About Ann Romney and motherhood

About Ann Romney and motherhood

I came to this motherhood business late, after my friends’  children were all off to college. My energy, heaven knows, is limited but my resources more plentiful than they would have been had I adopted a child twenty years ago rather than three years ago.

After a long career in the newspaper business — and months into my second career as a college professor — I’m able to afford in-home childcare, a blessed relief. My life is less harried than that of many mothers.

So I know what Democratic operative Hilary Rosen meant when she commented, dismissively, on Ann Romney’s role as a stay-at-home mother. The wife of the likely GOP presidential nominee “has actually never worked a day in her life,” Rosen said last week on CNN.

That was a dumb remark. Of course, Ann Romney has worked. She’s the mother of five sons.

(Rosen later apologized for her “poorly chosen” words, but not before her remarks had provoked a backlash that revealed more about the nation’s continuing cultural divide than anything Rosen, who is openly gay and a mother of two, said. Catholic League president Bill Donohue, for example, tweeted dismissively about Rosen’s status as an adoptive mother. I would demand his apology, but I’m too busy trying to finish this column before my 3-year-old storms into the room.)

But Romney nevertheless had a huge advantage over mothers with less money: she could hire help. She could engage babysitters, nannies, cooks and housecleaners.

That doesn’t mean she didn’t find her days filled with managing schedules, overseeing homework, buying new sneakers and, yes, even wiping snotty noses. With five kids, she probably never had enough help around to avoid that duty.

Still, Romney’s experience of motherhood is significantly different from that of moms around the country whose family incomes hover at the median of $50,000 a year. My resources don’t compare to those of the Romney family; I’m merely a comfortable member of the middle-class, not a rich one-percenter. And even I understand that my status as a longtime salaried professional has enabled me to escape the harried life of moms who rouse their children early for the ride to the daycare center; who can’t attend PTA meetings unless they can pay for a babysitter; who do all the cooking, housecleaning and shopping in addition to wiping dirty noses.

However clumsily and contemptuously Rosen brought up that divide, that’s clearly what she intended, as the rest of her commentary makes clear: “(Ann Romney) has 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.”

But that was lost in the pitched debate over the merits of stay-at-home motherhood, as if that’s still a deep cultural fissure. First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted, “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.” Barbara Bush weighed in with, “I’m sorry she took a knock at us who chose – or were able to – stay home and take care of our children.”

At least Bush tempered her comments with “were able to.” Most women with school-aged children work these days because they have little choice. As wages stagnated over the last 30 years, women entered the workplace in huge numbers so that family income didn’t drop precipitously.

That’s especially true for workers without college degrees. Of those women I know who’ve chosen to stay at home with their children, all were college-educated professionals whose husbands were also well-educated and well-compensated.  Even Rosen, who has long plied Washington’s power corridors, was being a bit disingenuous when she spoke of herself as among those mothers who worry about “how we feed our kids.” Unlikely.

The real divide is between those mothers with college degrees and those without, those who pay for pricey schools and tutors and camps and those who can’t — whether they work at home or on Wall Street. Neither the shrill nor the silly rhetoric of the political season will change that.


4 Responses

  1. Well said. I find the offense with the ones claiming to be offended. When your top decision is a car elevator in your beach home, then I suspect “nanny” is not a foreign word. I am up early every morning to get my child ready for school. I would love to have a guranteed salary of at least 250K that allowed me to stay home with my child or to at least be there when my child got out of school. I do not. I have student loans and I now make less than what I did 15 years ago. However, I am blessed and happy for the time I have with my son and the other children in my life. I chose to make less to have more time with them. Ann Romeny is not every woman. Although she would sing it, Whitney Houston was not every woman. The sad fact of life is a majority of the women in America do not have the luxury that either Ann or Whitney had when it came to being a parent. I am not jealous. I am looking at life for what it is. A nanny, cook, and maid makes running a household easier than being all three plus doctor, therapist, educator, engineer, plumber, and whatever else your child requires an hour before school starts. Ann and Mitt are not one of us. They need to embrace their wealth and then tell to America how they will help all Americans. Attempting to turn a slip of the lip into an attack on motherhood is ridiculous at best.

  2. Krista Brewer says:

    Thanks so much for this. I couldn’t agree more. As a women who stayed at home to raise three children, I got pretty tired of trite comments like, “Well, you actually do work, just not outside the home.” Well, in America work can mean a lot of things, but Hillary Rosen was commenting on Mitt Romney’s quip that he consults his wife Ann about what women care about. ‘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.’ But for a woman married to a multi-millionaire, and who has never had a job, to be advising Mitt about what most women care about is pretty absurd. We can now add Mitt’s statement to his long list of tone-deaf, out-of-touch statements that really should make us all wonder what planet this guy lives on. Or right, he lives on the rich people’s planet. Things are different there.

  3. Ellsworth Ware, III says:

    I am a little late coming to an opinion on the Romney/Rosen motherhood matter, but you make a good point in your piece, Ms. Tucker, about Rosen’s inexplicably foolish neglect to expand upon her critique of Ann Romney’s child-rearing capabilities beyond a smarmy-sounding soundbite that the Republicans jumped on like a hungry dog to a bone, and made HER look like she sounded—foolish and out-of-touch Beltway ‘liberal’.

    Do not understand why people who spend so much time locked away in the cocoon called Washington DC still seem so tone-deaf and oblivious to the media that practically lives off that town and its thousands and thousands of working politicos that sustain it, that they, to paraphrase an old Art Linklater saying, say the d——dest things all the time when near a microphone, and then wonder why they look so ridiculous afterwards.

  4. I. Sullivan says:

    Your Saturday editorial in our small town newspaper has truly hit a sore spot. I too have grown cynical. My cynicism is with those in the ‘liberal’ arena, and their media blasts against ‘conservative Christians’. I have noticed that liberals criticize Christians and call it freedom of speech, yet when Christians speak up they are considered narrow minded and labeled as that. This article and the insinuation that it is the Christians who neglect the young after birth, is just another example of the double minded, half truths that are rampant today’s media. There are Christians organizations throughout the country that freely give to families with young who struggle to survive. Even in our small community, we offer free support to the woman during her pregnancy and after the baby is born. I know we are not unique in this. These resource centers for women in crisis pregnancies offer supportive, life valuing options for her and her child. All of life is precious to God.
    With all of your criticism of what happens within conservative community, of course you would neglect to acknowledge the many groups that walk along side women who regret and grieve, soon after, or many years later, their ‘choice’ to abort their child. Along with these woman, there are doctors and nurses who have worked in abortion clinics that have come forward with testimonies of the horrors within this ‘Industry’. So, if abortion is such a important factor in a woman’s right to choose, why are there so many woman suffering with the deep sorrow and regret of her choice?? In our small university town, there are more abortions than live births. There is something so wrong with the counsel of Planned Parenthood, their motives are clearly about money. Does Planned Parenthood offer comfort and counsel after they lead the woman and her unborn child down the assembly line of death? There are long lists of people wanting to adopt a child.
    The article title was’ Protect the unborn, but not the born?’, jumped around to many issues. I sense it was just another jab from the left to the right.

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