As the presidential campaign has become embroiled in “mommy wars,” a passage from Mitt Romney’s autobiography sheds more light on what seems to be his bifurcated prescription for mothers.
For most women, Romney maintains that a choice to work or to stay at home with the kids should be regarded as equally valid, his campaign made clear last week. But for poor women who receive government assistance, staying home is not an option — they should work. Video recovered yesterday shows that Romney said in January that he wants to “increase the work requirement” for mothers who receive welfare. “Those parents [need] to go back to work,” he explained.
A passage from Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case For American Greatness, elaborates on this. In it, he argues that children of “nonworking parents” will be conditioned to have “an indolent and unproductive life:”
In some quarters, however, the American work ethic is waning. Some people devote themselves to find ways not to work. Some seem to take a perverse kind of pride in being slipshod or lackadaisical. In many cases, where our work culture has deteriorated, shortsighted government policies share a good part of the blame.
Welfare without work erodes the spirit and the sense of self-worth of the recipient. And it conditions the children of nonworking parents to an indolent and unproductive life. Hardworking parents raise hardworking kids; we should recognize that the opposite is also true. The influence of the work habits of our parents and other adults around us as we grow up has lasting impact.
While Romney’s sentiment is understandable and common among conservatives, it doesn’t fit easily with his view that all “all moms are working moms.” He’s quoted in Michael Kranish and Scott Helman’s book The Real Romney as saying motherhood is its own profession. “It’s one which is challenging, it’s demanding,” he said. “It requires being a psychologist, a psychoanalyst, an engineer, a teacher,” he added.
If nonworking mothers on welfare produce “indolent and unproductive” children, then why doesn’t the same hold true for other women?
No one is questioning the difficulty or value of motherhood, but many critics have pointed out that while Romney’s wife was able to devote herself full time to the work of the house, other women must juggle both home life and a job to supplement their partners’ incoming. Meanwhile, millions of other mothers — including a disproportionate number on welfare — have to do all of this on their own, without a partner.