is to pay for childcare while working a minimum wage job with no benefits. And before you go blaming poor women for “choosing” those jobs, just remember that not everyone grew up with the same opportunities and could afford the kind of education to et the job that you had. You had a 65K/year job and chose to give it up. You didn’t have to do that, just like you’re claiming that poor women didn’t have to be mothers in the first place. Your husband could’ve been the one that stayed home with the kids and reentered the workforce later, but that’s not what you chose, is it? Sounds like you’re just upset that you made the wrong desicion.

    • Patrice

      May 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      Thumbs up to your post, stay at home mom. I am sick of people saying what a privilege or luxury it is to be home with our children. I bought 2 pair of jeans last week for under $8,spent an hour clipping coupons and planning a shopping trip, and had my husband drive one of our sons to an event I would normally drive him to – but – his old stick shift Escort station wagon gets much better gas mileage than the van. ( I can drive a stick but not this one,for some reason!!) I’ve been home for nearly 16 years and now work part time as a Crossing Guard. Up at 5:30 to cross kids in heat,rain,wind,lightning,etc, so I can remain at home for a few more years. Pay someone to stay at home? I would then demand retroactive pay for the last 16 years for myself and the many other sacrificing SAHMs I know. What a ridiculous concept!!!!

      Psychedelic, you are way off the mark on this. I work in an area where about 99% of the kids get free lunch. They have better shoes and clothes than mine.They have money to spend at the ice cream truck or shaved ice truck. Poverty isn’t just about not having money, it is a certain mind set that can’t see if you spend $$ today, you won’t have it tomorrow when you need it. But that’s okay, those of us who do work will continue to pay for them until the system collapses and all of us will be poor.

  3. Michelle

    April 19, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I really do understand the need for public assistance programs. People need help to get back on their feet. However, the point of them is to be temporary. I feel that a program like this will only encourage women to have more kids so that they get more time off. I have a friend who had a child almost a year ago and receives food stamps and government assistance, yet posts online about her wedding plans to the father and all of the fancy things they will have at it. It must be nice to be able to afford an expensive wedding when the government is paying for your groceries and housing.
    A solution could be to provide discounted/free child care and education for the mothers so that they can support their family in the future. That way they are not outright being given money that they might not have the skills to manage, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

    • Jen

      April 19, 2012 at 10:57 am

      This may post again, so apologies.

      I think some of your points are really great. I think a course on money management and simply more/better access to education in general would be a great way to improve the situation for lower income families. With the technology we have available today I could see a professor or two volunteering to record a few podcasts on basic household financial management and coming up with some assignments/tests and having the course free of charge online. Any interested parties could take it and it could be a prerequisite for those receiving certain types of government aid. Additionally, I know some places already offer vouchers and financial help for low income parents seeking higher education, but I think this could be expanded. Again, with so much available technology we really could/should expand the access to online courses and I could even see offering a situation like PP does where the cost of education is based on a sliding scale from totally free to those below the poverty threshold and slowly moving up based on the means of the person taking the courses.

      As to your other point about childcare: I know that many states and local places already have some sort of voucher system to help parents living in poverty pay for their child’s daycare. However, there are quite a few problems with this system. For one, many members of the working poor work night shifts or off hours when daycare is not traditionally open. Additionally, these also tend to be the kinds of jobs where taking off to care for a sick child (who is not allowed into daycare) could mean losing your job. Also, the daycare options in low income areas tend to suck. They are generally overcrowded and run by poorly trained/overextended staff. I’ve known a few women who have had to use these places for their own children and frankly I could not imagine being in a situation where I was forced to choose between putting my daughter in a place I thought was unfit to care for her or putting food on our table, but that is the reality for so many low income families. So, in short, I guess if we are going to focus on providing daycare so families can work we also need to focus on creating incentives and standards for these daycare centers so that the children of the working poor are receiving the kind of environment, intellectual stimulation and general care that is so important to a child’s healthy development.

    • Jen

      April 19, 2012 at 11:02 am

      One other thing I wanted to add, and this is not a criticism of you in particular so please don’t take it that way.

      Using the anecdotal “I know someone on welfare and they totally abuse the situation” excuse for stripping an entire system is just wrong. It’s like saying, “we should stop paying soldiers because a bunch of marines took pictures of themselves peeing on corpses and playing with mutilated body parts” or saying that the government shouldn’t pay for schools because some teachers abuse their students.

      All of these things are true, all of these things happen and all of these things are wrong. However, that doesn’t mean that for every one anecdotal horror story there aren’t a hundred or even a thousand stories about the benefits of the system and how necessary and truly life saving it is. I think the “I know someone who gets welfare payments and they totally don’t deserve to” has a place if we are talking about reforming the system or flushing out scammers, but for a conversation about the system in general it just seems like a strawman.

    • Avodah

      April 19, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Yes! These people need things that will help them transition into being self-sufficient. Child care and job training will help these women transition into the working world and eventually they won’t need government assistance.

      Unfortunately, paying them to be at home with their children won’t do that.

  4. Marian

    April 22, 2012 at 5:51 am

    To those taking about the worry of SAHMs getting stuck in a cycle of welfare dependance you might find find New Zealands socail welfare system interesting to reseach (I would normally provide links but it has been a long day) we have a similar bill up for debate at the moment, but for us it would be a cut back not an improvement and many people are up in arms about it as not only is there minimal financal help for child care for children under 3 (it is heavily subsidised but $7s an hour is a lot when you earn minimum wage) and the average time for a solo mother (who needs social welfare help because the got pregnant.gave birth) to be on welfare is 18months which is hardly stuck.

  5. Anthony Zarat

    May 1, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Typical Democrat sexism and discrimination. Dads need not apply.

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  8. Love4Tax

    September 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Awesome, so I just need to have a kid every 3 years and I’m set!

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