I don’t usually do opinion pieces on this blog, for a variety of reasons.
Nevertheless. When one begins to fear that a significant percentage of the populace has lost their ever-loving minds, one feels obliged to speak up.
In the byte heard ‘round the world on Wednesday, Hilary Rosen, a democratic “strategist” who was being interviewed by Anderson Cooper, stated that Ann Romney, the wife of one of the wealthy politicians lobbying for the Republican presidential nomination (a woman who happens to be the mother of five children), had “actually never worked a day in her life.”
It should go without saying that this statement is an absurd lie, and deserves scorn (Hilary herself does not deserve scorn – by all accounts she is a lovely, smart person who said a stupid thing.) It should go without saying that any woman who bears the title of “Mother” works roughly 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Some mothers spend 40 of those hours away from their children, and are paid for that time.
Some of us stay with our children for all 84 of those hours (at least until the children are in school – mine aren’t, yet), and are not paid a dime.
That we are all working, for all of those hours, should go without saying – but sadly, it doesn’t. Because shortly after Rosen’s statement blew up the internet, even as virtually every Democratic leader in the country was scurrying to condemn it, I started reading through dozens of comments left on a NYT article about it. The comments were left by Mothers who get paid outside the home. And the comments were outrageous.
“Well, she’s right, you know…mothering is hard, but it’s not a ‘real’ job.” (This was one. There were many more like it.)
Here’s my story: I had a “real” job, for nearly 17 years. I made a lot of money. I was good at that job, and enjoyed it immensely. Many coworkers, over the years, thought our occupation was extremely stressful, but I never found it hard – I genuinely loved it. I thrived on it. My brain was hard-wired to do that kind of work.
But I wanted to be a full-time Mom, when my sons were born, for their sakes. My husband and I felt like it was the best thing for them.
Mothering has been the hardest, most exhausting work I’ve ever done in my entire life. It has been nearly six years now, and I’ve had exactly one full day off. We don’t have any family help, and we haven’t had the money to hire help – unlike Ann Romney…and Michelle Obama…and Hilary Rosen.
Some people, mostly people who do NOT want to see Mitt Romney elected President (for the record: I don’t, either), are trying to defend Rosen’s comments. “She’s just making a statement about how Ann Romney (and by extension, presumably, Mitt) doesn’t understand the hardships of working-class people.”
That’s bogus (like the excuses offered by people who tried to explain away Mel Gibson’s anti-semitic rants because they liked his movies). Here is Hilary’s exact quote.
“With respect to economic issues, I think actually that Mitt Romney is right, that ultimately women care more about the economic well-being of their families and the like. But he doesn’t connect on that issue either. 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.
So I think that, yes, it’s about these positions and yes, I think there will be a war of words about the positions. But there’s something much more fundamental about Mitt Romney. He just seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women and I think that comes across and I think that that’s going to hurt him over the long term. He just doesn’t really see us as equal.”
Here’s a bit of information: Hilary Rosen is no more in my tax bracket than Ann Romney or Michelle Obama are. She is the managing director of one of the most influential political consulting firms in the country. Before that, she was chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America for 17 years.
If her point was that rich women are so out-of-touch with the problems of common women that they should not be allowed to speak out on their behalf, about issues that are important to them, then guess what? Hilary would have silenced her own self.
Do you see the breakdown in logic, there?
But that’s not what she was saying. She was saying the same thing that the “working” mothers on all those message boards were saying:
Being a full-time mom is not a “real” job. A full-time mother of FIVE has never actually worked a day in her life. (Semantics tip: the word “actually” is where the scorn is revealed.) And that full-time mother is not qualified to speak up about complicated policy issues…unlike that (also wealthy) professional career woman, Hilary Rosen.
I hate to break it to Ms. Rosen, but some of us full-time moms are actually quite smart. Some of us would actually stack our college test scores up against hers, any day. Some of us actually sneak physics and economics books into story time at the library, because we crave information, and are curious about the world.
And all of us ACTUALLY work. Damn hard. Some of us actually find this work to be much harder than paid career work, because our brains are wired for ideas and calculations, not for cleaning and crafts.
For all mothers, “working” or “full-time,” there are aspects of our jobs that are very hard. For this full-time mom, it is hard to not have money to go on vacations, or dates. It is hard for me to not have an intellectual outlet, or stimulation, or adult conversations, during the day. It is hard to do the same, sometimes tedious things all day, every day, with no variation.
“Working” moms have their own set of hardships. And I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.
By the way, I keep reading over and over about how some people don’t have the “luxury of staying home with their kids.” There are no luxuries in my life. We are pinching every penny. The only reason we are able to exist on one salary is because we put money in the bank before our babies were born, paid off our (older) cars, and moved into a smaller house close to my husband’s work, so he could come home for lunch every day. There have been months where we could barely pay the bills. Staying home with my kids is the biggest privilege of my life, but it is NOT a luxury. It’s a choice that we planned for, and that we continually sacrifice because of.
Well, I say there are no luxuries in my life, but that’s not exactly true. And the following brings this whole thing back down to earth.
A friend of mine from grade school has a little niece, named Ashlee. She’s three years old, and in the last few months, she’s gone from a healthy, smiling girl with long hair to a wasted, bald shell. She is dying of an insidious cancer, and she is tired of fighting – she’s told her mother that she’s ready to go to Heaven.
My boys pray for her every night. My boys, with their filled-out arms and rounded bellies, and their full heads of hair (even if it does stick up every morning, scarecrow-ish.) For now, my boys are supremely healthy.
And that is a luxury. Something I didn’t make happen, something I had nothing to do with – a fragile gift.
That’s the most important thing in my universe; and I believe that’s something that all of us working mothers can agree on, whether we get a paycheck or not. It’s what brought me down to earth last night, when I went to bed still fuming over the ignorance of Rosen’s remarks.
I hate to end so abruptly, but I’ve got to go make waffles for the boys, who just woke up.
My work day begins.