Last week, taking advantage over the controversial statement by political consultant for Democrats Hilary Rosen that his wife Ann has never worked a day in her life, conservative presidential contender Mitt Romney and his campaign pounced big time. Mitt Romney believes all mothers work hard and the work that they do should be respected and shouldn’t denigrated by anyone. Ms. Romney was right there with her husband telling everybody that even though she was a stay at home mom she had days where she really worked hard to help their staff raise their three sons. Ms. Romney referred to Ms. Rosen’s criticism as an early birthday gift.
But early Sunday morning I was watching MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes and they played a clip of Mr. Romney back in January on stage and telling a conservative audience that he believed that a mother with a child as young as two years old should be forced to go outside the home and work for a living in order to earn some social dignity. He said that his statement might sound harsh but he was willing to have the government pay more in order to supplement a welfare program to separate a child from his or her mother rather than pay less and leave the child’s rearing to the mother, the one person more than any other who we believe will work hardest to keep the child safe and to watch out for their well being. It might sound harsh, but Mr. Romney is willing to pay more to put the child at a higher risk of something happening to it.
Bear with me for a second as I propose for the sake of argument that we take Mitt Romney at his word back in January and he wants to help all mothers. It is our error that we assume that Mr. Romney wants to help people financially when in fact he wants to help women psychologically by helping them get their dignity back after their dignity was lost when they made the choice to stay at home to raise their child. In Mr. Romney’s opinion, there is no dignity in staying home to do the really hard work of being mother. It’s better if we pay for a woman to go outside the home to do easier work and leave the child rearing to somebody who wouldn’t have nearly the vested interest in the development and protection of the child. Makes sense so far? Now if Mr. Romney feels that women who stay at home don’t have any real dignity how does Ms. Romney deal with her lack of self esteem?
Now I don’t think Mr. Romney has a problem with Ms. Romney staying home and working to manage the staff helping to raise the Romney boys. In fact, I’m willing to bet Mr. Romney doesn’t have a problem with anyone who stays at home to do the hard work of raising a family as long as it happens without any financial assistance from government. What actually leads to the loss of dignity is the need for financial aid. Everybody likes to say that working at home as a mother might be the hardest form of work on the planet. But if that very hard work comes only with the assistance of government, then it really isn’t worth a damn and we’d be better off paying more to put the child in the hands of strangers so that everybody can have dignity. However, I’m pretty sure that if you asked most mothers they’d say that they’d rather stay at home and raise their child and suffer the loss of their dignity to people who don’t value their contribution to society’s future rather than have government pay to put the child in a daycare so that they can go to a job that they can run the risk of losing when they have to take off in order to take care of the child that got sick at the daycare the state paid to put the child in while the mother earned dignity.
Mr. Romney said that he gets his information about what women want from his wife who tells him that women are worried about the economy and about the lack of jobs and all things happening with Wall Street at the core. Maybe that’s because the women than Ms. Romney talks to are the ones whose husbands earn their money off of Wall Street investments. Ask these women what’s most important to them and I’d have little evidence to contradict the contention that market indicators are important to these hardworking, dignified women who passed on the really hard work of raising children.
But ask a woman who needs help and doesn’t have the choice to stay home but is forced to earn their dignity by earning a paycheck and putting their child in a subsidized daycare and the answer might be a little different. I think this woman would be concerned about their ability to provide for the child. They are concerned about the social programs that provide the housing subsidies and the welfare assistance that helps her keep her head above water while she does the hard work of being a mother and raising a child without the assistance of a staff waiting at her beck and call.
If Ms. Romney truly believed that the work of being a mother is truly important and that she wanted to report back to her husband the real concerns of women, I’m sure that if she really valued her membership in the sorority of mothers who work hard, she would say that women are concerned that their children are not getting the benefit of having their mothers care for them. I would think that if she really felt that being a mom was as hard as her staff tells her it is, I think she would tell Mitt to make sure that he doesn’t gut the social programs that help so many mothers be the kind of mother their children can depend on. If everybody agrees that motherhood is so important, then it should be important even when it is done with the help of government, whether or not the people who run the government think these people have dignity or not.