Hilary Rosen, I’m On Your Side

In case you haven’t heard, a brief update. Hilary Rosen, Democratic consultant, dared to be honest enough to say that Ann Romney hasn’t worked a day in her life – a simple fact – and the world tilted on its axis from the uproar that ensued.

It’s amusing to watch the firestorm considering that ultimately, all of our politicians are beyond our pay scale and our country is being run by the 1% and they are quite happy to use their time as our elected representatives to find legal ways to keep it that way, and it will probably stay that way indefinitely.

However. The instant vilification of Ms. Rosen for simply saying something that’s true is amazing. (Election-season distraction GOLD.) In a nanosecond we were back to “being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job” and the “mommy wars” all over again.

What is a mommy war, exactly? A bunch of moms going out to the field of battle, Nerf weapons at the ready, virulently defending their young, until five minutes later they all realize how utterly stupid the whole thing is and organize a picnic because everyone’s hungry and tired?

Sure, being a stay-at-home mom is hard work. But being a mom who has a job outside the home is twice as hard. Or maybe three times as hard, because your husband is working too but you’re still the one doing most of the house and kid-work.

Here are the lessons I learned from a lifetime of work. I was 15 when I got my first job scooping ice cream. I learned that for $6/hour I got blisters on my feet and aching back, neck, shoulder, and arm muscles. I learned that older men will prey on teenage girls. And that a boss is someone who watches to make sure you stored the whipped cream properly, and if you didn’t there will be a humiliating red X next to your name on the sign-off sheet the next day.

And that after three hours of that work, I could afford to buy a record.

But I wouldn’t change it for a second, because it taught me how to work. And it taught me the value of money. These valuable lessons have come in handy over the course of my life.

Hilary Rosen told the truth because a woman like Ann Romney (or any other member of the 1% or hell, even the 15-20%) doesn’t understand that the constant struggle for financial security affects families deeply. My family would not survive financially without my income. So even if I wanted to stay home for my children, I couldn’t.

She doesn’t understand that for the 99%, you can work like a dog for 50 hours a week and barely get by. That after you go to the grocery store and buy new shoes for the kids, your paycheck is gone. That you are one real injury, illness, or car repair away from being in serious trouble.

And that a mom who works lives in a constant state of guilt, because she is either not there enough for her children or not there enough for her job. She is never whole.

But uber-feminist that I am, who believes that this whole discussion – mommy wars, equal rights, reproductive rights, pay and marriage equality – is one that belongs to the past, has a deep dark little secret: I would love to be able to stay home and commit to my family 100%.

So in that way, I have to admit that I envy Ann Romney. In this day and age, being a stay-at-home mom is a privilege. It’s something that a lot of working moms might also secretly like to do. We work because we don’t have a choice. So I simply can’t reconcile staying at home being a hardship.

And I’m sorry that Ms. Rosen cancelled her upcoming appearances “to be a mom who stays home” after the whole dust-up. One of the best ways for a mom to show her kids what it truly means to be a woman is to get back up, get out there, and fight the good fight.

(For more see this article.)

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2 thoughts on “Hilary Rosen, I’m On Your Side

  1. Alright, I admit it. I only just now read this piece. You are brave to say such provocative things! And you got me thinking (again) about how in so many parts of a woman’s life, she is misperceived. For instance, I’ve done both-labor that I get paid to do while raising my kids and labor that I don’t get paid for and raise my kids. I’d like to tell you that the reason I could decide not to work for $ is that my husband made so much that our family didn’t need the $. But that would be only part of the the truth. The other part would be that we decided we would live below our means, which has meant so many things, a lot of them decisions that most Americans I know are unwilling to make. Don’t get me wrong! I don’t think there is anything I have done in my whole life that is more important than being the Mommy I want to be, but I have wondered why more Moms haven’t decided to do what I did and that is to “take the hit”. I spend less and I’m with my kids more. I’ve wondered if a lot of women are absolutely delighted to not be with their kids as much as I am with mine. It’s strange in this way too. A “working for $ Mom” is definitely working more than a “working for $ Dad”, but I think that the stuff I do as an unpaid domestic laborer is as time-consuming, exhausting, difficult as the Moms I know who go to a paid job. And they at least get the benefit of being identified as a “professional”. Most everyone I know, when I tell them the work I do that is not compensated, say, “Well, but you’re a writer!” As if being just a Mom, who keeps house, makes a nutritious home cooked meal at least five nights out the week, and is home nearly every afternoon to help my kids do their homework (bear in mind one of my kids is 15 and a sophomore in high school and the other one is 10 and in the fourth grade), isn’t doing something valuable for her family as well as for our world.

    • Oh sing it hallelujah sister! I remember being, at the time, one of the few people who 100% supported your choice to stop working – probably a little bit out of envy too! I absolutely respect what you did/are doing and would follow in your footsteps if I could. And I think there are moms who really want to go to work, and it fulfills them, and that’s great too. This has been a controversial piece but I feel like I’m just telling the truth. The life of a rich stay-at-home mom is quite different than a non-rich. You point out that you’ve had to sacrifice to be able to make this choice, and that’s my point. It’s either work or barely make it by for the great majority of us moms, like it or not.

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