With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s a fitting time to talk about the essential role that mothers and the institution of the family play in America’s ability to thrive as a nation. Most mothers may not even realize that their role has an impact that goes far beyond their own families—a role so pivotal to society that it’s truly one of the most significant things they will do in their lives.
That’s not hyperbole, and the research bears it out.
While there’s nothing wrong with singlehood or a life without children, the fact is that the family is the fundamental building block of our society. It’s where new generations are created and meant to be nurtured and taught morals, values and personal responsibility—the things that a society needs from its citizens to flourish.
The strength of our families has a significant impact on each and every American—from the amount of taxes we pay, to the growth of our economy, to the level of crime in our neighborhoods. Years of research has shown that the children of nurturing, intact families are more likely to have higher academic performance and greater emotional maturity as well as more financial stability as adults. They are less likely to commit crimes and abuse drugs and alcohol.
From a societal standpoint, strong families led by nurturing mothers and fathers mean less poverty and dependence on the welfare system, fewer crimes, a healthier and better educated populace, and a stronger economy, among other benefits.
Despite these positive outcomes, the vocation of motherhood has been under attack in America for decades by those who see it as demeaning to women and something that holds them back from achieving their full potential.
One of the most vocal defenders of the dignity of motherhood and the role of the family was conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly.
When many on the far left said that caring for children was demeaning to women, Phyllis would say that the mother who cares for her own children “performs the most socially necessary role in our society. The future of America depends on our next generation being morally, psychologically, intellectually, and physically strong.”
She was absolutely right. Because she wouldn’t back down from defending motherhood as a noble pursuit—countering the left’s narrative that mothers were just “settling” into roles preordained by a male-dominated society—she became a hero to mothers everywhere.
None of this means that women can’t choose having careers over having children. It means that rather than denigrating the role of motherhood, we should be celebrating it as one of the most noble choices a woman can make.
The left saw Phyllis’ defense of marriage and motherhood as a form of misogyny and self-hatred. Why would a woman want to limit herself by chaining herself to a husband and children?
Yet, many of us who are mothers know that family doesn’t limit our potential. Instead, family supports us as we seek to fulfill our highest aspirations, whether those aspirations are motherhood or motherhood and a career.
I’m one such example. I grew up poor in a single-parent home. My mother got on a bus early every morning to go to work to support our family. While I had a wonderful extended family and neighbors who took care of my brothers and me while she was at work, I would have given anything to have had her at home.
That experience affected me deeply, and when I began to pursue a career and thought about having my own children, I knew that I needed to be at home during their early years. The plain fact of the matter is, there is a nurturing and a sense of security that good parenting provides that no day care can equal.
Contrary to the predictions of the left, staying home for each of my children’s formative years took little away from the pursuit of my career. I’ve managed to do everything I could have ever imagined—from serving on the local school board to serving three U.S. presidents. Today, as a proud grandma, I’m the president of one of the most influential think tanks in the world. No one can tell me that being a stay-at-home mom prevents you from having a successful career. It took planning and some sacrifice, but the results were well worth it.
This Sunday, while we’re wishing our mothers and grandmothers a happy Mother’s Day, we also need to acknowledge their unique contribution to society—one that has helped make this nation the envy of the world. Strong families remain America’s best anti-poverty, anti-crime, pro-health, pro-prosperity institution, and we have moms to thank for much of that.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times