As they say, “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
If the Democrat pundit who claimed Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life”: if she had only added three words to her indictment–”outside the home”–there would have been less negative reaction on the part of her ostensibly Republican “enemies,” or for that matter, even many of her fellow-Democrats.
Since anyone who has ever done much “homemaking”–including child care–knows how demanding it can be. Even someone who has done as little as I.
What is even more suspect, however, is Mrs. Romney’s “I chose to be a homemaker” response. Indeed, the “other wrong that doesn’t make a right.”
Since, frankly, in the economic climate of these days, here in America, most women who work outside the home–unlike Ann Romney–they hardly have a “choice” in the matter. At least if they and their families want to live, at best, anywhere close to a minimally middle-class lifestyle.
And in many cases, even two spouses working outside the home still doesn’t get them, economically, into the so-called “middle class.”
Unlike Mrs. Romney–when it comes to one of life’s more important “choices”–too many women have apparently merely married the wrong husband. And not just the ones who married bums. There are, in fact, lots of dutiful, responsible, economically productive husbands/fathers in America today who still need the economic contribution of their wives in order for their families to thrive, if not merely survive.
Or conversely, just as many capable, reliable and successful wives/mothers in their other-than-homemaking-careers who need their husbands’ outside-the-home economic contribution for similar reasons.
Unfortunately, and painfully so, there are many families in America today–who would seem to be thriving–who are nonetheless just one serious illness or injury, or a closing of the company where the family’s breadwinner/s work (on the part, for example, of a gargantuan private equity firm such as Bain Capital) to find themselves on food stamps.
Ann Romney’s “I chose to be a homemaker” declaration is, sadly, not unlike her husband’s tragically mistaken “I don’t worry about the poorest among us, they have a safety net” assessment of the debilitating economic circumstances of too many in America today.
In this past Sunday’s “society page” of Charleston’s Post and Courier, there are eight different wedding, engagement and anniversary announcements published. Of the eight different women noted, six are described as being at least college educated, and the employment of five is described. In fact, on any given Sunday this same pattern of formally educated wives who work outside the home is the norm, rather than the exception.
It’s true, many wives/mothers have, these days, “chosen” to work outside the home for other than merely economic reasons–an expression of their gifts, talents and training (with at least 60% of American college students today being female), an enhancement of their sense of self-worth besides their incalculable value within and on behalf of their families. Indeed, women who have “chosen” to engage the demanding tension inherent, certainly where children are included, when one works both in and out of the home.
Just as there are women/mothers who have made a “decision” to not work outside the home, often in the face of their and their family’s diminished economic circumstances, in order to prioritize and enhance, as they have determined, certain other family values.
I have one daughter and one daughter-in-law, two step-daughters and one step-daughter-in-law. All are highly educated professional women, four of whom are also mothers. Three of the five work, for economic reasons, outside the home. Except, I suspect, were their family’s economic circumstances not a factor, they would still likely work outside the home in order to fulfill their sense of vocation in a way complementary to that of being a wife/mother.
One, who is not currently working outside the home, previously held executive positions in two different industries. She has two young children, one of whom is an infant she recently gave birth to. Fortunately, her husband is economically successful enough for her not to have to work outside their home, ‘though I suspect she will eventually return to the outside-the-home workforce.
The other taught school for many years before her husband became economically successful enough for her to not have to work outside the home. Such that today, besides her supportive role in relation to her husband and children, she devotes considerable time and talent to various important community organizations and activities, especially involving her expertise, public education.
And what is particularly impressive is how domestically sensitive, capable and attentive each of the husbands of these five women are–guys who are, themselves, good “homemakers.”
My wife works, of economic necessity, outside our home. Unfortunately for her–at least for economic, if not other reasons–she married me. As a minister, teacher and pastoral counselor, I’ve been anything but economically successful, at least when it comes to providing a livelihood in a manner to which my wife would like to become accustomed. For now, however, she works–and believe me, she works!–both in and out of our home.
And while there are, today, no children in our home–only grandchildren, unfortunately, not frequently enough–once upon a time, my wife had a cross-stitch which read: “If a mother’s place is in the home, why am I always in the car?”
As for Ann Romney’s “homemaker choice,” I once taught a woman graduate student, a young widow, a mother of two small children, who held three different jobs outside the home in order for her and her children to survive economically. One of her jobs was that of a nanny, taking care of other women’s children. Or as she expressed, “I feel guilty that I don’t get to spend enough time with my own children.”
She told me how surprised most of us would likely be to observe what she has commonly witnessed in her nanny role. It is not the situation of women/mothers who, of economic necessity, have been forced to work outside the home; it involves, instead, quite different circumstances: women who live in such affluence that they can hire others to do various demanding homemaking chores, including child care, thereby freeing themselves to shop, play bridge, tennis or golf, go to lunch with their girlfriends, host elegant parties, or plan romantic cruises or skiing trips. Not to mention, keeping themselves readily able and available to “meet their husbands’ needs”–if you get my drift.
Is that the sort of “homemaker choice” Mrs. Romney has been economically fortunate enough to have made?
Granted, Mrs. Romney has faced two serious illnesses in her adult life, circumstances which certainly necessitate extra “help” in caring for her children and tending to other important family matters. And I can’t imagine any reasonable person would begrudge her fortunate economic situation when facing such personal and family crises.