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Karen De Costerís excellent LRC piece ("Loathing Daycare," August 8) brought to mind an experience I had a few years ago in Washington, DC. Amid the Clintonsí 1998 push for a new $21 billion daycare plan, Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) invited me Ė an Oklahoma stay-at-home mom Ė to testify before a subcommittee of the US Senate Finance Committee. Hereís 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 Aesopís fables and David and Goliath. I probably spend two hours a day in the rocking chair. After theyíre all tucked in bed, I fold the laundry and do the family budget on our computer. Believe it or not, I donít play golf or go to the club and play cards.
This is the life Iíve chosen, because I believe itís 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 canít be cashed at the bank: my son Lincoln, when he was three years old, said to me one day, "Iím proud of you Ďcause you do the right things. Like take a shower, and fix my breakfast . . . Those kind of things."
I know itís all worth it when weíre on the floor playing with blocks, and I notice out of the corner of my eye that heís 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."
Thereís no need for me to rattle off the social-science research on the importance of strong marriages and families Ė 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 husbandís 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 Iím forced to put them into your Social Security trust fund, which I donít trust. Iíd like to buy more books for Lincoln, Elizabeth, and Mary Margaret, and put more money in their college fund, but youíve already seen fit to use that money funding closed-captioning for the Jerry Springer show.
Iíd love to get ballet lessons for Elizabeth, but my money is tied up buying food stamps for the deceased. Iíd love to give more money to support our churchís missionary in Albania, or the free medical clinic in Oklahoma City, but instead Iím 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 canít 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. Thatís why my husband and I traveled here at our own expense Ė 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 Jesusí name, Amen."
Iím 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 donít want to pay the daycare bills of two-income couples more affluent than ourselves. All we ask from you is to stop taking our familyís liberty and property.