That Nasty Word, “Choice”
April 19th, 2012, posted by Aimee
For the past week since the story broke about Democratic advisor Heidi Rosen’s bitchy remark about Ann Romney “never having worked a day in her life” and the subsequent uproar from the rest of the world about the validity of raising children as “real work,” I have been chomping at the bit to comment here on the blog about the whole hullabaloo. Ironically, perhaps, I was way too busy with work (hello, 12-hour days!) to get in any blogging on this or anything else. So, many apologies for being late to the party on this one.
But the ruckus is just too ripe to skip over this renewed catfight between the SAHM crowd and defensive WOMOs. So, here’s my take … if you care. And I will make it snappy so you can get back to Facebook or “Real Housewives.”
1. Much as it’s politically incorrect to say it, I have to say that I understand where Heidi’s admittedly bitchy remark came from. Particularly in those first early days back at work after maternity leave feeling pissed about having to pump at work and miss “mommy and me” music classes, and later, when I would rush to drop Tav off at preschool amongst a sea of Lululemon-wearing, Range Rover-driving moms headed to the gym, it was hard not to cave in to poisonous envy. Why couldn’t we afford for me to just hang out and do mom stuff? Why did my life suck so much?? I want to get a personal trainer and bake pies and volunteer in the classroom and … I do believe that most of us working moms have at least once wondered longingly how “easy” staying home would be.
2. Perhaps equally painful for this liberal-leaning Womo to admit is that I understand also where Ann Romney is coming from. When I think of how challenging raising just one little boy is and has been, I can’t even fathom the task of raising FIVE little dudes in one house … even if that house is 8x the size of mine. Staying home full-time to raise children – one kid or five – is hard work, no matter how you slice it. I can barely make it through the one day a week I have with Tav out of school without losing it, so I do empathize.
3. However … as much as all the SAHMs around the world rallied around Ann Romney’s validating statement, it’s got to be said that Ann Romney’s motherhood experience could not have been more dramatically different from most of these women’s lives. I don’t know for certain, but few mega-multimillionaire moms I know lack for household help. I would bet my life on the fact that – unlike the Wal-Mart moms across the country who are now calling her their hero – Ann Romney had enough sitters or nannies, cooks and housekeepers to ease the pain of raising those five boys at least a bit.
4. It all comes down to that dirty word, “choice.” What I still recoil from a bit was Ann Romney’s wording that “My career choice was to be a mother.” She may have indeed made that choice, but there are thousands of women across this country and the world who “choose to be a mother” but also have to work as well … i.e., they do not have the ability to make that choice at all. For the majority of women around the world, work is not a choice but a necessity. They not only have to juggle the task of raising multiple children, but also bringing home the bacon with a job outside the home. For so many of us, there is just simply no way we could have the option of staying at home – nannies and housekeepers or not – and still pay the rent or the mortgage.
Erin Gloria Ryan from Politico said it much better than I can when she wrote (as quoted in Jezebel): “staying at home to raise a family is certainly an admirable choice and running a household is hard work, but assuming that being a single-income family is an economic option available to everyone is both out-of-touch and naive. I’ll celebrate the choice of the wife of a millionaire to stay at home and raise the kids like I’ll celebrate the winner of a yacht race or a polo match.”
By the way, please read Ryan’s story – she is hilarious. Here is another one of her lines I wish I had said: “… staying at one of your nine homes with the children is a little bit different than having to wake up at an ungodly hour, get in your dreary compact car, drive it for an hour or so, park it, and go to a job working for some asshole who uses phrases like ‘circle back around’ and ‘touch base’ and ‘grow the business’ for 8-10 hours so you and your husband combined can make barely enough money to pay for your kids’ babysitter and the mortgage.” Go, girl!
And so … let the firestorm begin. What do you all think?