For the last four days, we’ve seen a high-profile reemergence of what’s commonly dubbed the “Mommy Wars” — that is, the seemingly never-ending battle between stay-at-home moms and working moms. The conflict emerged when political pundit and Democrat Hillary Rosen critiqued likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who implied that he takes cues from his wife, a stay-at-home mother of five, about the concerns of women. “Guess what?” Rosen observed. “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”
All political hell broke loose, and President Obama and Michelle Obama were quick to distance themselves from the remarks, advocating that raising children is indeed work, hard and important work at that.
“There’s no tougher job than being a mom,” President Obama said. “Anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement.”
I agree wholeheartedly. For decades working moms have referred to taking care of their families as the “second shift,” a shorthand term for the extra month of 24-hour days they spend child-rearing and home care-taking each year. Surely, full-time moms put in even more unpaid (and often unrecognized) hours.
Raising a family is unquestionably a job. But I find it curious that a presidential nominee would take his cues about what America’s women are thinking from his wife, whose 1 percenter lifestyle — in 2010 Romney earned $21.7 million — is not relatable to the vast majority of them. In that same year, the median income for American households was $44,449, according to the Census Bureau. For Black households, it was $32,068.
Additionally, data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found 66 percent of women with children ages 17 or younger work either full or part-time. Among those working mothers, 74 percent work full-time, while 26 percent work part-time.
True, Rosen’s words weren’t well-phrased. But this is an election year, and every comment is scrutinized more than usual by candidates looking to gain an advantage with voters. I believe Rosen’s intention, to point out that Romney needs better source material than his wife to figure out what the average American mom is thinking, is entirely accurate. Mrs. Romney may know everything and then some about juggling the schedules of five active boys, but what does she know firsthand about working women’s concerns over adequate child care, or the enormous guilt that many feel about not being available to their children 24/7 while they work overtime to pay the bills or get a promotion to provide for their families? What does she know about the single moms who hold down their households, where staying home to raise their children isn’t at all an option because if Mama doesn’t work, babies don’t get fed, clothed or sheltered? What does she know about raising Black children, 70 percent of whom are born to unwed households?
Fortunately, women aren’t a monolith; we vary in countless ways. I just wish Romney would come out of his bubble, and seek out a more diverse counselor than one most women, especially Black women, can’t relate to at all.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbkShare :