04/16/2012 09:52 am ET Updated Jun 16, 2012

"Stay-at-Home Mom" Is a Political Misnomer

We've had the "mommy wars" before and they were a waste of time. Work is what almost all of us do one way or another.

And this stay-at-home mom business is just another false political category like "soccer moms" -- an easy label that doesn't fit anyone and a way to force a wedge between women voters.

You can't stay at home if you're taking care of children whether you're a mom or a dad. You're out and about bringing them here and there, getting things done and often assisting at the schools or after school activities. As a parent, I know how much work it involves.

And because all parents want to do it right, absent a reliable manual, raising children is a source of joy but also often of anxiety. Children become ill, get hurt, deal with bullying, face learning challenges, to say the least, and they turn to their parents to help them through. Any candidate who uses parental anxiety as a political football is scraping the bottom of the political barrel.

Besides, there is no winner in this silliness dividing women for political gain. There are great mothers who have paying jobs outside of their homes and great mothers who do not. Not working for pay outside the home (or from it) doesn't automatically make one a good parent and doing so does not automatically make one a deficient parent.

With regard to Ann Romney, I can't imagine that the wife of a former governor isn't considered someone who worked. As the wife of a candidate for governor and twice for president, she has traveled extensively and worked. Sarah Palin was Governor of Alaska. She worked. Michelle Obama works as both a mother and the First Lady. And most of the women I've met who don't work for pay do a lot for their communities. They volunteer and so they WORK! We all work one way or another.

I taught a diversity course and leadership at USC with Betty Friedan. We dealt with the issue of working and raising children. One thing was very evident. It's easy to get pulled into a debate about whether women should work without remembering that a good percentage of them don't have the luxury to weigh the pros and cons. A significant number work for current or expected economic reasons. We shouldn't forget that.

Then there's the fact that girls raised with ambition, which most families endeavor to provide, are going to want to work or take on personal challenges. Ann Romney did this as an award-winning equestrian who completed her bachelors' degree through Harvard University while raising children.

Given the economy and our efforts to help girls achieve as they choose to, the mommy wars scuffle is little more than an elitist political ploy on the one hand and a hypocritical one on the other.

Besides, what business is it of ours to question why women work for pay and why they might cease to do so for a while or for the rest of their lives? We all contribute in different ways. Far more important is what we do as a society to help families. Do we make their lives more difficult? Do we take away their ability to make a good living? Are they holding three jobs just to get by? Do they have good health care? Are they under impossible levels of stress just to feed and clothe their children?

These are the things that matter. The rest is just a way to get women tied up in knots about whether they're doing what's right for their families. And, of course, to then use that untenable condition to get votes. Let's just not go there, not again!

Kathleen also blogs at Comebacks at Work.