I spent last week on a special anniversary trip with my husband high up in the Andean mountains cut off (with the exception of a few Skype calls to my kids and their caretaking grandparents) from the Internet and my mega-sized media consumption habit. It was absolutely romantic and wonderful and tranquil.
So, it's only now that we've descended back to our real lives that I've run into the Rosen-Romney row, which has been covered extensively here, here, here, and just about everywhere. At the risk of over-saturation, here are a few more words on the topic. (And a cool mountain pic.)
For those of you who have been up in the mountains like me, here's a quick summary. Last Thursday, Hilary Rosen, a Washington insider, CNN contributor and Obama supporter, set off a media frenzy by observing that the presumptive Republican Presidential candidate's wife, Ann Romney, a mother of five children, had "never worked a day in her life." Within hours, the media exploded on behalf of Ann and supposedly aggrieved stay-at-home moms, Ann Twittered and appeared on Fox TV, and Hilary Twittered back. (She later issued several perfunctory apologies.)
Everyone else pandered and propagandized. The Republicans, led by Rush "you're a slut" Limbaugh tried to spin Rosen's remarks as a Democratic "war on women"led by "Generalissimo" Obama. Even the Obamas weighed in, with the President declaring that, "[T]here’s no tougher job than being a mom."
I have to say, up front, that I think Rosen's comments were nothing more than clumsy. Read in context, it's clear that Rosen was not condemning stay-at-home moms or claiming that raising children isn't hard work. Everyone knows that motherhood - actually, we should be calling it parenthood - is hard work no matter whether you also have a job or career outside the home or whether motherhood is your main gig. Instead, Rosen was simply pointing out that Ann Romney's privileged life experience as the wife of a multi-millionaire is not typical as The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus and others have observed. Here are Rosen's almost-full remarks:
"What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, 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 am hearing. 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 worry - and why we worry about their future."
So . . . ? Rosen should have said that Ann Romney never worked for a paycheck or for health insurance or for longterm economic security. She could have opined, as she later did, that she didn't view Ann as a credible surrogate on women's economic issues and not stepped into the stale, tiresome working mom v. stay-at-home mom debate. But, hey, it's a political campaign and Romney (Mitt) put his wife front and center by stating that he relies on her for insight into issues facing women. (This, in itself, seems silly. Imagine if a female candidate said, "My husband talks to men and tells me about their concerns so I understand them." But I digress.)
What I do think is wrong is the way that the media and politicians - including Democrats - have used Rosen's gaffe as an opportunity to heave insipid platitudes about motherhood in a frantic attempt to capture the all-important women's vote in the upcoming election. (So far, the Rosen-Romney run-in doesn't appear to have affected Obama's sizeable lead among women voters.) There's more than a little disconnect between politicians' public paens to motherhood and the way that our society treats mothers.
If, as President Obama said, motherhood is the hardest and most important job there is, then why is there so little support for mothers? Issues like infant mortality, food safety, environmental toxins, domestic violence, low quality education, inadequate access to health care and reproductive health services affect all mothers regardless of whether they work for pay or not. And the lack of affordable child care, difficulty in obtaining flexible work schedules and gender-based pay inequities affects many stay-at-home moms (whose ability to work is often impeded by these structural problems) as much as it affects working moms. We should be talking about these issues in this election cycle rather than the Rosen-Romney rumble, which is nothing more than a distraction from the real issues facing moms, dads, and families.
O.K. Time to go up the mountain again!