Phony Mommy Wars
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: April 17, 2012
Ann Romney is a good mom.
She’s also a good pol.
And though her people skills are far superior to Mitt’s, it turns out that Ann is just as capable as her husband of turning an advantage into a disadvantage.
After the liberal strategist Hilary Rosen clumsily mocked Mitt Romney for relying on Ann to tell him what issues women care about when “his wife has actually never worked a day in her life,” Ann smashed that lob back.
Blasting out her first tweet, she said: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”
Shaken Democrats dived for cover and threw Rosen under the campaign bus. The media, worried about being perceived as favoring President Obama, jumped in on the side of the maligned Ann.
She pressed her advantage, scolding Rosen on Fox News. “She should have come to my house when those five boys were causing so much trouble,” Ann said. She alluded to her brave battles against breast cancer and multiple sclerosis: “Look, I know what it’s like to struggle.”
But at a fund-raiser at a private home in Palm Beach, Fla., on Sunday, the night before her 63rd birthday, Ann made it clear that she wasn’t really aggrieved. She was feigning aggrievement to milk the moment.
“It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it,” a gleeful Ann told the backyard full of Florida fat cats, sounding “like a political tactician,” as Garrett Haake, the NBC reporter on the scene, put it.
It’s important when you act the martyr not to overplay your hand. If you admit out loud to a bunch of people — including Haake, who was on the sidewalk enterprisingly eavesdropping — that you’re just pretending to be offended, you risk looking phony, like your husband. (It also doesn’t fly to tell Diane Sawyer that your dog “loved” 12 hours in a crate on top of the car or that it’s “our turn” to be in the White House.)
The candidate, meanwhile, continued to look phony by presenting a completely different side of himself to the wealthy Palm Beach donors who came in fancy cars to eat snapper and hear a snappier Mitt.
Rather than making bland pronouncements or parsing patriotic songs, as he usually does, Mitt gave a more specific vision of a Romney White House, including the possible elimination of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which his dad once led, and vivisecting the Department of Education. He also talked about ways he might close tax loopholes for the affluent — another matter he hasn’t been too detailed about — to pay for his cuts in tax rates.
Mitt offered a different view of the value of working parents in January when he talked about how he changed welfare rules as governor of Massachusetts:
“I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, well, that’s heartless. And I said, no, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It will cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.”
So the dignity of work only applies to poor moms?
This latest kerfuffle is piffle, but it is another instance of Republicans dragging women back to the past to re-litigate issues they thought were long settled.
Just as women had assumed their contraception rights were safe, they had considered the tiresome debate about working moms versus stay-at-home moms over. My mom stayed home to raise five kids, and she is my feminist role model.
For the most part, nobody’s casting aspersions on anybody else’s choices, which are often driven by economics. Women have so many choices that they’re overwhelmed by the stress of so many choices.
The real issue is whether Mitt, a tycoon who has been swathed in an old-fashioned cocoon, understands the plight of working mothers and the rights of 21st-century women.
When the Romneys got married and moved to Boston in 1971 so Mitt could attend Harvard, they set up house in a suburb, befriended other young Mormon couples and kept to their cloistered, conservative, privileged, traditional, white, heterosexual circle.
Campuses were roiling with change — feminism, civil rights, antiwar demonstrations — but the Romneys were not part of that. They were throwbacks.
“The parental roles were clear,” Michael Kranish and Scott Helman write in “The Real Romney.” “Mitt would have the career, and Ann would run the house.”
We will see if these affluent, soon-to-be owners of a car elevator in La Jolla and members of the horsey set can relate to the economic problems of regular people.
Given how secretive and shape-shifting Mitt Romney is, we’ll probably have to keep eavesdropping to find out.
I feel very strongly about the Mommy Wars, but even more so about how that plays out in politics. I'm a mom and work full time. I have the luxury of saying that's my choice but I think the majority of working women don't have the same luxury. Working mothers worry about quality affordable daycare (a must), keeping the boss happy, whether a traffic accident will keep them from picking up the children before closing time, what to have for dinner, whether laundry will get done, how the bills will get paid (both literally and figuratively, because the checks don't write themselves), and a million other things. At home moms also worry about some of these things, but not others.
I don't deny that Ann Romney worked hard when she was home raising her five boys (FIVE! I have two and I have no idea how she kept her sanity!) but I can say that Ann has no inkling of my life. She cannot relate to being a middle class working mother.
I have serious concerns about the future of women in this country. Employer sponsored health insurance gives me access to birth control which, in turn, has allowed The Spouse and I to decide how/when/what size of family we would like to have. This has allowed me the freedom to work outside the home (I couldn't afford daycare for more children). If it weren't for our health insurance, I would have to turn to a clinic such as Planned Parenthood. Attacks on Planned Parenthood are not just promoting a right to life agenda, it's an attack on working/poor/lower class women who don't have other means of birth control. Sure, some of those whores and sluts shouldn't be fornicating outside of the marital bed (nod to you Catholics and Evangelicals), but a good portion of them are married women without other options.
Preventing women from taking control of their reproduction prevents women from financial self sufficiency and keeps them tied to the home. Perhaps in the eyes of Ann Romney, an upper class woman and a Mormon - a church that celebrates large families - that's a good thing. In the eyes of this working mother it's not.