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by Stephanie Herman

When Bill Clinton signed welfare reform into law, single mothers suddenly faced a harsh choice: get a job or starve your child. Doubly harsh, because being a good mother (which to many means raising your kids yourself) now conflicted with being a responsible parent (providing for the child without reliance on government).

Welfare reform also presented a harsh choice for those of us conservatives who believe in both personal financial responsibility andstay-at-home mothering. The conflict between these twin goals drove me cross-eyed, and it didn't help to be dismissed as a hypocrite by leftists who disagreed with both.

To liberals looking for a rumble rather than a resolution: You needn't believe as I do, but millions of single moms, rich and poor, wantto raise their own children. Millions also want the skills, autonomy and responsibility that a job provides. Why not accommodate us?

With cooperation from former welfare moms, the government, and our nation's employers, []maybe we can find ways to help even single women be both economically productive members of society and hands-on mothers.

Many companies are already experimenting with on-site child care programs. Why not offer strong tax incentives to do so? Make it pay to innovate. Perhaps work pools could rotate nursery shifts, allowing mothers to periodically work in the nursery but keep their "day" jobs. Wouldn't training and certification for nursery duty increase their skills, resulting in a more well-rounded employee, not to mention a less anxious, better-educated mother?

Successful programs, well publicized, would cause consumer esteem for mother-friendly companies to rise — and along with it, their ability to attract a better-motivated workforce. Competing companies would then be motivated to devise ever-more-viable childcare solutions at their own worksites.

Will this work? I'm not sure. But if we quit fighting across party lines and design welfare alternatives together, maybe we can turn some of the harsh choices we face into choices we embrace.

Related Links:
(1) A mom talks back to "Working Mother" magazine.
Speak Up, Speak Out
Motherhood and Achievement
by Catherine H. Myers

(2) Mothers at Home
A new consensus on childcare?
Beyond the Child Care Debate
by Heidi L. Brennan and Catherine H. Myers

(3) One experiment in workplace childcare
Corporate child care a necessary part of state's economic development, says Mississippi Forum on Children and Family.

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WHO IS: Besides co-managing, Stephanie Herman writes for the American Partisan. Her column, The Holistic Republican, appears every Monday.

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