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.

Unequal policies hurt families. Unequal wages for women add up to huge hits on families. For example, the typical woman loses a whopping $431,000 in pay over a 40-year career.

Women still earn just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men doing the same work, despite the passage of the Pay Equity Act more than 50 years ago. Even the landmark Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill President Barack Obama signed, was still opposed almost unanimously by Republicans — including many now involved with the Romney campaign.

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.