Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mitt Romney on Working Mothers

(Stay-at-Home Working Mothers, part II)

OK, I can't believe I am even doing this, but I think I am about to defend a Republican.


In my last post, I commented on Hilary Rosen's statement on Ann Romney who apparently "never worked a day in her life." Two parts of this statement got my panties in a bunch.

1) Raising kids is work. No way around it. Homemaker is a noble challenging profession worth defending.

2) It is unwise to dismiss opinion simply in response to a personal attack. Words should be judged based on their content.

Dismissing someone's opinion on economic issues because they were born privileged is like dismissing someone's opinion on birth control because they are gay, or dismissing someone's opinion of estate tax because they are poor.

Hilary Rosen ignored the content of Ann Romney’s advice to her husband (e.g., “what women really care about are economic issues”) and attributed negative traits to Ann Romney instead (e.g., she “never worked a day in her life”). Ad hominem attacks like this tend to be effective because as humans we like to believe that people are either all good or all bad. Give us one bad trait and we’ll assume you’re talking about one entirely bad apple, and we’ll forget all about her originally-reported opinion, which is that women care about the economy. A reasonable claim indeed.

That being said, the blog received many comments from readers about Mitt Romney’s statements on working mothers. Here’s what Mitt said:

“Even if you have a child two 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.”

According to a 2006 Congressional Research Service report, activities that fulfill the work requirement in this instance include training, job searching, community service, vocational educational training, and provision of child care to a participant of a community service program. It seems like this is designed to support parents to enter the workforce in an empowered way. That seems like a step towards dignity to me.

The decision of whether you should work outside the home is a difficult one, wrought with compromise. Lower, middle, and even upper middle class people need to weigh all factors and decide for themselves and their families what works best. Most of us make big sacrifices to stay at home, financially and professionally. Some people choose a career path that makes it easier for them to be available to their children. For example, teachers can be on the same schedule as their kids, or a night shift might allow more flexibility raising a family). We all compromise and sacrifice.

Thinking the government has a responsibility to let every parent stay home to raise their child is not entirely logical. It makes sense for the government to do what our tribal ancestors have done for thousands of years: Leave the care of the children to a few - the daycare teachers - while the parents join the workforce and contribute to the worth of the whole tribe. It makes economic sense to have welfare reform that incentivizes citizens to break the cycle of poverty, and I think there is dignity in that. It encourages personal responsibility and I am a big fan of that.

There have been times in my life when I’ve struggled as a single mother to support myself and my kids, and it is difficult and scary. Supporting parents while they work or perform community service or get more training to be a strong employee is a good plan. I’ll take a leg-up over a handout any day.

As someone who has always considered myself to be an ├╝ber-liberal, I am as surprised as you are that I am going to bat for Mitt Romney. Seriously, we all may wake up tomorrow to frogs raining down upon us. But, dismissing someone’s idea because they are from the wrong party makes as much sense as dismissing someone because they have never worked outside the home.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stay-at-home Working Mothers


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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