The “War on Women” is NOT against Stay-at-Home Moms

I’m hearing a political ad a lot on Pandora, which is usually just annoying, but this particular ad really upsets me. And I don’t stand up on my soap box very often, mainly because I think everyone is entitled to their own opinions and generally have no desire to shout mine from the rooftops, but this particular ad incenses me.

A few weeks ago, Ann Romney, the wife of the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, was blasted by Democratic National Committee strategist Hilary Rosen for never having worked. The reality is that Ann Romney was (is?) a stay-at-home mom and raised 5 boys.

Now, I have one child and, yes, being a mother to just the one is hard work. I don’t dispute that. But I also work a full-time job and volunteer at The Boy’s school (often taking vacation days to do so) fairly frequently. (So frequently, in fact, that the mom of one of The Boy’s classmates noted, with some surprise as her son gave me a big hug, that all the kids seem to know me.) I stayed up with him during those earliest days, weathered (and survived) countless nights of teething fits, changed too many poopy diapers to count, and did everything else that goes with being a mother, all in addition to showing up at the office to do my (monetarily paid) job there.

Does that make me a better mom than Ann Romney? Does the fact that Ann Romney stayed home make her a better mom than me? Does it mean that one of us worked harder than the other?

Absolutely not, to all three counts.

Big Sis E is a stay-at-home mom. She’s raising my two nieces, shuttles everyone to their activities, maintains her household’s crazy schedules, keeps her (much larger than my) home spotless and running seamlessly, volunteers for multiple committees, and is insanely busy. And after spending a week witnessing her frenetic life, I wouldn’t trade places with her for all the money in the world.

But it still doesn’t mean she’s a better mom than I am, or that I’m a better mom than she is. We both just do the best we can with what we’ve got.

Here’s the bottom line: Ann Romney never earned a paycheck once she became a mother. It wasn’t because she wasn’t capable; it was because she didn’t have to. She had the luxury that many women don’t: the luxury of being married to a high-earner who could financially support the entire family. Was it hard work? Absolutely. I don’t think anyone would dispute that.

But this political ad, sponsored by a joke of a group called Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, doesn’t paint that entire picture. Instead, it relies on a single sound bite to make it sound as though the entire Democratic Party has something against stay-at-home moms. That’s not the case at all. The argument was based on the fact that certain benefits – for mothers, in particular – are on the line. Mothers with young children who are unable to afford adequate daycare would no longer be eligible for welfare programs because they would be expected to work. (And by “work”, they don’t mean raising your children. That only counts as work if you’re a stay-at-home mom by choice.) But if you can’t afford daycare, then you can’t earn a paycheck.

You know who’s really up in arms about the Ann Romney comment? Stay-at-home moms with husbands who are able to financially support the entire family and unwilling and/or unable to understand what life may be like for women on the other side of the tracks. So, really, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee really ought to change their name to Concerned Wealthy Women for America Legislative Action Committee. Or better yet, Concerned Spouses of Wealthy Husbands for America Legislative Action Committee.

Because if you were really concerned about how all women – both rich and poor – were being treated, you’d listen to more than just the soundbites and think of more than just yourself.

Oh, and PS – If you’re really into soundbites and don’t have time for much more, here’s one from Ann Romney herself at an event earlier this week in Connecticut:

“I love the fact that there are also women out there that don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids.”

Yes, because we paycheck moms are really just a funny little novelty.

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9 thoughts on “The “War on Women” is NOT against Stay-at-Home Moms

    • Thanks for the affirmation!

      I don’t often like voicing my opinions, but I like examining both sides of an argument before I do. I also don’t like it when I feel people are preaching to me, so I don’t like to stand up on my soapbox very often because I don’t want others to feel that way about my words.

  1. Interesting.

    I’ve been irritated for a while now about the back-and-forth arguing about stay-at-home-moms vs. working moms. I guess I don’t know why there is a “vs.” at all, really.

    I feel so compelled to start fighting — really hard — so that this country will adopt better standards for women in general. I’d like to see better childcare leave. FMLA sucks. And, without a better standard for leave for adoptive parents and fathers, we all continue to lose.

    We also need better options and fighting for early childhood education, women’s workplace equity, breastfeeding acceptance (though I, myself, chose not to breastfeed which should also be okay), healthcare, and women’s advocacy (particularly in cases of victimization).

    Thanks for this post.

    • This whole motherhood debate has been raging for years, at least since I was a child. I firmly believe that the women’s rights movement has been the worst thing for motherhood. It sounds terrible, but it’s true. Women demanded equal rights: equal pay, equal opportunities, equal everything. But women and men really aren’t equal, at least in the mind of our largely patriarchal society. Childbearing can only be done by women; raising children is a task largely relegated to women; keeping a home neat, orderly, and running efficiently is the job of women. Do you know that the majority of male CEOs of top companies are married men with children, but few female CEOs have children of their own?

      I wholly agree that something needs to be done to fix parental rights. It’s not just for women; fathers play integral roles in child development, too. But women, especially poor, under-educated (and usually single) women, suffer the most when daycare is too costly and early education programs are inadequate. (There’s a reason The Boy goes to a private school.)

      I may join you in your efforts to begin a campaign to get changes made to the existing laws. My only fear is that these efforts may be in vain, as our legislative body has proven unable to collaborate on any measures designed to help average Americans instead of the corporations they slave for.

  2. Very well said. Have you ever noticed that stay at home moms always wonder how working moms can manage, and working moms wonder how stay at home moms can handle everything 24 hours a day. It is never the mom vs. mom battle. It is always someone else (namely a politician who probably has never had to wrestle a kid while changing a dirty diaper) interjecting their opinions, assuming there is some war waged between the two, when in reality, all of the moms I know have a big respect for one another. Because, as you said, we do the best we can with what we are given.

    • I’ve actually had a mother speak disdainfully to me when I was still pregnant with The Boy. I explained that I was planning to return to work almost immediately (I had been at my company for less than a year and was not eligible for FMLA, anyway) and was pleased with a daycare center Cute Husband and I had toured. She, a mother of two elementary school-aged girls, told me I would regret this decision, that I would miss every milestone, that my son would grow up defiant with learning problems because I did not take the first few years of his life to reduce my hours to a part-time schedule or quit work altogether to stay at home with him.

      Clearly, she was wrong on all counts. (Well, unless you consider his tremendous academic progress at school to be learning problems.)

      Her comeuppance came a few years later when she delivered her third child and returned to work full-time after a 12-week leave. A part of me wanted so badly to throw her own words back at her, but I chose to be the bigger person and not say a word.

      But I still thought it.

      • That is unreal. I had to go back to work at 6 weeks with my first child. Honestly, I think she got MORE attention at the day care, the women there cared so much for her, held her all day long. She had no problems being there (with the exception of a few runny noses of course). I seriously think there is great merit in working for many people, me included. I’m a better mom when I work, the balance is crucial to me. Some people are better off staying home. It is what works for you at that time, and as you say, circumstances and needs change dramatically from one year to the next. People shouldn’t judge.
        (And, learning problems?!?!?…my two year old can count to 20 and lord knows I didn’t think to teach her that! day care did! lol).

    • Sadly, I think there are still some women who look down at other women who made different choices than they did. This is on both sides; it’s not just paycheck moms looking down at at-home moms or vice versa.

      The real war is not on stay-at-home moms or paycheck moms, but on the lower economic class women who are usually under-educated single moms. How can they be expected to hold a job if they can’t find adequate child care? And if they are lucky enough to find adequate care, how can they be expected to afford it on a minimum wage job? After all, not everyone lives in multigenerational households in the United States. Our elderly have their own share of issues with cuts in Medicate and the slow demise of Social Security.

      I’m glad Ann Romney loves that there are women who have to work and still need to take care of the kids. How about giving the least economically advantaged of these the ability to do just that?

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