"What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, 'Well, you know my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues and when I listen to my wife that's what I'm hearing.' Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and why do we worry about their future."
- Hilary Rosen, April 11 2012
Oh, yes, she did.
Strategist and CNN political analyst Hilary Rosen said Presidential first-wife hopeful Ann Romney, homemaker and mother of five boys, was out of touch with the economic issues a majority of women face (e.g., feeding kids, sending them to school and worrying about their future) because she "never worked a day in her life." This is like asking an overweight woman when she is due, or informing a Mom or Dad that their child appears to have been hit repeatedly with the ugly stick -- you just don't do it no matter how loud the screaming in your head is.
You never, ever, suggest a stay-at-home mom is not "really working". It is inflammatory, infuriating and just plain wrong. Ann Romney raised five boys -- not for the faint of heart, I tell you. And I don't care if the woman had 50 nannies and a housekeeper. The job of holding all of those lives in your heart is huge and definitely full-time. The person who says homemakers have it easy is the person who has never been a homemaker. In fact, homemaker in itself is a valid and noble occupation -- adding kids into the mix makes you a working mother.
We are all working mothers, we are all women who love our families and spend all of our time and energy loving and caring for them. Just assume this to be true before you speculate about how easy someone else has it.
I have been a stay-at-home mom for 14 years and I am suffering from a severe case of working-mother-envy. I daydream about coffee breaks and two hour meetings with adults. I lie in bed at night imagining all the smart, hip outfits I would wear to my job. I check out Monster.com and think "Yeah, I could do that." I know the reality of the situation is that I would get a job and a new wardrobe and sit down at my desk with my cup of coffee and have no idea what to do with myself without at least 3 people vying for my attention at any given moment, and that I would be reduced to tears the first time I had to miss an assembly at my kid's school.
The grass is not always greener on the other side -- it is burnt and brown on both sides. There is no way to have it all. Being a mom or dad is hard because we are so invested in these little young lives that depend on us, so overwhelmed by the importance. No matter what we do, it will never be enough. If we work, we are forever torn about not spending time with our young ones. If we stay home we yearn to contribute more, we strive to always set good examples for our kids and we worry that unthinking political analysts will dismiss us because we don't work, and therefore we don't matter.
But I'm here to tell you, stay-at-home moms and dads: we do matter.
There is no right or wrong answer in the "Working Mommy Wars" -- but there are people who raise their children confidently and make no apologies for it, and it seems Ann Romney is one of those people. And I think that's good. Don't let anyone pressure you into doing something because it meets their definition of success.
If Mitt Romney is elected, Ann will be the only First Lady born this century to not have worked outside the home. It's likely she'll receive criticism for this and people may immediately dismiss her as being out-of-touch, but I say let's judge people on the content of their opinions and not the status of their resume. The woman is on the front lines of family life in America; we could listen to what she has to say.
Maybe, and I am just throwing this out there, political analysts should analyze politics and withhold opinions on how people should raise their families. Maybe, just maybe, the qualifications you have as an analyst do not apply to criticizing choices women make. And maybe -- now this is a radical one -- if we are really interested in making this world better for women, we will trust in their wisdom to make personal choices and not belittle them for it (this actually applies to many current issues, but we will stick to parenting here).
Believe me, the image people have of stay-at-home moms sitting around eating bonbons and watching their soap operas is as ridiculous as my fantasy of working in an office where we all just sit around eating a co-worker's birthday cake and talking about Kim Kardashian's highlights.
Dismissing a stay-at-home parent's opinion because he or she does not work limits options in the same way that saying "women should not be allowed in the workforce" does. Empowerment is all about expanding options, and that's where we need to be.