Apropos of PoliticalProf’s recent post, I wanted to say a brief word about Ann Romney and working mothers.
The controversy over Ann Romney being a stay-at-home mom, and responsibilities that managing her family entails, is a perfect example of an issue that is 100% pure political prestidigitation. What we are seeing here is an attempt to conflate two different issues: motherhood, and working for a living. These are two separate things. They always have been. When Ann Romney is accused of not working a day in her life, it is no answer for her to respond that she raised children. All she’s doing is changing the subject: from her employment status to her parenting commitments.
According to the U.S. Census, as of 2004, there were 37.8 million mothers with children under 18. In 2007, stay-at-home moms accounted for 24% of married couples with children under 15. In other words, in the last decade, as many as 76% of the married moms in America with minor children were either working or unemployed and actively seeking work. That says nothing about single parents or unwed mothers, many of whom themselves find it necessary to take a job to support themselves and their children.
Make no mistake that parenting is hard work. But it is work that people from all walks of life, circumstances, backgrounds and responsibilities undertake. More importantly, the fact remains that the vast majority of mothers find it necessary to also work for a living while doing it. Their financial circumstances do not permit them to do otherwise. My own mother worked full time everyday of her adult life, because my parents could not afford to raise four children without two household incomes. If one of my parents lost their job, it meant we might lose our house (or in my young childhood, unable to make rent). That is a reality that Ann Romney will never have to worry about. And that’s really the point that’s being made here: nobody ever accused Ann Romney of being a bad mother. By all accounts, she’s been a great one. But that has nothing to do with whether she has to work to support her children. By all accounts, she does not. Most American mothers do not have that option available to them.
What needs to be said here is that being a stay-at-home mom is a privilege of circumstance. Ann Romney hasn’t done anything that any working mother hasn’t struggled to do to the best of their ability: raise their kids and take care of them as best they can. The only difference is Ann Romney’s husband makes enough money that she doesn’t have to work to help support her children. For the majority of families with multiple children, that is not a choice. It’s a necessity.
At the end of the day, the controversy over Ann Romney is a good example of the way in which we constantly play politics with motherhood. Ann Romney is not a victim, and never has been. She is a stay-at-home mother. By all accounts, she appears to have been a good one. But her merits as a mother have nothing to do with whether or not she has to work to support herself or her children. A lot of American mothers don’t have the choice of being able to stay home and take care of the kids, even if they might like to. Ann Romney deserves no special consideration for having done so. Or more accurately, for having been able to do so.
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- envynoone said: i have raised two boys, by myself, and have ALWAYS worked a full time, 40 hour per week JOB to earn MONEY so i could continue to raise them. raising children is not a “job”, it’s a choice. working 40 hours is a necessity. in my case anyway.
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