Here’s how it usually goes:
Someone says something stupid and offensive about stay at home moms. “She doesn’t work. She’s just a mom.” People point out that this type of statement devalues motherhood and parenting. Because, obviously, if you’re running around being some combination of life coach, chef, activities director, chauffeur, educational consultant, nurse, scheduler, role model, housekeeper, party planner, personal assistant, daycare provider, moral and spirtual compass, and 17 other things I’m probably forgetting then yes, it’s work. (Give your toddler a bath when they don’t want to take one. Tell me with a straight face and an honest heart it’s not work.) It’s just not the kind that comes with a paycheck.
Not that it can’t make financial sense. Childcare can be expensive, employer flexibility with respect to family needs can be terrible, and maternity leave and re-entry policies can be atrocious. So some parents might have to exclusively work at home with their kids. And some parents might be lucky enough to be in a position where they can choose to do so.
But for some parents forgoing paid work isn’t an option. Kids need a lot of stuff and stuff, it turns out, costs money. And other parents choose not to forgo paid work because they really enjoy their paid work or feel like working is the best choice for them.
So some parents work outside the home. Some parents stay at home full time. For some parents it’s a choice. For some parents it’s not. But either way, the vast majority of parents work really hard and get pissed off when people imply that they’re not.
But, as foreshadowed by the term “Mommy wars,” there’s inevitably going to be someone who defends their choice (or not-choice) by implying that people doing differently are somehow lesser parents. And you can imagine how that goes.
Latest case in point: Hilary Rosen v. Ann Romney. It started out with Rosen, a liberal pundit, saying something stupid about stay at home moms (“Ann Romney (mother of five children) has never worked a day in her life.”) And then cable news and Twitter got involved.
SPOILER ALERT: It degenerated rapidly and didn’t end well.
I know, right? It’s shocking. Get out your smelling salts. Take all the time you need to recover from almost dying of not-surprise. This post will be here when you get back.
So, to me anyway, this is not news. It’s a replay of a thousand bad happy hours, water cooler exchanges, blog posts, flame wars, and uncomfortable everyday parenting moments. Only now Fox News and MSNBC are involved so the “debate,” which has been around for decades and was already pretty played out and dumb, is even dumber.
What is interesting to me about all this is how it started: In an effort to appeal to female voters, a Presidential candidate puts his wife front and center in his campaign to show that he is “connected to women’s issues.” He’s married. To a lady. And she tells him lady things so he knows what’s up.
“My wife tells me what’s important to women.” “My wife tells me what’s important to mothers.” “Let me defer to my wife on this issue.”
That’s humanizingly charming when someone is asking you what giving birth feels like, why ‘Steel Magnolias’ is a thing, or how good a husband you are. And if you proudly don’t listen to your wife and value her input then that’s pretty damningly not charming.
But, dude, you’re running for the President of the United States. Men live here with their “male concerns.” And women live here with their “female concerns.” If you want to seem like a good leader of Americans you really need to be up on “people’s concerns”.
Can you imagine a female Presidential candidate being like, “My husband talks to men and tells me about their concerns. He has his ear to the ground when it comes to things men are saying about what’s important to them in this election.”
Because, you know, why would she, as a potential leader of the free world, fill her head with men’s issues? I mean, *men*, right? They’re all, “Oh, the final four and NASCAR and I don’t want prostate cancer and I want a job and I don’t want a crushing economic debt to be left to my children and Batman is awesome.” Who can understand a typical American male’s perspective in an election year? I mean, I could *try* but I’m pretty busy dealing with some important stuff over here.
The reason why you can’t imagine a female Presidential candidate doing that is because everyone would be like, “WTF? You seriously need someone to tell you what’s important to men? And you expect to be effective as a leader how? So, no, this doesn’t show a charmingly humanizing portrait of your marriage, it shows that you are not at all aligned with things men are concerned about.”
And it’s not like this is a new thing among candidates. Virtually all of them do it. But this isn’t the Kennedy era where “women’s issues” were seen as largely fashion and decor related but otherwise husband / father knows best.
“Women’s issues” aren’t decorative extras. They’re not stuff that you attend to after you’ve taken care of the “real issues.” They are the real issues. Much like “men’s issues.” So playing the “I married a lady so know about ladies” card is about as irritatingly empty as the Mommy Wars.
The Mommy Wars are also not “women’s issues”. They involve women and can rile women up. But it’s entering flag pin territory. How a woman chooses (or by necessity has to) raise her children can vary immensely. And verbalizing your support for what she does is great. Commendable even.
But, honestly, I have a hard time taking some random blogger seriously when they get into a Mommy Wars flamefest let alone a serious political candidate. I’m pretty sure there’s a Real American Woman waiting to pick her kids up and killing time catching up on the Ann Romney v. Hilary Rosen thing going, “Oh God. This is totally like what happened at my cousin’s wedding reception. Or that one episode of ‘Roseanne’ that was super ground breaking 20 years ago. Or whatever. Seriously though about the ‘whatever’ part. Because I was kind of busy dying of not surprise that this is a thing AGAIN. I’m really glad that you listen to your wife and everything but what are you actually going to do?”
I mean, *MEN*! Am I right, ladies? Who understands them? (They’re cute, though. Look how good my husband looks in a suit. And if someone calls him fat then God help them with the 24 hour news cycle.)
P.S. This post was inspired by a Tweet by Kate Harding. I’m not sure how you go about crediting Tweet-spiration so I thought I’d just mention it and hope that’s along the lines of how you’re supposed to handle this type of thing.