Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stay-at-home Working Mothers

KarenDoesItAll2

Oh no she DI’INT!

"What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, 'Well, you know my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues and when I listen to my wife that's what I'm hearing.' Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and why do we worry about their future."

- Hilary Rosen, 11 April 2012

Oh, yes, she did.

Strategist and CNN political analyst Hilary Rosen said Presidential first-wife hopeful Ann Romney, homemaker and mother of five boys, was out of touch with the economic issues a majority of women face (e.g., feeding kids, sending them to school, and worrying about their future) because she "never worked a day in her life." This is like asking an overweight woman when she is due, or informing a Mom or Dad that their child appears to have been hit repeatedly with the ugly stick - you just don't do it no matter how loud the screaming in your head is.

You never, ever, suggest a stay-at-home mom is not “really working”. It is inflammatory, infuriating, and just plain wrong. Ann Romney raised five boys - not for the faint of heart, I tell you. And, I don't care if the woman had 50 nannies and a housekeeper. The job of holding all of those lives in your heart is huge and definitely full-time. The person who says homemakers have it easy is the person who has never been a homemaker. In fact, homemaker in itself is a valid and noble occupation – adding kids into the mix makes you a working mother.

We are all working mothers, we are all women who love our families and spend all of our time and energy loving and caring for them. Just assume this to be true before you speculate about how easy someone else has it.

I have been a stay-at-home mom for 14 years and I am suffering from a severe case of working-mother-envy. I daydream about coffee breaks and two hour meetings with adults. I lie in bed at night imagining all the smart, hip outfits I would wear to my job. I check out Monster.com and think "Yeah, I could do that." I know the reality of the situation is that I would get a job and a new wardrobe and sit down at my desk with my cup of coffee and have no idea what to do with myself without at least 3 people vying for my attention at any given moment, and that I would be reduced to tears the first time I had to miss an assembly at my kid's school. 

The grass is not always greener on the other side - it is burnt and brown on both sides. There is no way to have it all. Being a mom or dad is hard because we are so invested in these little young lives that depend on us, so overwhelmed by the importance. No matter what we do, it will never be enough. If we work, we are forever torn about not spending time with our young ones. If we stay home we yearn to contribute more, we strive to always set good examples for our kids, and we worry that unthinking political analysts will dismiss us because we don't work, and therefore we don't matter.

But I’m here to tell you, stay-at-home moms and dads: we do matter.

There is no right or wrong answer in the "Working Mommy Wars" - but there are people who raise their children confidently and make no apologies for it, and it seems Ann Romney is one of those people. And I think that’s good. Don't let anyone pressure you into doing something because it meets their definition of success. 

If Mitt Romney is elected, Ann will be the only First Lady born this century to not have worked outside the home. It’s likely she’ll receive criticism for this and people may immediately dismiss her as being out-of-touch, but I say let's judge people on the content of their opinions and not the status of their resume. The woman is on the front lines of family life in America; we could listen to what she has to say. 

Maybe, and I am just throwing this out there, political analysts should analyze politics and withhold opinions on how people should raise their families. Maybe, just maybe, the qualifications you have as an analyst do not apply to criticizing choices women make. And maybe - now this is a radical one - if we are really interested in making this world better for women, we will trust in their wisdom to make personal choices and not belittle them for it (this actually applies to many current issues, but we will stick to parenting here). 

Believe me, the image people have of stay-at-home moms sitting around eating bonbons and watching their soap operas is as ridiculous as my fantasy of working in an office where we all just sit around eating a co-worker’s birthday cake and talking about Kim Kardashian's highlights.

Dismissing a stay-at-home parent's opinion because he or she does not work limits options in the same way that saying “women should not be allowed in the workforce” does. Empowerment is all about expanding options, and that’s where we need to be.

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8 comments:

  1. Seriously?

    That's not what Hillary Rosen said at all. She said that Ann Romney does not understand the concerns of the vast majority of women because she hasn't worked a day in her life. And she hasn't. Raising five kids with multiple nannies isn't work, sorry. That's a hobby. Raising five kids without nannies - that's work.

    Hillary Rosen said that Ann Romney doesn't understand the economic choices women have to make. And Hillary Rosen is right. And what economic choices do women have to make? Well here's Mitt Romney on the ones he wants them to make:


    “I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”

    So there you go. Stay-at-home moms with two year olds should get jobs outside the home so they can have the dignity of work. Do you agree with that? Do you agree with Hillary Rosen that Ann Romney has never had to choose between losing welfare benefits and staying home with her kids or putting her 2 year old in day care while she takes a low wage job?

    Hillary Rosen was talking about *Ann Romney's* experience - experience Mitt Romney claimed he was consulting. Mitt Romney is talking about taking away choice.

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    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. To improve clarity I've updated the blog to include Hilary Rosen's quote.

      You ask "Stay-at-home moms with two year olds should get jobs outside the home so they can have the dignity of work. Do you agree with that?" Yes, I do. If a citizen is receiving aid from the state, then the state has a say in defining the constraints of how that aid can be received. It's a partnership between the individual and their government. But I also want to make it absolutely clear that stay-at-home moms and dads with two-year-olds who are NOT receiving welfare should make a choice that is right for them.

      But... to be clear, it doesn't matter if Ann Romney had 100 nannies or not - though I am sure when she had her first baby in 1970 and lived in a $75-a-month basement apartment, she did not really have a slew of help - what matters is that we don't dismiss or invalidate her opinion - anyone's opinion - because of what we think their experiences may or may not be. Most of the time we have no idea what people's stories really are. Hilary Rosen dismissed and devalued Ann Romney's opinion on economic issues because she never worked. That's as ridiculous as saying Hilary Rosen has no valid opinion on birth control because she's a lesbian and has therefore has never had to worry about an accidental pregnancy. It's dangerous to dismiss opinions based on a small shadow of information (e.g., "she's never worked", "she's a lesbian", etc.).

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  2. So I again point out Mitt Romney's comment - keeping in mind that he has said that he gets his advice on women's economic issues from Ann Romney:

    “I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”

    That statement not only says something about the conditions on getting aid. That statement is saying that women who stay at home and raise their kids are not doing work:

    "even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work."

    "It’ll cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work."

    Mitt Romney wants women who have two year olds at home to have the dignity of work. Clearly without a job, they lack that dignity.

    It's fine if you agree with that, but be clear about what Romney said there. And has said elsewhere. And what Republicans have been saying for decades.

    In addition I assume you feel that stay at home mothers do valuable work. If it's valuable work, why shouldn't a stay at home mother or father on welfare stay at home? As Mitt Romney says above it would cost the gov't *more* to send a child to day care while the now not-stay-at-home parent goes to dignity endowing job. So it's not a financial reason.

    What's the reason?

    I think Mitt Romney's opinions on the economic decisions parents face is utterly detached from reality. And he says he gets his insights on the concerns of women from his wife. And for that reason I think Hillary Rosen was spot on to say, "His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and why do we worry about their future."

    As an aside, the $75 basement apartment was in Provo, Utah in 1970. You can get a 1,000sq ft apartment in Provo in 2012 for under $300. Just based on inflation, $75 in 1970 is just over $400 in 2012. Let's not fall for resume padding.

    http://www.apartmentguide.com/apartments/Utah/Provo/The-Branbury--Student-Housing/50435/

    Caring for horses and raising kids with nannies and caring for multiple homes and managing the building of a personal car elevator - sure, it's kind of like work. But if it gets frustrating or if a good social event pops up or if hubby needs you to make a speech to make him seem like a human, you can hand it off to the professionals and do that. She's not choosing between dinner and the rent. She's not making a host of hard choices - and she's certainly not laying awake at night wondering how to pay the bills.

    From what I've read on your blog (I think I got here due to the penis story? sorry. :) ), you work hard. My mom and my dad's mom worked outside the home, but they worked hard in and outside the home. My mom's mom lived on a farm - so home was work and work was home. I'm sure there were days she milked cows, fed geese, baked bread and made butter - all before the sun rose. And in spite of working hard she had to give one of her children to a relative to raise.

    That's work. That's hard choices in the face of stark economic reality. Ann Romney has never made such choices. But she's apparently completely comfortable advising her husband to dictate choices to actual working stay-at-home mothers.

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    1. Kevin does have lots of great points - I totally agree with both Kevin and I.

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  3. Love your blog, think it's great....and I hear your point.

    However, I think Kevin makes some very valid points and I personally don't really think Ann Romney should be consulted about economic issues either - she has not a clue about the current *workforce* or the struggles in which millions face just having to afford rent. That's not to say she hasn't done a lovely job raising her boys with her staff! Good for her that she has done the hardest job on earth (being a parent)...but I really think the whole thing needs to be put in context. She is part of the 1% and I personally, don't think we need anymore 1%ers weighing in on the economic struggles of the middle class. 3 words...OUT OF TOUCH.

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  4. Kevin does have lots of great points - I totally agree with both Kevin and I.

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  5. I have been in both jobs...stay at home mom and work out of the home mom...the one thing that is the same is the amount of emotional energy I put into being present for my children. It was a difficult decision I didn't take lightly, but for me, staying at home did not fulfill all of what I needed for myself. I have mad respect for those parents that can be at home with their kiddos and have the "dignity of work" as well as those of us parents who feel a calling to work outside the home and have the "dignity of work".

    I agree with Amy in that I doubt Ann can remember what it is like to struggle. I mean REALLY struggle, it's hard for me in the "middle class" to know what real struggle is. I think working in the profession I do helps to put these things into perspective a little...

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  6. Great post, and I absolutely love your blog! I do have to say that I totally agree with the previous comments by Heidi, Amy, and especially Kevin. I both agree with and greatly appreciate your defense on the importance of the job of stay at home motherhood, or fatherhood, no matter the economic status. However, I don't think Ann should be dispensing advice about the economic hardships of the majority of stay-at-home parents either.

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