Let’s Be Conscientious Objectors in Mommy Wars

The latest gaffe that Ann Romney 'never worked a day in her life' is mostly fodder for cable news shows trying to fill airtime.

Whenever another skirmish breaks out in The Mommy Wars, you can almost hear the national pundits licking their lips and yelling “Cat fight!” with gusto.

The latest heat-seeking missile came from Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. In trying to paint the very wealthy Mitt Romney and his wife Ann as out of touch with most Americans, she said that Mrs. Romney – who raised five sons -- “never worked a day in her life.”

It was a stupid thing to say and Rosen later apologized but by then the 24-hour cable news cycle was in full churn. I see these tussles in The Mommy Wars as sort of a full-employment program for those of us in the commentariat. Thank God for gaffes or I’d probably be revisiting my old foe, high-stakes standardized testing, this week.  

But here’s the thing: Left to our own devices, women who work outside the home and full-time homemakers get along pretty well. We carpool and feed each other’s kids and sit together in the bleachers at our children’s games.  Most of the moms I know who don’t have paying jobs do important volunteer work in the community – for which the rest of society should be very grateful. 

Despite flare-ups from The Mommy Wars, most actual mothers have some appreciation for the others’ lot. Perhaps that’s because at some time or another, we’ve all been on the other side. If you took any maternity leave when your kids were little or have them on nights and weekends, you know that being a full-time caregiver can be exhausting, frustrating and even depressing at times.

If you’ve held an outside job at any point while your children were growing up, you know how stressful it can be to try to do it all and that inevitably you will drop the ball sometimes.

I always felt like I had the best of both worlds. When my kids were younger I worked part-time at night and was their primary caregiver during the day. Three nights a week I went to a job, which was vital to our family finances but also meant I got to do work I loved. Almost as important, I got to talk to funny, smart colleagues and eat my dinner while it was still hot. My job helped keep me (relatively) sane.

My husband took over care of our boys those three nights and it was good for all of them to have to fend for themselves.

Some families need two full-time bread-earners to stay afloat. And some women just love their work and feel like they’d lose their mind if they were home all day with kids.

Women shouldn’t have to apologize for that. Men are admired for supporting their families, loving their jobs and doing work they believe in. No one questions the right of, say, a state legislator or congressman to work full time – and longer – because they believe in their causes and want to serve. (Though it should be said that their families do come in handy when politicians decide to resign, especially under questionable circumstances. If I had a nickel for every time a pol said he was leaving office to spend more time with his family, I’d be vacationing in New Zealand this summer.)

So while I love a good kerfuffle as much as the next columnist, I think the actual rank-and-file troops in this “war” spend too much time fraternizing with the enemy to take the bait and weigh in with outrage. Unlike the talking heads, we’re willing to give peace a chance. 

Mary Anne Looby April 19, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Joel, please don't patronize. Margie would suffice.
Margie Peterson April 19, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Thank you, Ellen, for the kind words. Arthur, the Romneys might have had the money to hired hot-and-cold running nannies and maids to take care of the children and the house. But unless Hilary Rosen lived with the Romneys for the 20 plus years they were raising five boys, she doesn't know how much Ann Romney did to raise them. Rosen can feel free to point out that Mrs. Romney hasn't experienced the financial struggles and uncertainities of the poor and middle-class but her gaffe was just red meat to the Culture Warriors. As Wilfredo suggests, no one would ever say that a daycare worker or a housecleaner or a chef "never worked a day in her life" but those are some of the jobs stay-at-home moms do everyday. I understand what Rosen meant but I think the ensuing controversy just distracts from real issues.
Garrett Rhoads April 20, 2012 at 04:04 AM
This was an excellent article as both sides of the political arena try to make hay of this issue. I think that the whole "War on women" tagline was a terrible initiative from either side of the aisle. Whether or not a woman (or man) decides to stay at home to care for their children is a personal decision and should not matter in politics. My wife chose to stay at home when we started a family. I have a male cousin who stays at home to raise his daughter while his wife continues her career as a mathematics professor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. I believe Ms. Rosen was set up by the DNC to run this issue up the flagpole and is now being rolled under the bus by the sitting administration. Cohesive family units are the basis for a fully functional community and I don't think that political ideology should matter when it comes to raising our children.
mary cairns April 20, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Stumbled upon your brilliant article, thank you. I too have been on both sides while raising children and appreciate the insights. While I was able to stay home and raise three children, I often thought of mothers who worked outside the home and especially those for whom it was not a choice. I respected and tried to help when I could. On the other hand, I also worked fulltime at one point but did not ever feel like my peers at home were not working too. Same story, different crew. We all need to judge less and help each other and the media needs to stop stoking the embers.
Garrett Rhoads April 20, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Amen Mary. I agree completely. It is high time for all citizens to rise above media hype and cooperate with each other for a better society.


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