Many have heard about the flap over CNN commentator Hilary Rosen’s remark, uttered about Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, “…his wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to surmise that Mrs. Romney worked very hard raising five sons and was probably often frazzled and exhausted in her early parenting years. I am sure that the teenage years were no picnic, either.
However, the sound bite the criss-crossed the airwaves thousands of times was not the full sentence in context. Hilary was discussing Mitt Romney’s reliance on his wife for advice on women’s economic issues and actually said, “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 how do we — why do we worry about their future.”
But, alas, a truncated “gotcha phrase” became a matchstick to a pile of culture wars dry firewood. It’s a little bit like reality TV: the media loves to make hay out of a stereo-typical cat fight. Most women I talked to were quite startled by the brouhaha as they thought the Mommy Wars had dissipated since the days of Hillary Clinton’s Tammy Wynette-not-baking-cookies line.
In fact, much of the follow-up twitter tit-for-tat came from male politicians attempting to either deflect (Democrats) or make hay (Republicans) out of the dumb comment. That’s when the dust up got my attention, as the statements talking about Motherhood as the hardest job in the world felt both true and a little bit patronizing at the same time.
It was an instant militarization of a social issue with the accompanying arms build-up. It seemed ground in creating publicity rather than tackling real problems. Hence, the collective yawn by those “outside the beltway” in the rest of the country.
We all know there are multiple realities for moms. Our own small community is a microcosm of the country. We have every variety of working and household configuration imaginable. We have moms who work full and part-time, SAHMs (stay-at-home-moms), families with “his, hers and ours” children, single moms and gay moms and dads. I have not heard any culture wars other than the occasional and universal plea of burnout and exhaustion. It all depends on capacity, needs and priorities.
No wonder the Mommy War over the Rosen-Romney flap seems manufactured for the media.
Once you have kids it all changes and it’s all hard. My co-author Linda and I have had endless discussions — providing great thematic material for this very blog — about various work and family arrangements in our own lives for career advancement and economic necessity. All required choices and trade-offs, but none required taking another mom to task over her situation. Most moms I know said family life should be out of bounds as political fodder. What do you think?
Carol Lewis Gullstad April 16, 2012
- Ann Romney: Hilary Rosen Controversy Was ‘My Early Birthday Present’ (kaystreet.wordpress.com)
- Is There Really A ‘Mommy War’? (pittsburgh.cbslocal.com)
- Will There Ever Be a Truce in the Mommy Wars? (psychologytoday.com)
- Let’s Lose the (Mommy) Wars and Focus on a More Important Battle (aarp.org)