Did you hear the one about the stay-at-home mother who was outraged that a working-outside-the-home mother denigrated her choice? Or the one where the working-outside-the-home mother felt put down by the stay-at-home mother, who implied, again, that she wasn’t “raising her children”? Surely you have. They’ve been sniping at one another for decades.
Or have they?
The so-called Mommy Wars are aflame once again, making me tired, dispirited, angry and unhappy. But I don’t think that it’s the actual moms on the ground, so to speak, who are at war. Even if we had those feelings, and I’m sure many of us do, myself included, they are temporary annoyances to add to the pile of much larger issues we face every day.
Now, I don’t want to use this blog to hammer anyone about politics, and I keep my own politics to myself (well, mostly). But the latest drumming-up of the Mommy Wars happened over politics, specifically the presidential race. Apparently, it’s that point in the contest when The Women get involved. To wit: Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, on a CNN talk show the other night, made some commentary about how it was disingenuous of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to defer to his wife, Ann, on “what women are worried about.” Romney, according to Rosen, is out of touch with real economic struggles of American families, and looks even more out of touch when he says that he gets his intel on what American women are concerned over from his wife, Ann.
Rosen — again, a Democratic strategist — pointed out the irony of a very wealthy man referring to his very wealthy wife as his source of on-the-ground info about women’s economic concerns. And she made the classic Mommy-War-stoking mistake, saying that Mrs. Romney, “…has never worked a day in her life.”
Ruh-roh. Firestorm time, with repudiations, trumped up outrage, tepid apologies, Twitter hashtags, spokespeople uttering canned responses, female anchors in sleeveless jewel-toned dresses on the cable news shows flipping their highlighted hair and wondering (with ill-disguised glee) how the Obama Administration or the Romney campaign was going to address this obviously Very Big Issue.
Here’s a radical thought: Rosen and Romney are both mothers. Could it be they are both saying what they are expected to say, in a war they didn’t start? Could it be they don’t really want to fight, or that they both wish women could make their choices and that be that? Could it be they’d agree with, say, me in thinking that the very fact that we keep fighting over this stuff is masking the larger issue of how women don’t have such easy choices all the time? Both have made their offensive/defensive plays in the media since the “firestorm” (Here’s Rosen on the Huffington Post, and Romney talking to a Fox News anchor.)
I don’t think Rosen was saying that being a mom (in Romney’s case, of five boys, my hat is off to her on that score) is not work. She slipped up by not using the “right” or “acceptable” (in Mommy Wars parlance) phrase, which would have been “she’s never worked outside the home.” Her wording implied, working moms understand while stay at home mothers are in a bubble.
But neither do I let the “other” side off the hook, those who are calling what Rosen said a “jab against stay-at-home mothers,” when in truth it was a jab against Romney’s out-of-touch-ness. This “other” side dragged out their own familiar tropes: Motherhood is the hardest job on the planet, and why can’t people respect that some women make the choice to stay home and raise their children?
This is the part where I get tired and depressed. I’m going to say this one time: All women who have or adopt children are full-time parents. Whether mothers also, in addition to raising their children, work part time, work in a home office (as I do), work 70 hours a week as a surgeon, work 40 hours a week as a dental hygienist, work on a business start up at the kitchen table, work for the PTA, and/or work to take care of aging parents is beside the point of their role as a mother. Which gives us all much more in common than not.
I become upset and angry over the Mommy Wars because outside of the politicians and the pundits, I’m not sure it exists, or at least not with full-bore attention. I become upset and angry when it’s the politicians and their significant others and their supporters fanning the flames with their fake outrage and false apologies, because for heaven’s sake, don’t they have better things to do?
We all use the “wrong” phrases from time to time. I get my panties in a bunch whenever I hear a stay at home mother say she chose to stay home to raise her children (because I’m not doing that, too, raising my children?) or is a full-time mother (what, I’m not?). And I’m sure stay-at-home mothers are dispirited and infuriated when they hear “just” in front of “a mom”, or when it’s somehow implied that theirs is not “a job” because it’s not paid. Those are all legitimate beefs, and largely semantic, and a distraction from actual issues, and a giant waste of time and energy.
What do you think?