Ann Romney doesn’t need an apology from Hilary Rosen for claiming the mom of five children has “never worked a day in her life.” Mothers at home are secure in the knowledge that notask is more vital to the health and well-being of this nation than the one they perform each day. But to understand this bit of wisdom, you have to actually do the work of motherhood — not just have children.
Ten years ago I wrote a book entitled The Work of Motherhood. My goal was to support and honor at-home mothers and to demonstrate the value of this thankless yet rewarding job to society as a whole. To my dismay, my then-editors retitled the manuscript Seven Myths of Working Mothers — and before it hit the shelves, Glamour dubbed it a “don’t” in its do’s-and-don’ts section. Next thing I knew, I was thrust into the mommy wars. It was my first foray into the reality of media bias.
Of course, getting involved in a war was not my intention. But I learned the hard way that if you speak out on this issue, war is inevitable.
#more#Yet speak out we must. For the inconvenient truth is that if there were more women like Mrs. Romney in this country, we could solve many of our nation’s problems. The chronic absence of mothers from the home is at the core of countless social ills.
We routinely ask ourselves these types of questions: Why are kids not doing well in school? Why are they overweight? Why are they getting into so much trouble? Why are they sleep deprived? Why are they on Ritalin? Why are they so disrespectful? Why are they spoiled? We simply refuse to connect the dots between the problems that exist among today’s children and the mass exodus of mothers from the home.
Just what did we think mothers were for?
Life is about sacrifice. Adults can’t always do things in a way that suits them. This does not mean, as feminists have claimed for years, that if a mother curtails her career goals to accommodate the needs of her family she invariably loses her identity. What it means is that she gets it. She understands she’s one piece, albeit a large piece, of a very large pie.
Feminists think they are the pie.
For decades they’ve been carrying on a long-running campaign to tear down the traditional family, and they get away with it because they hold so much power. Why do they hold so much power? Because unlike most women, feminists have chosen not to focus on — or in many cases even have — husbands and children.
Instead, they choose to perform a different kind of work — the kind that offers a paycheck, a pat on the back, and in the meantime, fundamentally transforms America.
And they do it, they say, because they have no choice. As Ms. Rosen tweeted to Mrs. Romney: “Most American young women HAVE to BOTH earn a living AND raise children? You know that don’t u?”
I’m afraid it’s Rosen who doesn’t get it. The two-income family is not, in fact, a fait accompli. Yes, there are some mothers who either “MUST” work or feel they must work. But let’s understand why they do.
Any woman part of the 41 percent of single mothers in America clearly needs an income. I believe Ms. Rosen falls in to that camp. But if we concede the single-mom phenomenon is a negative one — and we do: the majority of Americans believe children need married parents; and according to the Public Agenda, 70 percent of parents with children under age five agree that “having a parent at home is best” — then the proper response is to honor women like Mrs. Romney, not tear them down.
Moreover, the degree to which a married mother “must” work depends on various factors. Feminists make it sound as if women are victims of the economy — as if it happened to them. It’s actually the other way around: Women created an environment that demanded it. “All the income growth in the U.S. since 1970 has come from women working outside the home,” writes Bridget Brennan in Why She Buys.
In other words, when American women joined the workforce in spades, their incomes created “a new norm.” “The economic necessity argument hits home with a nice solid thunk. Yet ultimately it makes no sense: as a nation we used to be a lot poorer, and women used to stay home,” writes David Gelernter.
Moreover, if it were true that “most women HAVE to BOTH earn a living AND raise children,” why aren’t most women doing so? Once we remove single mothers from the equation, most mothers are not employed full-time. Most mothers with children at home are either unemployed like Mrs. Romney or they work part-time, around the needs of their children.
Put another way: Most women make clear and purposeful choices — regarding sex, whom to marry (that’s a biggie), work, geography, etc. — that allow them to be the primary caregiver in their children’s lives. Others learn the hard way that it costs to have both parents work. The money from a second income — unless it’s a six-figure salary — is usually eaten up by commuting costs, child care, eating out, work attire, dry cleaning, convenience foods, and, of course, taxes. By the time you add it all up, there isn’t much left.
So why don’t we ever talk about this stuff? Because the mainstream media is in charge. “The elite journalists in network television don’t report the really big story — arguably one of the biggest stories of our time — that this absence of mothers from American homes is without historical precedent, and that millions upon millions of American children have been left to fend for themselves with dire consequences,” writes Bernard Goldberg in his bestselling book Bias.
The media elite believe most Americans think the same way they do about motherhood, as Ms. Rosen’s tweet demonstrates. Those in the media see their views as “sensible, reasonable, rational views.” According to them, a good and just society would simply accept working mothers — or a nation full of single mothers, for that matter.
When people hear something repeated over and over again, eventually they cave. That’s what feminists bank on.
There’s no GOP war on women. The only war on women is the one that was waged more than 40 years ago. Motherhood escapes feminists. That’s why they’ve spent the better part of half a century trying to rewrite laws that make it easier for women to fly the coop.
But choosing whether or not to raise one’s children is not like choosing whether to have vanilla or chocolate. It’s a serious choice with lasting ramifications. In the past, parents weren’t burdened with such a choice — not because we were richer and thus able to have a choice (in fact we’re richer now and insist we don’t have a choice!), but because we were wiser. I think we’d all benefit from having fewer choices and more obligations.
So to all the at-home mothers and future at-home mothers, I say thank you. Thank you for doing the most important job in the world. Thank you for your blood, sweat, and tears.
Most importantly, thank you for sticking with it in a culture that just doesn’t get it.
— Suzanne Venker is co-author of The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know — and Men Can’t Say. Her new book, How to Choose a Husband, will be published in February 2013. Suzanne’s website is www.suzannevenker.com.