It's the year 2011. You know that, I know that, but apparently Paul Smith, a rabid, old-school traditionalist who also happens to be County Commissioner in Frederick, Maryland, hasn’t seen a calendar — or taken a whiff of the real world — in quite some time. His political platform is informed by his passionate Mormon beliefs, which is fine as wine when he’s not pushing the tenets of his faith on other folks.
But we practice the separation of church and state here, and Smith's 1950s nostalgia has inspired him to slash half of the funding to the Head Start program in Frederick County, located about 45 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. Why? Well, in a nutshell, he believes modern-day women are too busy chasing the almighty dollar in order to keep up with the Joneses and are just unwilling to make the financial sacrifices necessary to stay home with our children.
In other words, you ought to be ashamed, you money-grubbing materialistic mom, you.
When given the opportunity to clear the air -- because Smith's ramblings had everyone from the Washington Post to radio shows giving him interview time -- the 60-year-old attorney and politician didn’t disappoint journalists hoping this wasn’t just an isolated instance of Foot in Mouth Disease. He not only stood by his initial opinion, but elaborated on it for good measure.
Then Smith’s sidekick, Terry, his wife of 37 years and mother of his 12 (no, that is not a typo, and yes, I said 12) children, chimed into the argument with what I can only suppose is her version of a witticism: “You didn’t have to move into a mansion after you got married,” she said.
Somebody is cutting these folks’ oxygen off while they’re sleeping. Why would she assume that working mothers are slaving to support the lavish life in mansions? Or that we’re even all married? Does she get out of the house, like, ever? Well hell, never mind. With 12 kids to take care of at home, my guess would be that she didn't and maybe still doesn’t.
The real danger in the Smith brand of thinking is, of course, the $2.3 million he’s suggested cutting from the budget for Head Start, which provides child care and education to some 300 toddlers in his constituency. However, the supposition that working mothers are making the incredibly difficult decision to leave their babies each and every morning to trudge to jobs that some enjoy, but more than likely only tolerate, because they’re on some gluttonous money chase is just ridiculous.
I don’t know any mom who prefers to drop her child off to daycare or a babysitter rather than stay home with them (except on the days when the little one tosses their bowl of Cheerios across the room or deliberately pees in her big girl panties or cries for 15 minutes straight in the car because she wouldn’t let them have a Popsicle at 7 in the morning). Ninety-nine percent of the mothers I know who peel out of bed and get ready for another day of the 9-to-5 do it for totally unselfish reasons. They do it for their kids.
Under Smith’s delusional “Leave It to Beaver” program, we probably should be homeschooling our children, and if that’s what’s worked for him and his brood, that’s fantastic. But making blanket, across-the-board statements that the rest of us who aren’t following that route are somehow shortchanging our families is, in a PG term, a crock of horse crap.
In the real world -- clearly not Paul and Terry Smith’s world, but in the real world -- private school costs money. Music lessons and martial arts and ballet classes cost money. College tuition will definitely cost money. And even if you forgo all of those “luxuries” and give them just the basic essentials of life, children are still expensive little cash sponges who require food, clothing, and shelter, and those cost money too that, more often than not with today’s prices, needs to be provided by two working parents.
Unless you’re like me, the drudge of the earth, the sullied single parent heathen who’s probably already shamed to hell in Smith’s eyes anyway.
Are working moms corrupting the natural order of things by not staying home with their children?
Image via stevendepolo/Flickr