Commentary: Forget about the 'Mommy Wars'

The Miami HeraldApril 29, 2012 

Enough of the Mommy Wars. And I’m up to here with the so-called War on Women and soccer moms and any label politicians, with their Machiavellian marketing schemes, dreamed up to grab my attention.

I don’t want to be reduced to a catchy phrase, and I doubt anyone, regardless of gender, would agree to such diminution. Yet decades after the first female pioneers entered the workforce en masse, years after an elite group began knocking on the glass ceiling, the issue of where mothers belong — at home or in the office or factory — has darted back into the spotlight.

Yawn. What a bogus debate. Must be a slow news cycle and a presidential election year. Now, can I get on with my life?

The latest so-called squabble between employed mothers and those who stay at home returned to center stage when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen set off a firestorm after her appearance on CNN. Discussing how it was wrong for Mitt Romney to use his wife as an example of women’s economic struggles, she said that Ann Romney “has never actually worked a day in her life.”

Uh-oh. Them are fighting words.

Ann Romney raised five boys and was a governor’s wife, a non-elected position that nonetheless carries its share of obligations. Anyone who has spent time around kids also understands that no job is more demanding, no work is more stressful, no schedule longer than that of keeping home and hearth for a large family.

I know. As a mother of four sons and a daughter, a mother who has worked part-time, full-time and also stayed at home, I can state with utmost conviction that the hardest task I’ve ever undertaken was raising my children. It is a round-the-clock profession — have you noticed a child’s fever always spikes at night? — an occupation that brings few perks, almost no accolades and even less respect. You can never, never retire from it. Yet the consequences of shirking those job duties are monumental and affect society more than…well, more than missing a deadline or misspelling a person’s name. Journalism rights wrongs and often provides a voice for the downtrodden, but molding a human being is God’s work.

No wonder Rosen’s words have become public ammunition. Conservative pundits have attacked Rosen for attacking Ann Romney. Liberals have been backpedaling and pointing to Romney’s less-than-impressive record on women’s issues.

But all that hot air obscures what truly matters, the great truth that no feminist revolution has managed to change: Choice is a matter of economics, of whom you marry, where you live and how much you can do without.

Ann Romney had a choice to stay home with her children, but many, many young women I know cannot afford that luxury. As wages have stagnated and the middle class has shrunk, a woman’s income is needed to help support her family — or it can be the family’s sole support. Choice, like safe neighborhoods, good public schools and favorable public policy, is reserved for the fortunate few.

So what do today’s mothers do when their hearts are one place and their brains elsewhere? What they have done for many years, what I did, what my friends and daughter have done, too. We adapt. We triage. We make decisions based on our children’s needs, demanding flexibility, recruiting support from friends and family, launching home-based businesses, setting up co-op babysitting services, transitioning into a fuller work schedule as our children grow up.

And we juggle, we always juggle.

Mommy wars? Not that again. The mothers I know are too busy checking homework, ferrying children to lessons, sitting at the pediatrician’s office and hoping for more than six hours of sleep to worry about a politically-inspired, media-fueled battle that simplifies and diminishes our lives and responsibilities.

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