Stay-at-home moms were in the spotlight last week after democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said stay-at-home mom Ann Romney had “actually never worked a day in her life.” This statement kicked off what has been dubbed the “mommy wars” — an intense debate between working women and stay-at-home moms about the value of each experience.
President Obama condemned Rosen’s remarks, saying, “there’s no tougher job than being a mom” and “when I think about what Michelle’s had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mother raising me and my sister, that’s work. Anybody who would argue otherwise I think, probably needs to rethink their statement.”
While women across the country reacted to Rosen’s comments, some black women were mute on the topic. Unlike women of other ethnicities, black women have traditionally not had the choice to become stay-at-home mothers.
According to “Historical Changes in Stay-at-Home Mothers: 1969 to 2009” by Rose M. Kreider and Diana B. Elliot the number of stay-at-home mothers has decreased from 9.8 million in 1969 to 5.7 million in 2009.
“Black women were about half as likely as White women to be a stay-at-home mother, while the odds for women of other races did not differ from those of White women,” Kreider and Elliot write.
Historically, black women have always worked.
“There is evidence that married black women have always been employed outside of the house in large numbers,” (Landry 2000) Kreider and Elliot note. “Even black mothers with young children were in the work force following World War II, when many of their white counterparts had withdrawn from the labor force” (Thistle 2006).
Now, the economy is perhaps the biggest reason why the idea of being a stay-at-mother for black women hasn’t been a reality. The recession took a toll on the economic status of many Americans and the black community was hit particularly hard.
The 8.2 percent unemployment rate is nearly double that for African-Americans at 14 percent.
“Women usually have better success getting jobs than black men do,” said Dr. Camille Charles, a Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “So if you’re talking about a two parent household, she’s more likely to end up being the one to pick up the slack because historically the women have been more employable and more desirable employees because of the gender stereotypes we have as African-Americans.”