In my opinion, Iris Evans only did two things wrong:
1) She expressed her view publicly under her role as Finance Minister, rather than as a private citizen.
2) She instilled a sense of “should” and “ought” in her comments, when it would have been better if she had merely made “suggestions”.
On the first note, if Ms. Evans had made her comments as a private citizen, they never would have made it into the public eye, and there wouldn’t have been such a brouhaha. The truth is, these types of comments are made every single day—privately in households, among acquaintances on the playground, or argued personally among friends. But everybody knows that parents hate being told what they should and should not be doing, especially by a politician. Hence, Ms. Evans was vilified.
On the second point, Ms. Evans was right, and at the same time, she was wrong. She was right because deep down, I believe that most people would not dispute the veracity of her words that “you don’t leave them [your children] for somebody else to raise.” Whether this “somebody else” is a daycare provider or a live-in nanny (or even the child’s own grandparent), a substitute caregiver should not have the same role as a parent, where a parent is capable of doing such work. But capability and desire are two very different things.
While I don’t argue that there are households in which two incomes are absolutely required in order to make ends meet, I also submit that there are many households where both parents don’t need to be out of the house, but simply want to be. Perhaps some parents want the best and latest material goods, or want to have a house in the right neighbourhood, so they work at an extra job in order to acquire such things. Perhaps some can’t deal with staying at home with their child(ren) all day long, because of boredom, fatigue, incapacity or just plain lack of desire. Perhaps some just value “me time” as adults, and view their socialisation time with their peers to be just as important as (or perhaps more than) time spent babbling all day long with toddlers.
Ms. Evans was wrong because to make statements such as she did, puts pressure on parents to stay at home with the kid(s), when some just plain do not want to. And anyone can see that this can only create more harm than good. What makes happier children and parents—having a caretaker who truly wants to be with them, or having a caretaker who involuntarily stays with them because of a societal expectation, and is thus brimming with resentment and negativity?
Staying at home to raise one’s own children is the best solution for some parents, and not for others. But whether or not the results are obvious, or however true Ms. Evans’ comments might have seem to her or to anyone else who agrees with her, she ought not to have expressed them out loud at all.