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.