Whatchoo talking ’bout, Hilary?

I don’t usually do opinion pieces on this blog, for a variety of reasons.

Nevertheless. When one begins to fear that a significant percentage of the populace has lost their ever-loving minds, one feels obliged to speak up.

In the byte heard ‘round the world on Wednesday, Hilary Rosen, a democratic “strategist” who was being interviewed by Anderson Cooper, stated that Ann Romney, the wife of one of the wealthy politicians lobbying for the Republican presidential nomination (a woman who happens to be the mother of five children), had “actually never worked a day in her life.”

It should go without saying that this statement is an absurd lie, and deserves scorn (Hilary herself does not deserve scorn – by all accounts she is a lovely, smart person who said a stupid thing.) It should go without saying that any woman who bears the title of “Mother” works roughly 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Some mothers spend 40 of those hours away from their children, and are paid for that time.

Some of us stay with our children for all 84 of those hours (at least until the children are in school – mine aren’t, yet), and are not paid a dime.

That we are all working, for all of those hours, should go without saying – but sadly, it doesn’t. Because shortly after Rosen’s statement blew up the internet, even as virtually every Democratic leader in the country was scurrying to condemn it, I started reading through dozens of comments left on a NYT article about it. The comments were left by Mothers who get paid outside the home. And the comments were outrageous.

“Well, she’s right, you know…mothering is hard, but it’s not a ‘real’ job.” (This was one. There were many more like it.)

Here’s my story: I had a “real” job, for nearly 17 years. I made a lot of money. I was good at that job, and enjoyed it immensely. Many coworkers, over the years, thought our occupation was extremely stressful, but I never found it hard – I genuinely loved it. I thrived on it. My brain was hard-wired to do that kind of work.

But I wanted to be a full-time Mom, when my sons were born, for their sakes. My husband and I felt like it was the best thing for them.

Mothering has been the hardest, most exhausting work I’ve ever done in my entire life. It has been nearly six years now, and I’ve had exactly one full day off. We don’t have any family help, and we haven’t had the money to hire help – unlike Ann Romney…and Michelle Obama…and Hilary Rosen.

Some people, mostly people who do NOT want to see Mitt Romney elected President (for the record: I don’t, either), are trying to defend Rosen’s comments. “She’s just making a statement about how Ann Romney (and by extension, presumably, Mitt) doesn’t understand the hardships of working-class people.”

That’s bogus (like the excuses offered by people who tried to explain away Mel Gibson’s anti-semitic rants because they liked his movies). Here is Hilary’s exact quote.

“With respect to economic issues, I think actually that Mitt Romney is right, that ultimately women care more about the economic well-being of their families and the like. But he doesn’t connect on that issue either. 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’m 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  why do we worry about their future.

So I think that, yes, it’s about these positions and yes, I think there will be a war of words about the positions. But there’s something much more fundamental about Mitt Romney. He just seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women and I think that comes across and I think that that’s going to hurt him over the long term. He just doesn’t really see us as equal.”

Here’s a bit of information: Hilary Rosen is no more in my tax bracket than Ann Romney or Michelle Obama are. She is the managing director of one of the most influential political consulting firms in the country. Before that, she was chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America for 17 years.

If her point was that rich women are so out-of-touch with the problems of common women that they should not be allowed to speak out on their behalf, about issues that are important to them, then guess what? Hilary would have silenced her own self.

Do you see the breakdown in logic, there?

But that’s not what she was saying. She was saying the same thing that the “working” mothers on all those message boards were saying:

Being a full-time mom is not a “real” job. A full-time mother of FIVE has never actually worked a day in her life. (Semantics tip: the word “actually” is where the scorn is revealed.) And that full-time mother is not qualified to speak up about complicated policy issues…unlike that (also wealthy) professional career woman, Hilary Rosen.

I hate to break it to Ms. Rosen, but some of us full-time moms are actually quite smart. Some of us would actually stack our college test scores up against hers, any day. Some of us actually sneak physics and economics books into story time at the library, because we crave information, and are curious about the world.

And all of us ACTUALLY work. Damn hard. Some of us actually find this work to be much harder than paid career work, because our brains are wired for ideas and calculations, not for cleaning and crafts.

For all mothers, “working” or “full-time,” there are aspects of our jobs that are very hard. For this full-time mom, it is hard to not have money to go on vacations, or dates. It is hard for me to not have an intellectual outlet, or stimulation, or adult conversations, during the day. It is hard to do the same, sometimes tedious things all day, every day, with no variation.

“Working” moms have their own set of hardships. And I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.

By the way, I keep reading over and over about how some people don’t have the “luxury of staying home with their kids.” There are no luxuries in my life. We are pinching every penny. The only reason we are able to exist on one salary is because we put money in the bank before our babies were born, paid off our (older) cars, and moved into a smaller house close to my husband’s work, so he could come home for lunch every day. There have been months where we could barely pay the bills. Staying home with my kids is the biggest privilege of my life, but it is NOT a luxury. It’s a choice that we planned for, and that we continually sacrifice because of.

********

Well, I say there are no luxuries in my life, but that’s not exactly true. And the following brings this whole thing back down to earth.

A friend of mine from grade school has a little niece, named Ashlee. She’s three years old, and in the last few months, she’s gone from a healthy, smiling girl with long hair to a wasted, bald shell. She is dying of an insidious cancer, and she is tired of fighting – she’s told her mother that she’s ready to go to Heaven.

My boys pray for her every night. My boys, with their filled-out arms and rounded bellies, and their full heads of hair (even if it does stick up every morning, scarecrow-ish.) For now, my boys are supremely healthy.

And that is a luxury. Something I didn’t make happen, something I had nothing to do with – a fragile gift.

That’s the most important thing in my universe; and I believe that’s something that all of us working mothers can agree on, whether we get a paycheck or not. It’s what brought me down to earth last night, when I went to bed still fuming over the ignorance of Rosen’s remarks.

I hate to end so abruptly, but I’ve got to go make waffles for the boys, who just woke up.

My work day begins.

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18 Responses to Whatchoo talking ’bout, Hilary?

  1. motmob says:

    absolutely agree – great post – one of my favorites that I’ve read this week for sure. We will pray for your friend’s daughter too – blessings to you!

  2. It seems enough to me to wrestle and pray to make a choice – a better choice…better than the last one, the last twenty or several hundred. To accept that with choice there is consequence. To ask for the grace to live with the consequence. To tremble in the knowledge that all my consequences shower down on others. I have stumbled along long enough to know this: I cannot judge the heart or mind of another. I struggle to know my own. To compare my insides to another’s outside is an exercise in futility. And “Classification” warfare is still war: destructive and ugly.

  3. Lisa Brooks says:

    Hilary made a grave mistake in her choice of words. Don’t get me wrong, it was awful. But “With respect to economic issues” I don’t think Anne is the place I would go for solid advice. She lacks the experience to even have conjecture. Although she has been involved in charitable organization, the Boston Globe characterized her as “largely invisible” during her time as First Lady of Massachusetts. I am sure she works hard. But Hilary’s statement was meant in context of a paid working mother, not as a hard working mother. Would I use Larry’s opinion on how to address the needs of clinical trials at pharmaceutical companies? No, Mitt Romney should not do the same calling on his wife to provide guidance in an arena completely outside of her scope just because she is the same sex of women who must be responsible for the financial care of their family.

    • Cathy LaGrow says:

      Hilary said that Mitt said that his wife (presumably in talking with women around the country, as she has been doing, as a candidate’s wife) says that women care about economic issues.

      How on earth is she not qualified or not permitted to repeat what she’s been hearing from working women? That doesn’t even make sense. As I stated: by that logic, Hilary herself is not permitted to speak about middle-class issues. Since she is most definitely upper class.

      Hilary’s comment exposed an elitist attitude against full-time moms. That’s what I take issue with. I don’t much care about the political/election ideologies at work here. 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

      • Lisa Brooks says:

        But the question to Mitt Romney was about his take on the gender gap. He never answered, instead he said what women are telling his wife and that he wants his wife to answer. I really want to know what Mitt Romney thinks of the gender gap. Because that is a real question for me. I think just saying that women care about economics does not address the question. We all know what women think of the gender gap and that econcomics are important to us.

    • Cathy LaGrow says:

      Agree. And that is a totally separate issue. As I said…I am no Romney supporter. I am not happy with ANY of the candidates for office, this year. I am NOT speaking to the qualities of any of the presidential candidates. I am only referencing Rosen’s asinine depiction of full-time moms.

      Good points! You should write a blog. In all that spare time you have. 🙂

      • Lisa Brooks says:

        I really don’t think Rosen was intending to depict full-time moms in her statement. She admits she made a mistake in her words on her blog. I think she was stating that full-time moms who have never been employed are not the people to be discussing the gender gap. But she said it poorly and the general populous has taken it out of context and everyone is all riled up. Everyone has disowned her and that is the price you pay.

        I for one, Cathy, respect your line of work. It is not something I would choose to do. Although I see the daily struggles of it all as I am home. Love and reverence is all I have for you.

    • Cathy LaGrow says:

      I wonder if Rosen voiced similar objections to Teresa Heinz Kerry (and, by extension, John Kerry) in 2004?

      JK.

      Seriously, though, I KNOW that you respect me, and I hope you know I have the utmost respect for you, too, even when we don’t agree on things ideologically. Love you!

  4. jeannedamoff says:

    Cathy, I don’t think I can adequately express how much I applaud your and your husband’s choice and your sacrifices. We made the same choice and the same sacrifices. I won’t go into all the things we gave up for me to stay at home until our youngest started first grade and then to teach at a Christian school so we could afford to enroll them there and I would have the same vacations. I won’t go into what we gave up, because honestly, it didn’t signify. With every selfish fiber of my being I wanted to raise my own children. I wanted to be the first one to hear them laugh and to watch them take their first steps. I wanted to be the one to answer their questions as they began to ponder life’s mysteries, to soothe their fears, to teach them to read, and to watch their minds blossom. The thought of letting someone else do these things was unbearable to me.

    I have never bought the excuse that any family “needs” two incomes, any more than a family “needs” a mansion, a BMW, vacations in Europe, and a maid. Children are a gift from the Lord, made in His image, and they are eternal souls. No stewardship we could ever be given could be as sobering, as delightful, or as great a privilege.

    I know there are legitimate reasons why some moms must take jobs outside the home. I don’t deny that. But I pity those moms with all my heart. Of all the things I’ve done, all the places I’ve gone, all the honors I’ve attained in my life, parenthood ranks miles above any other. I’ll thank God till the day I die that He called me to this exalted position.

    Love to you, friend. Keep up the good work. xo

    • Cathy LaGrow says:

      It was probably lost in my ranting, above, but I adore my boys, and by the time I had nursed the first one for, eh, two months, you couldn’t have pried me away from him with a crowbar.

      But caring for them is still very hard for me, and not “natural” to the way my brain is wired. 🙂

      Love your sweet heart, and love you.

  5. Cathy,

    Love it when you are fired up. Loved the argument, loved the logic, loved the transparency. Seems to me that what is really being argued is significance. Is a woman whose only “position of note” is “full-time-mom” a significant person? She obviously is during an election year, but how about the other 75% of the time? [The same could be asked regarding male caregivers]

    Since I focused my graduate studies on the development of children and have spent much of the last two decades advocating for children in disparate environments, may I suggest another perspective?

    In a time and culture where being bereft of parents is the “normal,” what kind of sacrifices are children making? When parenting is reduced to an endless series of shuttling from one activity to another, what yearnings of children go unnoticed and never addressed? When children are honestly confused as to who belongs to them as their parent, could not we say that these “gifts from God” are more of an old fashioned burden, or an unfortunate consequence of sexual intercourse, or an expensive obligation of marriage, or living trophies for the curio cabinet of life?

    Parenting is important because children are important. The child’s position of abject dependence and malleability serves as an invitation to adults not to measure themselves by their adult “accomplishments” but rather by their ability to lavish the grace of love and to participate in the wonder of the making of a person.

    That, in my view, is of immense importance and worth the cost, and the hard work, and the heartbreak and everything else involved in the pouring out of oneself for the sake of another. Especially those who are our children.

    • Cathy LaGrow says:

      Love, love, love, love this. You need to write a book.

      I completely agree with you. My post above was more of a feminist rant, and pertained to being told that I had “actually not worked a day” of the last 6 years…which was certainly news to me.

      But I agree with you about children, and there has been a post brewing in my head for some time, about how parenting is a sacrificial pilgrimage. Now if I can just find time to write it!

      Thanks for sharing your wise thoughts. XO

      • From my perspective, you are deserving of the rant. So is every other woman who has “never worked a day in her life.” Once upon a time there was a job description called “homemaker.” The job was actually seen as an integral occupation in the great machine that is these United States. A woman of no less stature and influence than Eleanor Roosevelt actively supported it and worked ardously to see its advancement. The ability to manage a household (which, by the way, is implied in a lot of the comments posted here) is quite a talent and requires a high level of ability in order to do it well. Before WWII there were actually multiple high school and collegiate courses specifically designed to assist in the training of household managers. While I am deeply thankful for the advancements in every field of knowledge and industry we enjoy because women are scientists and business leaders and so forth, I am of the opinion that such advancements need not come at the expense of the reverence or respect for the investment required to be a great mom.

  6. Indeed, miss Cathy. Like you and miss Jeanne, we’ve made similar choices. And if schooling and raising my own child means I keep wearing my husband’s jeans from high school that I whacked off at the knees (cause he’s a foot taller than me) instead of buying new britches, I’ll take the ratty any day.

    When doctors and the like ask the start the work diatribe this is how it goes:
    — And do you work, miss Darlene?

    – Yes. Do you?

    — Uh, yes, I’m at my job right now. Okay, so, what do you do?

    – A whole lot. What do you do?

    — I do what I’m doing right now. So, who do you work for?

    – My husband and my 8-year old son. Who do you work for?

    — Well, this hospital. So, what do you do?

    – What don’t I do? Doc, what don’t you do?

    — What do you mean?

    – I don’t want someone else to raise my son so I do it. Did you know that he’s training to be a warrior? Well, he is and I have a pretty full day with teaching reading, writing, & arithmetic; not to mention the social skills, combative skills, and oratory recitations. Oh yes, I teach him about morals, sincerity, respect, and God too. So, what don’t you do? You never did say.

    — Well, I…

    Anyway, about the 2nd time I pulled this conversation outta my hat the Doc got so flustered she left the room, muttering under her breath. I don’t know if it did any good, but I think it was better than throwing off the gloves and bloodying her nose. Good night miss Cathy, you got me started.

    Happy Saturday.

    • Cathy LaGrow says:

      Ahaha! I’m afraid I am not near as ballsy as you…I tend to avoid conflict. But it sounds like we’re coming from the same place. 🙂 We need to meet up….I have a feeling we would get along swimmingly.

      The reason I use the term “full-time” mom instead of “stay-at-home” mom, is because once when my oldest was a year or so old, I was filling out a form (can’t remember what for), and there was a box where you could mark whether you worked “full-time” or “part-time.” And I knew what they meant, but it devastated me that I wasn’t allowed to mark one of those boxes, because I knew that I DID have a full-time job, that actually took much more of my time than my old “full-time” job. That’s when I decided to call myself a full-time mom.

      Also, “stay-at-home mom” sounds like “sit-at-home mom,” and that doesn’t describe my job. Once my boys are in school, you can call me a stay-at-home mom. Until then….I’m a full-time one. 🙂

  7. Bethany says:

    Cathy, I stay away from opinion pieces on my blog too, but BRAVO, GIRLFRIEND! As a fellow full-time Mom (of 4 boys) who left a kick-ass career that more than paid the bills, this truly resonates with me. My “luxury” consists of mac and cheese and hand-me-downs. And face painting at our kitchen table because it costs $100 to take the kids anywhere…to eat, to a museum, to the movies. Thanks for writing this. You followed me on Twitter, and I’m following you right back. 🙂

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