Hilary Rosin started a fire storm when she commented that Ann Romney had not “worked” a day in her life in response to Mitts claim that Ann was his adviser on women’s issues. I got a taste of that when I commented on Facebook about that the other day. What many women heard was that a stay-at-home Mom was not work. And there was a visceral reaction for many who had to work to support their family and it was torture to leave their small children everyday. It was perceived as stay-at-home was of lessor importance in the scheme of things than working mothers. It was devaluing raising children and everybody got their dandruff up. That is not what Hilary said or meant, but I will get to that later. What I found so troubling is how what she was actually saying got completely lost in the stay-at-home Mom versus the working (has an employer) Mom false argument. It shows how emotion overwhelms rational logic and displaces it and logic and reason become powerless.
This wasn’t lost on the White House which quickly distanced themselves from Hilary’s comments. Meanwhile the Republicans were delighted because they could frame this argument around godless working Moms who devalue the family value issues of staying home to raise your kids. ”What do you mean staying home and raising children isn’t real work? It is some of the most important work a person can do.” The visceral hook was set even though this is not what Hilary meant at all. And based upon what I saw on Facebook comments, many fell for this false and alternate argument. The fact is both sides agree with the above statement. It is just that only one side shows their commitment through programs to help those mothers and kids, while the other side slashes them.
First of all being a stay-at-home Mom is not a choice many have. From a Pew Research study back in 2007 (latest data I could find) “Among working mothers with minor children (Ages 17 and under) just one in five (21%) say that full time work is the ideal situation for them,” (Pew Research Center). Meantime the number of women with children under 6 has steadily grown in the workforce (Source PBS, 61% through 2000). I love to have data after the financial collapse because my guess is the number is much higher now. I think you can say from those two statistics that economic forces are what is driving the majority of women with children to work, not choice.
My point is simply that there is no argument against stay-at-home Moms, but in today’s world, for many, especially where their husbands have lost their jobs and the wife’s job is the one with medical benefits, there is no option. That brings me back to the real argument. Mitt, “Corporations are people too” Romney, is using his wife as his adviser on women’s issues. Do we think Ann ever had to tear herself away from her children because they needed food on the table, or medical benefits? Do you think Ann has ever experienced sexism in the workplace or unequal pay for equal work? Do you think Ann ever worried about affording contraception if she could not afford another child? And oh by the way, do you think her experience as a well-to-do mother who can afford all sorts of “help” can relate to what most mother’s must struggle with to raise their children and get them the proper education?
We have two people who have lived in gated communities all their lives telling the rest of us what our experience ought to be. So when Hilary said, “She has never worked a day in her life,” she was referring to the same out of touch phenomenon that is so evident with Mitt. She wasn’t attacking stay-at-home Moms or that staying home raising your kid was hard work. She was questioning an adviser who has no real experience with the trauma of what less economically advantaged women face every day. Sadly her choice of words was poor and the Republicans (and many women, Republican or not) rushed in to reinterpret them.
This is all about the Republican War on Women, and changing the topic of the debate was misdirection at its best. Contraception is an economic choice that may make the difference between poverty, and financial security and the ability to provide for a family down the road. Staying home with your children is not economically viable for most women. It would be nice if we lived in a world where you could choose, but we don’t. And even more important for those of you all up in a hot lather about the perceived degradation of stay-at-home Moms, the Republicans are all about killing the programs that will make that possible for many women. And let’s not forget this is the same Mitt Romney and Republicans who want to see welfare mom’s get jobs. The hypocrisy here is astounding.
Hilary had a right to criticize Mitt’s choice of advisers. She just should have used a different approach to attack Ann’s lack of workplace experience, not her choice as a stay-at-home Mom (actually she didn’t, but that is what many heard based upon her choice of words). Instead, she allowed the Republicans to cloud the debate with emotion and change the subject. I am just amazed when I see intelligent people react emotionally to this argument and miss that the subject has completely changed. It was never about whether raising family is not hard work, maybe the most important work you will ever do, it was about the lack of experience raising a family in an economically challenged environment. But all that got lost in gut reactions to the words. Kind of tells you something about how important your choice of words are these days and why reason may be losing out.