“When it comes to the Mommy Wars, the only thing that’s more predictable than overwrought emotion and disingenuous indignation is the fact that everyone always misses the point: it’s all about the money, honey…
“Whether you’re a father with a stay-at-home wife, a working mother with a partner, or a single mother on her own, the buck stops with you if you’re providing the primary financial support for your family—and that responsibility is often terrifying. We all have our wide-awake-at-3-in-the-morning nights, and no doubt Mrs. Romney has endured her share. But her worries, however grave, have never included the ability to feed her kids or keep a roof over their heads — and those are problems that regularly torture countless American women.”
“You’d have to be a monster to deny that Ann Romney has had a rough time of it these last few years. Breast cancer and multiple sclerosis? We should obviously sympathize and send her well wishes. But nothing about that should prevent us from also looking honestly at her background and asking how representative a symbol of twenty-first century American womanhood she is. Liberals shouldn’t sneer at the fact that she never held a job outside the home (if only Hilary Rosen had phrased it in the clinical, social science-y way I just did, this ‘controversy’ probably never would have erupted!). But conservatives have no business pretending that she represents anything beyond what she in fact is, which is a woman who was born to fantastic privilege and who married into even more fantastic privilege, and who simply hasn’t had to make the hard choices that many women have to make. She turns out not even to represent stay-at-home moms very well at all, and if Republicans think this little fracas is rallying stay-at-home moms to their reactionary cause, they’re deluding themselves…
“The Census Bureau studied this question for the first time (?!) in 2007, and the results were, to me, totally surprising and fascinating. Stay-at-home mothers, you probably think, are more likely to be white, well-off, proper, all-around June Cleaver-ish. Uh, June Cleaver was around 50 years ago and lived on TV. In today’s actual America, stay-at-home moms are more likely to be: younger; Hispanic (Latina, if you prefer); foreign-born; less well educated. About one-quarter of married mothers of children under 15 didn’t work outside the home, the bureau found; and fully 19 percent of that one-quarter had less than a high-school degree, while that was true of just 8 percent of working mothers. This suggests pretty clearly that a significant number of women who stay at home don’t do so by choice, but because they don’t have marketable skills—or because they can’t get jobs that pay enough to cover the cost of childcare.”
“Why did Democrats feel such an urgent need to distance themselves from a comment that was 1) accurate — Romney doesn’t exactly have much in common with the 75% of women who now work for a living — and 2) frankly inoffensive? (I happen to agree with the Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus that Rosen’s only real fault, in the Anderson Cooper exchange, lay in forgetting to use the politically correct phrase ‘work outside the home’ instead of the politically toxic word work to describe the remunerative activity Romney didn’t have to engage in.)
“That the Democrats felt such a need to throw Rosen under a bus suggests to me that they, like the Romney campaign itself, are guilty both of knee-jerk cynicism in regards to female voters and of being out of touch. We all know, on the one hand, that there’s a certain portion of the population that feels not just left behind but generally dissed by what they identify as the evolution of attitudes and mores in our era: they’re the Sarah Palin constituency. But these conservative women were never going to vote for Obama anyway. If you widen your sights beyond them, the larger truth about American women (and men) reveals that the deep-seated attitudinal divisions that once underlay our great national drama over women’s roles, and over working motherhood in particular, are now largely a thing of the past.”
“When Ann Romney’s husband, who faces a gender gap in some polls, uses her experience and insight as a megaphone for women’s concern over fewer paid jobs, he mistakenly assumes that all women are fungible. Which was, I take it, Rosen’s original point.
“Although Ann Romney may be a fine spokesperson on some issues, the dirty little secret of angling for female votes is that while all women’s work, inside or outside the home, has the same worth, as Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush sweetly expressed, all women do not have the same interests. Women who work in the home do not have the same interest in the recovery of the formal job market as women who have to work for pay. Indeed, wage-earning women probably have more in common with their paycheck-dependent male co-workers on the subject of economic recovery than with household laborers such as Ann Romney…
“Women whose work consists of caring for their households and children don’t need to worry about being paid less than their male counterparts. First, they aren’t paid at all, in any formal sense, and second, unless their husbands take a male spouse alongside them — an unlikely social development — they won’t confront sex discrimination at their workplace. Actually, Romney himself, a proud member of the capitalist economy and of a religious minority with a history of discrimination, has more in common with female workers than his wife does in discouraging arbitrary workplace discrimination. Ann Romney huffily reminded her husband’s detractors that some of his best employees have been women. But they were his employees; why is he using his wife to get that message out?”
“Roughly 73 percent of American moms are now working. It’s not only how our families work, it is how our economy works. Two-thirds of American families rely on women as breadwinners or co-breadwinners. In fact, most American kids’ economic survival depends on a woman in the work force…
“Lost in this retro war of words is the fact that most mothers today work hard to take care of their children and at the same time, they have to work hard to earn a living elsewhere. Conservatives and progressives can debate the merits of whether that is a good idea — but it’s the reality in which most American families live…
“I agree with Ann Romney that ‘we need to respect choices that women make.’ But for many moms, the economic reality of their lives doesn’t leave a lot of ‘choices.’ It leaves a lot of hard decisions about how many hours a day they can spend with their children and how many hours of sleep they can miss to provide for them.”
“Rosen was forced to apologize, but she really shouldn’t have. Being a mom (stay-at-home or not) is hard work for most people, but the parts of it that are hard work, figuring out how to feed, clothe, and shelter your kids, how to educate them, how to keep them safe in a dangerous world, are things that don’t exist when you’ve got $250 million in the bank. When you’ve got that kind of cheddar, even the chores associated with parenting (stay-at-home or not) cease to count as work. If you’ve got a quarter-billion in the bank and you’re still doing your own laundry, that’s a hobby.
“But absent the pressures of everyday life for the average American parent, the actual raising of children, being there for them, loving them, whether it’s full-time stay-at-home style or struggling to fit it in with a job, isn’t work. It’s a privilege, and I think most Americans (excepting the entrenched culture warriors who would vote for any Republican with a pulse), when faced with the offensive notion that Ann Romney’s struggles as a multi-hundred-millionaire mom somehow mirrors their own, will be more put-off than sympathetic.
“That’s why the President and his team’s handling of this has been so wrong-headed. President Obama cast Rosen’s remarks as an attack on Ann Romney, but it wasn’t. It was an attack on Mitt Romney for fixing his entire policy focus on women around whatever he and his ultra-privileged wife banter about while they’re trotting around on dressage horses. If he told a crowd that he was taking her policy advice on something else that she knows nothing about, say, foreign policy, no one would have any problem with this sort of critique.”
“For the last many years, I have been the single most important influence on my children. Yes, they go to school (public school, yet); and yes, they both have thriving social lives; and yes, I’ve been unable to insulate them from a Leftist pop culture that is hostile to traditional norms and to conservatives generally, but I’m still the most important person. Of all the influences in their lives, I am the one who is most present, most consistent, and most trusted. I’m sure they’ll pull away as they get older, and they may even rebel, but I’ll still be that little voice in their brain, imparting facts, values, and analyses.
“I am the counterweight to the state. Therefore, I am dangerous. I am subversive simply by existing. My love for my children is a dominant force that works its way into their psyches and that trumps the state-run schools and the state complicit media world. Some mothers, of course, are entirely in sync with schools and media. They happily reinforce the statist message. But those of us who don’t are a powerful anti-statist force and we must be challenged.
“The Left’s problem with Ann Romney transcends her husband’s wealth, her (and his) Republican identification, and her decision to work for her children, rather than for a paying employer. The Left’s problem with Ann Romney is that she represents the triumph of the individual.”
“But what she meant to say, I think, was that Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work. No one’s denying that being a mother is a tough job. I remember I was a handful. But, you know, there is a big difference between being a mother, and that tough job, and getting your ass out of the door at 7 a.m. when it’s cold, having to deal with the boss, being in a workplace, where even if you’re unhappy you can’t show it for eight hours. That is kind of a different kind of tough thing.”