The stupidity of politics never ceases to amaze me. The latest hubbub, over Republican Ann Romney chattering about America's economic problems and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen firing back that Mrs. Romney, a stay-at-home mom, has never worked a day in her life and therefore isn't qualified to comment about economic strife, is a prime example. Because, folks, this isn't really about how Democrats or Republicans feel. It's about the reigniting of an endless and absurd war in which women have been engaged since the feminist movement propelled millions of us into the work force, a war with the heading "Who's better? Mothers who work outside of the house or moms who stay home with the kids?"
Post Rosie the Riveter back in the 1940s, cultural tales lead us to believe that women stepped lightly into the fifties in heels and belted pastels, lived in saltbox houses in flowered neighborhoods, drove station wagons, and tousled the heads of Beaver Cleaver types who skipped off to school after a fine mommy-prepared breakfast. Then, the story continues, came the uncertain sixties, which brought with them bra burning and rebellion "against the family." The seventies and ensuing decades supposedly featured women clawing their way up corporate ladders and leaving latchkey kiddies behind to fend for themselves. Today, at the apex of this family-destroying female phenomenon, conservative pundits wring their hands over offspring destruction in the wake of working mothers while liberal counterparts insist moms who work are smarter and send well-rounded, independent progeny into the world.
It seems to me it's time for a reality check. Indeed, there was many a suburban mom who waited with cookies and milk for fifties tots returning from school, not to mention plenty of scorched bras, ladder climbers, and latchkey kids in the decades to follow. But where is the proof that children of stay-at-home moms turn out better and that working moms have troubled kids? Or vice versa? Or that raising children is "the hardest job in the world?" And who started this debate in the first place? Probably not mothers. More than likely, this girl on girl crime was kicked off by political candidates and clever statisticians who set conservative and liberal moms against each other in a rabid lust for the "female" vote.
Speaking from my own experience, I had a working mom. She didn't have the luxury of staying at home because she, along with my dad, needed to put food on the table. My sister and I didn't go on a crime spree because the lady of the house was putting time in at a local factory. We went about our business, attended school, did our homework, cooked some meals, and picked up the slack in household chores. Mothers of some of my friends also worked...as secretaries, grocery store clerks, nurses, farmers' wives, and teachers...and other mothers didn't. In the end whether or not our mothers had outside jobs didn't seem to matter a bit as to how we turned out, and never, not once, do I recall any of these hardworking women pointing a finger at another mom because they went out to work, or because they stayed home. Furthermore, with all due respect to Mrs. Romney, all jobs are hard, whether it's raising kids or milking cows or running a company or lifting 50 pound bags of dog food eight hours a day, the latter of which my mother did while raising two kids, keeping a home, tending a husband, and caring for an elderly mother who lived upstairs. Ms. Rosen saying Mrs. Romney never worked a day in her life was also inappropriate. I'm sure Mrs. Romney worked plenty hard raising five boys. And if she did work hard...so what? We all make choices in the work we do. To argue about who does what better and who works harder and that stay-at-home moms don't understand economics and that working moms are doing a disservice to their kids is, in the end, asinine. Cultural legend aside, women have been toting that barge, lifting that bale, and raising that kid for millennia.
It's high time women stopped fighting about how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom versus how hard it is to raise kids with a full-time out-of-the-house job. It's time instead to turn the fists away from each other and aim at the appropriate target: the slinking politicians -- not to mention inflammatory cable TV talking heads --who are pitting women against each other to shape an election.