Friday, April 13, 2012

Hilary Rosen versus Ann Romney, part three

So, is Hilary Rosen right? Are stay-at-home moms out of touch?

If they're so out of touch, then please tell me: why do all the working moms tell their latchkey kids to go to the home of the stay-at-home mom in their neighborhood if there's any trouble? (Don't tell me I'm making this up. My wife was a stay-at-home mom for over 20 years, and this is exactly how it was.)

Do you think that the stay-at-home moms don't listen carefully to the kids' conversations, while they're driving carpool after school and picking up the children of the working moms?

Do you think that stay-at-home moms do nothing but cook, clean, do laundry, and sit around the house all day, eating bonbons and watching Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil?

I know that many working moms carefully monitor their children's progress at school, correspond regularly with their teachers, and attend parent-teacher conferences. Do you think that the stay-at-home moms don't do that?

I know that working moms worry constantly about their family's finances, about the job situation, and about the national and local economy. Would you suggest, as Hilary Rosen did, that stay-at-home moms don't have those same worries? Or that they don't know as much about those subjects as working moms? Can you give me one valid reason why they wouldn't?

A Luxury or a Choice? Or Both?

Now let's address the side issue that Rosen and her supporters alluded to, that Ann Romney's decision to stay at home was a luxury that not everybody can afford. In one sense, she is right, it is a luxury. But for a married woman, it's also a choice, and it requires giving up a lot - including that second income, everything that second income can buy, and the extra content on her resume. Rosen called the Romneys "people of wealth" and intimated that only "people of wealth" can afford to be stay-at-home moms, and that "people of wealth" are out of touch. And I say she's wrong on both of those intimations.

Once again, being a stay-at-home mom is a choice. It's a choice that you can make whether you're rich or poor, college educated or not, and it has nothing to do with being in touch or out of touch with economic reality.

Let's stick with Rosen's "people of wealth" terminology for a minute. Here's what a blog called The XX Factor had to say yesterday, in defense of Hilary Rosen:

"We can also admit that at this point staying home full time with your children is not only a choice but pretty much a luxury of the elite. And almost by definition makes it hard for you to relate to the average woman."

Actually, it sounds like The XX Factor was parroting Hilary Rosen. Proof by repeated assertion.

Contrast that with what The XX Factor had to say about stay-at-home moms two years ago:
"Despite the popular notion that most mothers who don't work outside the home are mostly wealthy elites, stay-at-home moms actually tend to be less educated and poorer than the rest of mothers, as we learned from recent census numbers. Many of these moms, especially younger ones, simply can't find work that pays enough to cover their childcare costs."

Can we say that The XX Factor is two-faced? Or should we say that The XX Factor wants to have it both ways: stay-at-home moms are both "wealthy elites" and "less educated and poorer"? Or should we just take the easy way out and say that The XX Factor is full of crap? (Thanks to the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today" for these two excerpts. I'm afraid this link won't work as expected after April 13, 2012.)

(Quick update, April 14: The XX Factor doesn't have just one author. The two comments above, quoted in the WSJ, were from two different authors. But they really do need to get their act together, in order to avoid a mashup like the one above. A third article in The XX Factor takes a more evenhanded look at Rosen vs. Romney and makes some good points.)

Conclusion (such as it is)

Let's face it: it's tough to be a working mom. I've worked with working moms, and I've seen what they have to do to succeed.  But in today's world, even if your husband is a venture capitalist, it's just as tough to be a stay-at-home mom. It's a decision that all women have to face, and deciding either way is tough. Women are lucky if they have a husband who will support them in their decision. They're even luckier if they have a husband who makes enough money that they can choose to be a stay-at-home mom, if they want to.

But don't anybody, ever make the mistake of suggesting that a stay-at-home mom (1) doesn't  work, or (2) is out of touch with the real world, or (3) is, in any way, inferior to a working mom.

For further reading

On my other website is an essay called "Does Your Wife Work?" which looks at this subject from another angle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for presenting this so fairly. I just have to say that early in our married life, after both of us had graduated with bachelors degrees, we jointly made the decision for me to stay at home with our two young children. It was not an economic issue but one we felt was in their best interest. My husband, just out of college, was taking home around 30,000 a year...for a family of four, and paying back his student loans AND mine with his salary, plus providing for our family. It was a HUGE sacrifice for us. I think he was able to focus more on developing his career path because I was home. Now we reap the fruits of those early years of sacrifice.
Also...I'm kind of tired of the implication that rich people don't have to struggle all because they have money. I guarantee it's not as hard for them as for others, but one of the reasons most rich people are rich, is because they budget, they live within their means (which means not blowing the whole wad like a lottery winner would). Do they have nice houses? Probably. We have a millionaire living on our street who didn't buy cars for his kids (they drove beaters that belonged to their parents just like everyone else) AND he gave his kids a budget for clothing for back to school just like everyone else. Every weekend, his kids were out working on the yard. They also had to do their own laundry once they turned 12. Just sayin'...I'm sure the Romneys kids weren't raised with a silver spoon in their mouths. (thanks again)