In Praise of Stay-At-Home Moms

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Karen
De Coster's excellent LRC piece ("Loathing
Daycare
," August 8) brought to mind an experience I had
a few years ago in Washington, DC. Amid the Clintons' 1998 push
for a new $21 billion daycare plan, Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) invited
me — an Oklahoma stay-at-home mom — to testify before a subcommittee
of the US Senate Finance Committee. Here's some of what I told the
senators:

I
spend my days cooking for my husband and children, doing laundry,
cleaning toilets, and vacuuming. I teach my children to read and
do math, and I take them to the park. We do watercolors and science
experiments, and I read them Aesop's fables and David and Goliath.
I probably spend two hours a day in the rocking chair. After they're
all tucked in bed, I fold the laundry and do the family budget on
our computer. Believe it or not, I don't play golf or go to the
club and play cards.

This
is the life I've chosen, because I believe it's best for children,
whenever possible, to be cared for by their mother rather than by
strangers. I believe my job is important. And because of the time
and money and energy I invest in their lives, I believe my children
will grow up to do great things. I believe none of them will end
up on the welfare rolls, in prison, or in any way dependent upon
the state.

I
used to be a schoolteacher, and certainly the salary and benefits
I could earn teaching school would improve our material well-being.
But some checks can't be cashed at the bank: my son Lincoln, when
he was three years old, said to me one day, "I'm proud of you
u2018cause you do the right things. Like take a shower, and fix my breakfast
. . . Those kind of things."

I
know it's all worth it when we're on the floor playing with blocks,
and I notice out of the corner of my eye that he's stopped playing
and is staring at me like a smitten young man. "I love the
way you talk," he said to me. "And I love the way you
smell."

"How
do I smell?" I asked.

"Like
a mommy."

There's
no need for me to rattle off the social-science research on the
importance of strong marriages and families — some truths are self-evident.

I
mentioned I do the family bookkeeping, and I can tell you that taxes
are far and away the biggest portion of our family budget. There
are many things I would like to do with my husband's earnings, but,
with all due respect to your honorables in both parties, you seem
to believe you have the moral authority and the superior judgment
to make those choices for us.

I
would love to put more dollars into our retirement account, for
example, but I'm forced to put them into your Social Security trust
fund, which I don't trust. I'd like to buy more books for Lincoln,
Elizabeth, and Mary Margaret, and put more money in their college
fund, but you've already seen fit to use that money funding closed-captioning
for the Jerry Springer show.

I'd
love to get ballet lessons for Elizabeth, but my money is tied up
buying food stamps for the deceased. I'd love to give more money
to support our church's missionary in Albania, or the free medical
clinic in Oklahoma City, but instead I'm forced to fund fish farming
in Arkansas and Social Security disability payments for escaped
convicts.

Call
us greedy, but my husband and I would like to make our own choices
concerning the fruits of our labor. But naturally, under threat
of imprisonment, we defer to your choices.

I can't tell you how frustrated we are that, under budget agreements
passed by Congress, federal revenue collections are set to rise
from $1.35 trillion in 1995 to $1.9 trillion in 2002. That's why
my husband and I traveled here at our own expense — to ask you to
let up.

When
Lincoln was three, one morning in the kitchen he motioned to his
dad and me out of the blue and said, "You guys gather up."
We obliged, and he put his little arms around us and prayed: "God,
thank you for giving me my mommy and daddy. In Jesus' name, Amen."

I'm
so glad I can be at home for my children, and I implore you not
to pass laws to discourage mothers from doing so. My husband and
I certainly don't want to pay the daycare bills of two-income couples
more affluent than ourselves. All we ask from you is to stop taking
our family's liberty and property.

    August
    9, 2001

    Susie
    Dutcher [send her mail]
    is a stay-at-home mother in Edmond, Oklahoma.

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