Mommy Voters in DC Talk Careers, Staying Home and the Economy

Apr 13, 2012 6:00am

Thanks to Hillary Rosen’s comments on Wednesday night and Ann Romney’s reply Thursday morning, moms in the home and the workplace have been the talk of the town. Though it’s not unusual for (aspiring) first ladies to address the question, it’s a sensitive one that can stir emotions on both sides.

ABC News spoke with women in Lafayette Park outside the White House on Thursday to see what everyday moms think about the issue and about Ann Romney’s potential to represent them as women voters.

Most of the women we encountered were working mothers in two-parent households. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, almost 65 percent of women with children under 18 work for pay. For some of the women, this was a decision based on their desire for a career.

“I went and got my education and felt like I had something to put forth into the work force,” said Meredith Bailey-Orr, of Long Island.

“It never occurred to me to stay home,” said attorney Ariane Auster. “I had a career before I had kids, so I just kept doing what I’m doing.”

But others told us they went back to work out of financial need.

“When they were younger, I was lucky to be able to stay home until they were in school,” Christine Magistro said. “And then as they got older, it got harder – one income for two people – so I had to.”

In an interview with Fox News this morning, Ann Romney called being a mother was her “career choice.” But Magistro questioned the idea that all women could have a choice to work or stay at home.

“I work with a lot of women with younger kids and they have no choice,” Magistro said. “It’s tough, it’s tough out there making ends meet.”

In a 2010 poll from the Pew Research Center, 38 percent of respondents said more mothers working outside the home made no difference in a society, and 21 percent said it was actually beneficial.

Last week Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said his wife “has the occasion to campaign on her own and also with me, and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care most about is the economy.”

Some of the moms ABC News spoke with in Lafayette Park preferred not to share their political beliefs or had not made up their mind about Ann Romney. Two moms, however, said she would represent their interests as women voters well.

“Whether or not she’s worked or stayed home, she’s objective to the fact that, hey, let’s give people the choice to be able to do that,” said stay-at-home mom Theresa Dobson.

Dobson’s own story was a little more complicated than some of the other moms. She started out as a stay-at-home Army wife, went back to work when she could afford childcare, then went through a divorce that left her a single mother.

Because of her situation at that point, Dobson said she “was forced to work.”

After Dobson remarried, she and her husband decided she would continue to work until the birth of a new baby, but her leave started sooner than the couple had planned.

“I was going to stay home for the first year after the baby was born, but I was forced into a layoff due to the economy,” Dobson said. “The market wasn’t there for me.”

Hot button issues for the women ranged from abortion to the economy and from  taxes to the need for altruism in the U.S.

“What issues are important to me as a mom and a woman?” Auster asked. “Well, the same issues are important to me as any other person.”

ABC News’ Alexa Keyes contributed to this report.

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