Well, if you were hoping that the weekend would kill all the Mommy Wars drama, it looks like you might want to stay in bed until next Monday. The story of Ann Romney and her work as a stay-at-home mother is not going quietly into the bottom of our news feeds anytime soon. This time though, it’s Ann’s husband Mitt Romney who has some disparaging things to say about mothers who choose to stay home and raise their kids instead of going out into the paid workforce.
To recap, Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist not affiliated with the Obama campaign said that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life.” As a communications expert, we pointed out that Rosen might be in jeopardy of losing her job after creating a PR nightmare for the Democratic party. A large majority of politicians and pundits slammed Rosen and voiced serious support for the work that mothers do in the home, even if none of them talked about actual policies that would help make it easier for mothers to make that type of commitment. For example, we wondered why the Republicans weren’t pushing for paid maternity leave, if they value a mother’s work so seriously.
Now, Up With Chris Hayes has unearthed another layer to this controversial onion. Back in January at a campaign stop, Mitt Romney had this to say about poor working mothers and the choices they have:
“I wanted to increase the work requirement,” said Romney. “I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 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 daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”
The dignity of work, huh? Because those ladies who might be staying home with their infants and toddlers wouldn’t be working, Mr. Romney?
Listen, we can all agree that having a child is a choice. And many have said that paid maternity leave is a separate issue, because women should be responsible for preparing for that choice, financially and otherwise.
But Mitt’s comments about sending mothers to work and putting their children in daycare directly contradicts his support of his wife’s work, which was staying home and raising her family. His statement just proves that this was never an argument about stay-at-home moms. It’s always been a conversation about socioeconomic status in America.
Rosen wasn’t saying that Ann Romney’s job raising five sons wasn’t hard. She was saying that Ann couldn’t relate to women who had to struggle financially to support their families. And Mitt isn’t saying that women shouldn’t ever stay home and take care of their children. He’s saying that the government shouldn’t pay for women who want to stay home but aren’t financially capable to pay for that luxury.
These are the arguments in front of us, yet they are being clouded by all the rhetorical “value” and “respect” we have for a mother’s work in the home. Maybe all of us should start asking both candidates how they want to support women, no matter what their choice is. Maybe we should focus on equal pay legislation or strengthening FMLA laws.
“Women’s work” is an important discussion to be having in American politics and in American business, but let’s get over the easy talk about how hard it is to raise kids. Let’s all agree that Ann Romney seems like a hard-working woman who did a great raising her family. That’s settled. Now what about all the women who aren’t financially stable enough to make that choice. How are we going to help them? Mr. Romney is going to give daycare subsidies to help them back into the labor force, whether they want it or not. Is Ann Romney planning on standing up for those poor women’s hard work as well?