CBS Carps About Moms Opting Out to Raise Families

Should mothers with big jobs accept personal responsibility for raising their own children, or turn them over to day care? 

CBS Evening News delivered a pre-Mother's Day slap at responsible moms with a May 10 story fretting about the decline in the number of women with young children who remain in the workforce. 

CBS reporter Kelly Wallace dubbed women who choose to leave high-powered jobs to stay home and raise their own children “opt-out moms.”  While many would consider setting aside your career to raise your children a laudable decision, Wallace treated the subject with a skeptical feminist approach: “But the question is why did these women turn their backs on corporate America to be home with the kids? Are they opting out or did they run out of options?”

Wallace asks left-leaning experts whether this trend is a “social revolution.” Sociologist Pam Stone, who wrote Opting Out: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home, said there is no revolution.  Women simply have no choices. Women are being “shut out.” They are being forced out because of “the conditions” of their jobs. 

Philosopher Linda Hirshman, the other “expert” used by Wallace in the story, sounded like a spokesman for the National Organization of Women.  “If you opt out you do not use your full talents and abilities.” 

Wallace observed that Hirshman's book, Get to Work and Get a Life before It's too Late, has “outraged” stay-at-home moms. But then she let Hirshman fire another feminist salvo: “If working part time is such a great idea, why aren't men doing it? They are not doing it.”

Wallace's report focused on one “opt-out mom,” a former “lawyer at a high-powered law firm” and “student body president at NorthwesternLawSchool.”  The mom never talked about why she thought staying home with her own children was important, but cast the dilemma as a business decision: “I went back and forth, and finally I decided that I couldn't do the level that I needed -- I couldn't be at the level I needed to be, at the job I was doing, and also do what I wanted to do with (her son) Jackson.”

Never did Wallace interview a mom who said she chose to “opt out” because she thought raising her own kids was more important than working outside the home.  Those women are out there -- in droves.  This author was one of them. 

Instead, Wallace allows her featured mom to tell us that she has struck the ideal balance by starting her own law firm out of her home and that her business and family are “thriving.”

Good for her.  But good too for the other “opt-out” moms who don't feel like they need to work a second job on top of full-time motherhood.  Wallace did not tell their side of the story, and did them a disservice in the process.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.