Back in April, Democratic Strategist Hilary Rosen reignited the mommy wars for 72 frenzied hours when she said that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, had "never worked a day in her life."
Republicans roared and Democrats bristled. "My career choice was to be a mother," Ann Romney told Fox News. First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted that every mother "works hard." Even former First Lady Barbara Bush chimed in.
But there's one major difference between the job of motherhood and all other jobs. When it comes to the former, you're paid in fulfillment and gratitude. When it comes to the latter, you're paid in money.
That doesn't have to be the case, however. The German parliament soon will be debating a proposed law for the second time that would send mothers a monthly check for 150 euros (around $184) if they decide to stay home with their infants.
Paying women who stay at home was once a feminist idea. In the 1970s, some American women called (rhetorically, for the most part) for stay-at-home moms to earn a salary for their domestic labor. After all, if people were paid for domestic labor, a family's personal income would jump an average of 30 percent, according to a recent paper. And since women do more domestic labor than men, many wives and mothers would win greater financial independence, as well as that sense of reward that comes with the confirmation that what you spend your days doing has economic value.
But critics of the German law say that encouraging women to stay home is contrary to modern family politics. Incentivizing them to stay out of the labor pool also isn't the smartest idea, they say, for a country that's already facing a shortage of workers because of an aging population.
Germany's conservative coalition, helmed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, is pushing for the mom allowance, saying that it would give women more freedom to make the parenting choice that they want. Germany's ideas about motherhood are more traditional than most of its European neighbors, though: A quarter of its citizens believe that mothers should stay at home while their children are young, reports the Economist, and a majority of young Germans support the plan.
The law would also ease the heavy burden on the country's day care facilities, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Next year, German children will have a right to day care after their first birthdays -- and this surge of demand will lead to an estimated shortage of between 130,000 and 400,000 openings for them, reports Die Zeit.
Paying women to stay home is an idea unlikely to take root in the U.S., since our nation's respect for work outside the home usually trumps our respect for work inside it -- as when Mitt Romney declared earlier this year that, as president, he would increase the work requirement for those on federal assistance -- even for mothers of infants -- so that they could have "the dignity of work."
That isn't the case in a place like Germany, where parents already can take up to three years off from work, and still have their job guaranteed at the end. For a year of that time they're also paid 67 percent of their salary, up to 1,800 euros ($2,824) a month. That means a serious pay cut for most German parents who choose to stay home, but much less than the pay cut that stay-at-home parents in the U.S. face. Their income drops to zero.
6 Work From Home Jobs That Are Thriving In The Digital Age
Should Mothers Be Paid To Stay Home And Care For Their Children?
Graphic designers combine art and technology to advertisements, brochures, corporate reports and company websites. Work can be done either manually or on a computer, and tasks include layout and production. It's common for graphic designers to freelance, but often they have staff positions (with benefits!) that allow them to telecommute.
Number of Jobs: 279,200
Average Hourly Salary: $20.92
Outlook: Jobs for graphic designers working with computers is estimated to grow by 61 percent by 2020, or six times the average for all positions in the field. The development of new applications for mobile technology will help boost opportunities in the field. But as more and more platforms see new design opportunities, demand will grow for versatility with interactive skills.
Top Industries: computer systems design; advertising/public relations
An event planner develops a large client base by coordinating business meetings, client presentations, off-site retreats and parties. Much of the work is acting as a middleman between clients and event hosts as well as other service providers. And so the planner will solicit bids from a range of workers, from florists to photographers. A Certified Meeting Planner credential will help one stand out.
Number of Jobs: 71,600
Average Hourly Salary: $21.76
Outlook: The field is expected to see "rapid employment growth," according to the BLS, which estimates that jobs will increase by 44 percent by 2020. A combination of factors is contributing to the new opportunities. With the growth of remote work, companies are increasingly adding international hubs, creating a need for periodic meetings to bring together the whole staff. Also, the growth of health care services is a positive for the industry, as that field often ranks high as one that requires large meetings.
Top Industries: meeting, convention and event planners; business/professional/political organizations; health care
Computer support specialists provide tech support to both individuals and organizations. The support specialist is required to both test and maintain computer networks. They will also be required to set up new systems, which would require site visits for the at-home worker. But chat programs and telephones allow for remote work.
Number of Jobs: 607,100
Average Hourly Salary: $22.24
Outlook: The faster rate of upgrading new systems will create more opportunities for support specialists. While the health care industry is expected to greatly increase its need for information technology over the next decade, lower level jobs in call centers are expected to be increasingly sent overseas. Overall, opportunities are expected to grow 18 percent by 2020.
Top Industries: computer operations; computer support specialists; systems design firms
Software developers create programs for a range of devices, from computers to larger networks. They can help develop word processing systems, games and databases. A background in coding is essential.
Number of Jobs: 913,100
Average Hourly Salary: $43.52
Outlook: The BLS projects software work to be one of the fastest-growing American sectors for the next decade. Jobs are expected to grow at a clip of 30 percent. The rise of mobile technology is expected to especially drive growth in opportunity. As software becomes more universal, businesses are expected to customize programs for their needs, creating more jobs at individual firms.
Top Industries: Computer Systems Design Firms; Software Publishers; Corporate Management
Hired to protect their employer's image, public relations specialists write media releases, plan events and maintain relationships with the press to boost coverage. Public relations specialists can also be asked to raise donations and drum up grants for organizations.
Number of Jobs: 320,000
Average Hourly Salary: $27.67
Outlook: Jobs in the field are expected to grow 21 percent by 2020, but is expected to be particularly strong among workers (versus managers) as more companies contract out work. Overall growth is expected to be particularly strong as organizations continue to emphasize community outreach in the hopes of standing out. The increasing explosion of social media platforms also create many opportunities in public relations.
Top Industries: public relations; corporate management
Database administrators store and organize data, from financial to manufacturing information. Among administrators' chief assignments is to make sure data are readily available to workers and to oversee protection of data. Companies also rely on database administrators to make sure data is backed up.
Number of Jobs: 110,800
Average Hourly Salary: 73,480
Outlook: Due to an increase of tasks required by the administrator, the field is projected to grow by 31 percent by 2020, the BLS expects. And as more businesses grow in the field of data collection itself, experienced database administrators will be in higher demand.
Top Industries: database administrators; computer systems