Michelle Obama Discusses the SAHM vs. Work-Outside-the-Home Mom Debate

Tracy Odell at the White House

CafeMom's own Tracy Odell and her son got an opportunity this morning to chat with First Lady Michelle Obama, as part of "Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day." What followed was a frank discussion between moms, kids and Mrs. Obama about topics that included the Mommy Wars.

Tracy asked Mrs. Obama if she had experienced criticism in her experience as a working mom. Here's what she had to say:

All the things we fought for as women, we fought for a choice, being able to make the choice that was right for us.
And we still have work to do, but we’ve come a long  way. Women do have real choices about how they want their lives to go. And no one should give that up to anyone else, because it’s your choice and it changes. I mean, I have been a working mom. I have been a not working mom. But it’s been totally based on what I need in my life at any given point in time. And there will always be somebody who will criticize everything you do in your own lives.
She went on to say this:
What gives me a sense of calm is that I know that I have to figure out what works for me at any given time. And what I try to do is respect every woman’s decision about what they do for themselves at any given point in time. There just are no absolutes, and that’s what we fought for. 
Mrs. Obama did a good job of addressing mommy guilt, which all of us fall victim to on a regular basis, as well as the criticism that all moms face from others, whether they stay at home, work from home, or work outside the home.

But what's largely been left out of the wider "Mommy Wars" discussion is the number of women who would stay home with their children if they could, but must work to pay the bills- as well as the women who want to work but can't because they can't find a job that pays enough to cover the cost of childcare and other expenses.

Unable to raise their children as they choose, they are the true victims of the stay-at-home/work-outside-the-home debate. I know plenty of women in this category and I feel for them most of all.

What about you? What do you think of Michelle Obama's comments on the Mommy Wars? And how can we work to make it possible for more women to choose a path that's right for them and for their families?

Photo credit: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a women’s online outlets roundtable on “Let’s Move!” and motherhood in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 26, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

2012 election


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nonmember avatar len

I think she hit the nail on the head. If what you choose to do works for your family, then that is all that matters. Enough of the "mommy wars" nonsense.

DritaF DritaF

I heard an awful lot of "I's" and "Me's" in her monologue. I wonder how Sasha and Malia fit into Mrs. Obama's plans?

Desti... DestinyHLewis

I HATE your use of the word "victims" "Unable to raise their children as they choose, they are the true victims of the stay-at-home/work-outside-the-home debate."  This implies we are somehow at the mercy of someone else's decision, and do not have the power to change our circumstance. NOT TRUE. We all made a choice to become a mom. NO ONE FORCED IT ON US, it is a choice. I am one of those who would "like to work"  after being a SAHM for 9 years. However after being out of the workforce SO long and with the economy the way it is, I am unable to find a job that meets the criteria, still my choice. I could take a job tha pays next to nothing but then my paycheck would go to pay for after school care and that is not what I want to do. I am not a victim, I made a choice and they all have consequences. I CHOSE to have kids, chose to quit and raise them, and now as the youngest of my 3 will be entering school, I'd like to go back. That is no ones fault but my own. Please don't write statements that further the prose of removing personal responsibility for ones own actions. You are much smarter than that. ;-)

momof... momof030404

I'm sorry....She has been a "working mom AND a NOT working mom"? oh ok.

DebaLa DebaLa

Destiny, Lindsay is talking about the debate — not the circumstances created by their choice. 

Anyhoo, Enough with the criticism and nickpicking. Do male parents undergo anything close to this kind of scrutiny? Hellno. HE will be lauded for doing all the things a women is forced to define and choose — and do most of the work, btw, just to get blistered by her own gender for doing so. Jeez. smh

Caela... CaelanOceanamom

Thank you for bringing up the last group. I am a full time working mom. 40+ hours a week; to pay the bills. We're not victims, but we are a group that is overlooked. It isn't a choice; I love my child; I knew this would be the reality when I got pregnant. Just acknowledge that for a great many it isn't a choice and it breaks our hearts to leave every day even though we do it for them.

PonyC... PonyChaser

Her comments don't surprise me. Not only are they the politic thing to say, they're pretty much what most rational people think - it's your choice, you live with the results of your choice, and other women are the most vicious when it comes to scrutinizing your choices.

How do we fix it? Have her convince her husband to back the hell off. It is his policies that have caused this recession to continue. Regardless of what Bush, Clinton, Reagan, et al did before him, HE has the power to change the employment atmosphere in this country, causing employers to feel free to employ people of all backgrounds and levels of experience. Right now, employers are so afraid to hire, they have so many restrictions (must have XX degree, must have XX years of experience, must be currently employed, etc) that many women who have been out of the workforce for years and developed skills in volunteer areas as opposed to the workplace absolutely cannot find a job.

If he and his administration would change some of their policies toward employers and "the rich", perhaps women in that last category you mentioned would find some relief.

As for the judging? It's always going to be there. It was there in Biblical times, and it's going to be there as long as humans roam the earth. We just need to ignore it and be confident in our own choices.

Billie Jo Evans

She nailed it on the head, women have fought to be able to make their own choices and here we are today arguing, with strangers even, about what the "right choice" is. The fact of the matter is there are mothers who have to work to care for their families and there are women who choose to work to keep their sanity because they don't want to be a SAHM. And there's women like me, my husband and I decided together that I would be a SAHM because we're financially stable with his income until our kids all begin school.

I just can't stand when one type of parent thinks they're better than another because they choose to work or SAH.  My only argument is if you can't afford to care for your family, you don't have any business staying home.

dearg76 dearg76

I am a working mom 40 hours a week and I have to be this in-order to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. I HATE IT! Do you know how much I would give to be a SAHM, I would do anything for that to happen, but alas it is not to be - for right now anyway. Hopefully in a few years we will be able to make that happen - or maybe I can work part-time and be at home more.

I honestly don't know any women that act like they are better than me because they stay at home. I think we all work hard to do whats best for our families. If that means you have to give up a bit of money or time away from your kids then you do what you have to. I think we should all be supportive of each other and respect the decisions the others have made. We are all on the same team (or should be) to see out kids grow up, healthy, happy and free. 

nonmember avatar PollyS

"But it’s been totally based on what I need in my life at any given point in time." "... I have to figure out what works for me at any given time."
Seems to be more about HER and not her family. Many women do not have the benefit of choosing whether or not to work. Mrs. Obama, on the other hand, has had that choice. Very sad to me that she choose selfishly.

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