Winning The Stay-At-Home Mom Vote

From a stay-at-home mom.

I know, I know…my alias is “grannyhelen”, which I’ve used as a tribute to my own great-grandmother. I, myself, am a 40 year old stay-at-home mom of two in a small commuter city.

Wanna win my vote? It won’t be as easy as simply nominating a “hockey mom”, or even taking down the “maverick” image of John McCain. But women – and particularly mothers – may help decide this election, and it’s obvious that the McCain campaign picked Governor Palin to appeal to women like me. In order to put Barack Obama in the White House, Democrats must compete successfully for these votes.

Follow me over the fold for some talking point do’s and don’ts of this demographic.

First of all, there are some things that definitely turn off stay-at-home moms:

Don’t engage in mommy wars. Ever. All families are different, and women make decisions to either remain in the work place or stay at home for a myriad of reasons. Never make assumptions about either working mothers or stay-at-home mothers. Never place one group as more superior to the other. It’s divisive and a distraction from the issues we really care about.

Don’t talk about the parenting of your opponent. It makes Obama – and the Democrats – look really, really appealing when they say that a candidate’s children should be left alone. And, just for the record, we all talk about the parenting of the candidates anyway, amongst ourselves, in playgroups or venting to our spouses or family. There are a myriad of conversations happening right now among mothers about Sarah Palin’s decision to place her unwed, pregnant seventeen-year-old daughter in the national spotlight when she decided to run for Vice President. There are even parents who question bringing a baby to a late night campaign rally instead of hiring a sitter.

Let parents have these conversations amongst themselves. Any politician or campaign who inserts their foot in the middle of these private discussions will look like a bully. No parent likes to be second-guessed on their decisions as a parent, but we’re all humans and it’s a part of human nature to judge other parents on how they raise their kids. Don’t call us out on the inherent contradiction right there by making these issues public.

Now that we have some ground rules established, let’s talk about how a campaign can appeal to stay-at-home moms (hint, it’s about the kids):

Talk about what type of future you want for your children. Parents sacrifice daily – hourly – for their kids. Some of the sacrifices are financial, some spiritual. If you can inspire parents to sacrifice now so that their kids will have a better future, that’s a powerful message. Paint that picture in specifics. How will my kids be better educated? How will they have better jobs? And, most importantly, how can I help? Stay-at-home moms have flexible schedules, and a campaign would do well to think about how to capitalize on that.

Make the attacks about the issues, not the persona. I have a child who has been diagnosed with classic autism. I have another child in Birth-to-Three because he is experiencing a speech delay. When Governor Palin said she would be an advocate for special needs in the White House that was incredibly appealing. But, when I discovered that she had cut funding for special needs by over 60% in Alaska, let’s just say that the shine went right off that apple. When I found out that as mayor Sarah Palin tried to get books banned from the local library – and almost fired the city librarian when she refused do so – that really frosted my cookie. Stay-at-home moms spend a lot of time in public libraries, because it’s free entertainment for the little ones, and messing around with the librarian is something most of us would not look too favorably on.

Stay-at-home moms don’t want other people’s agenda’s thrust on our kids. So, teaching creationism in schools, banning books, having a “my way or the highway” approach to social issues…all of that undercuts our ability as parents to teach our children our values.

Talk About The Mom-Economy. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s issues like equal pay for equal work. It’s paid benefits for part-time jobs. It’s the price of gas, the cost of daycare and the ability to give your kids healthy foods without busting the family budget. Stay-at-home moms look to make money and cut costs wherever we can. We use Craig’s list and garage sales. We write books. We sit at home instead of spending the extra money to drive the car to the next town. We babysit each other’s kids and scoop up all of the loose change in the change jar, to cash in at the grocery store when it gets hefty enough.

An extra tax rebate could really help all of us in the Mom-Economy. Talk that one up.

Finally, what appeals to most moms about Barack Obama is his substance and his family. As a parent he has an inherent understanding of the issues affecting both his kids and my kids, and because he’s a pragmatist he doesn’t give off that vibe that somehow his ideology will start affecting what my kids read and how they are taught. In short, he lets parents be parents, and that is incredibly refreshing.

I hope this helps. I am intently interested in this election because it will directly affect my children, and I’m sure most stay-at-home moms feel the same way. Understanding who we are and how to communicate with us will go a long way to getting our support. Being right on the issues, and having policies that support our kids without conflicting with our parenting decisions will go that much further toward winning our vote.

And we want our vote to be won, with responsible appeals and sound programs. Our kids are counting on us.

UPDATE: There’s been some discussion about whether Governor Palin actually cut special needs funding, or whether this money was moved to a different budgetary line item and whether or not funding was actually increased during her tenure in Alaska. The reason why I’m keeping the mention of the special needs funding in this diary is that when you live the life of the parent of special needs kids (I have two), even moving money around in budgets sends up major red flags. I freely admit this could be some paranoia on my part, but I think it’s a paranoia that parents of special needs kids probably share. Regardless, this is being discussed in a lot of households right now, and therefore I think it is something that either the McCain campaign – or Governor Palin directly – should address.


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  1. I don’t have as much time to post as I’d like to – hope y’all enjoyed this one.

  2. Thanks, grannyhelen — you are a woman of many talents!

  3. The best essay I’ve read yet on how to handle Palin.  

    I think this is they key:

    Let parents have these conversations amongst themselves.

    The group Palin is attempting to target is by no means easy pickin’s, and they are going to take their sweet time making up their minds thankyouverymuch.  That means a lot of conversations in a lot of places – including libraries.

    It’s in all of our interest to keep these conversations going, even if the candidates can’t, because, if the stories about Palin are anywhere near true, the more people talk about her, the less appealing she will be.

    Word of mouth is always the best sales tool, and since its all we’ve got on these issues, we need to make the most of it.

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