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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

In Defense of Stay-at-Home Moms. Even Ann Romney.

God knows, I don’t want to say anything that could ever be construed as supporting Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president. But this Gawker story about Mitt’s wife Ann joining Twitter to rebut CNN commentator Hilary Rosen, who said of Ms. Romney that the mother of five has “never worked a day in her life” has too much potential to backfire on the Dems to let it slide.

Ms. Romney (or, to be fair, perhaps it’s someone Tweeting on her behalf) tweet-tweet-tweeted in response:

“I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

and

“I’ll be with @marthamaccallum this morning at 10:40 discussing Hilary Rosen’s comments. All moms are entitled to choose their path.”

Well, on this issue at least, I have to agree with Ann Romney. As a mom of five myself who has both done time as a stay-at-home mom and balanced working with having a pack of kids, I fully support women who have kids in making the choice that’s right for them. The reality is, once you go down the pregnancy path there’s no going back, and if you are both a mom and a woman who loves her job, you’re screwed no matter which choice you make. Your choices pretty much boil down to:

(1) Return to work a few weeks (or months, if you’re lucky) after baby is born, so that you can enjoy the incredible balancing act of being a working mom of a newborn, including but not limited to shelling out a good chunk of the pay you bring home for child care expenses, showing up for important meetings sleep-deprived and with baby puke drooled down your back, and going home to do more housework than their working husbands (and get a bonus seven hours of housework a week just for HAVING a husband around). If you’re also trying to breastfeed baby, add in the joys of breastpumping in the middle of the day at the office and sitting through that impromptu 4PM meeting your boss calls with your breasts painfully engorged, nodding your head and trying to appear interested while every maternal and hormonal instinct just wants the relief of your baby getting that milk out of your boobs, now.

(2) Take a few years off work to stay home and take care of your kiddos while they’re small, if you can afford it or constrict your spending to accommodate one income for a while. The upside to this is that you’re not juggling work with your kids, and you get a few years to really bond with them while they’re babies. The downside is that building block towers and watching kiddie tv shows gets old incredibly fast, and you can feel lonely and isolated. Also, the pay and benefits suck. There’s only so much stimulation you can get from stay-at-home mom groups and playdates, especially if a part of your mind is already on getting back to work. And if you take more than an average maternity leave to stay home, you may find it hard to jump right back into your career where you left off. Even after just a couple years off in the tech industry, I would have had a very hard time getting right back into project management at the level I was when I left. On the other hand, you may, as I did, find an entirely new career path that allows you greater flexibility, which is why I ended up transitioning into using that journalism minor to shift into writing rather than going back into tech.

(3) Just be a SAHM. There are plenty of women, like Ann Romney, who have chosen the path of being stay-at-home moms and caring for home and family as their first priority. And while I wouldn’t choose this path myself — five years of it was my max tolerance for being a SAHM — I know plenty of smart women, women with graduate degrees even, who have chosen this path, particularly in the homeschooling community. SAHMs often feel lonely and devalued; in my own experience, I often felt that both men and other moms who were working outside the home looked down on me for choosing to be a SAHM at that point in my life, and there were many times when I questioned my choice to do so. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that choice, and certainly in many ways it’s easier than the constant juggling of balancing work and family and finding there’s never enough of yourself to go around.

Staying home to take care of your family is a perfectly valid choice to make, and it’s certainly not an easy choice. Being home all day with kids, focusing all your energy on caring for home and family, especially with five kids running around, is exhausting. But that doesn’t make it an invalid choice, or mean that a SAHM is contributing less to her family or to society than a working mom.

The Dems really need to watch how they’re framing the discussion here. Don’t vilify stay-at-home moms in trying to get your digs in on Romney, liberal pundits. The last thing women need to do in this political climate is to start attacking each other for our choices as mothers and working women. It’s okay to be a working mom. It’s okay to be a SAHM. But it’s not okay to say that SAHMs have “never worked a day” in their lives. Every SAHM I know can call bullshit on that, and all you accomplish with those kinds of inflammatory comments is pissing off women who are already struggling to make the best choice for themselves and their kids.

4 Responses to “In Defense of Stay-at-Home Moms. Even Ann Romney.”

  1. Mark F. says:

    Well said.

  2. Barbara says:

    Amen! It is a tough choice to give up luxuries, not have them, to stay at home and be a keeper of the home for your family. Be careful, very careful, how you piss us off, liberal Dems.

  3. Marie says:

    And be careful, very careful, how you piss us off, conservative Republicans. Start respecting wage earning and breadwinner mothers as great mothers.

    And start insisting that all husbands take equal responsibility for housework and childcare. Mitt Romney has never been an equal parenting partner to Ann. She even called him her sixth child.

    This article misses a crucial point. If all fathers took equal responsibility for childcare, we would never have any Mommy Wars. Mitt and Barack put their careers ahead of fatherhood and dumped the parenting work on Anne and Michele. And they got rewarded for it. We need to stop lauding men who shirk their childcare duties.

    Many women do not want to have children because they refuse to make a no-win “choice.” Until our culture admits that every mother has a right to economic independence and ever father must be an equal parenting partner, we will not have kids. We refuse to be exploited as mothers.

  4. Kim Voynar says:

    Marie, I hear you. And I didn’t miss that crucial point at all … it’s addressed in #1 right in the article. But if you want kids and you’re choosing not to have them just to make a political point, are you not also making another kind of “no-win” choice?

    Major societal shifts don’t happen overnight, they take a generation or two. And I would argue that a lot of men in my generation (I’m 43) are MUCH more involved with caring for their kids than their fathers and grandfathers generations were, when men paced the waiting room and handed out cigars when the birth was over.

    I agree with you, though, that working moms are vilified in a way that working dads never are. I have been criticized more times than I could count for the travel my job as a film critic has entailed — criticism that I know most of my male colleagues who are also dads have never had to put up with. Nonetheless, if you want to see a major societal shift, I would argue that it’s far more effective to have kids if you actually want them, with a partner who will share the load with you, and raise your own kids to have the values you’d like to see in the world. Change happens as one generation raises the next with better values.

    I stayed home for a while when my four youngers were 6, 4, 2 and new because it wasn’t practical to work outside the home just then, and because it was important to me at that point in my life and theirs that I give myself over to that for a while. Eventually they got older, I was bored being home and, most importantly, I felt that I was sending my girls the message that they could NOT be moms and also pursue their dreams and passions, so I went back to work. I needed to live the values I wanted them to have.

    Going on reproductive strike, as it were, strikes me as a not terribly productive or effective way to actually bring about the change you wish to see.

    And I’m not a conservative Republican, I am a liberal Democrat with very socialist tendencies. Personally, I’d also like to see the US support working moms the way the Nordic countries do.

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“To be a critic is to be a workaholic. Workaholism is socially conditioned: viewed favourably by exploiters, it’s generally ruinous to a worker’s mental health. When T.S. Eliot said criticism was as inevitable as breathing, he failed to mention that, respiratory problems notwithstanding, breathing is easy. Criticism is reflexive before reflective: to formalise/industrialise an involuntary instinct requires time, effort and discipline. The reason we seek remuneration, as opposed to the self-hatred of being a scab, is because all labour should be waged…

“Criticism, so the cliché by now goes, is dying. None of the panel discussions on its death agony, however—including those in which I’ve formally participated—come at it from the wider perspective that the problem surely needs. They defend the ways in which criticism functions in relation to the industry and to the public, but they fail to contextualise these relationships as defined by ultimately rotten and self-harming imperatives.

“Criticism was a noble profession so long as only a few could practice it for money; when the field expands, as it has with a so-called ‘democratisation’ of our practice, those few lose their political power. Competition grows and markets are undercut: publications are naturally going to start paying less. Precarity is both cause and effect of a surplus workforce: the reason you’re only as good as your last article is because there are plenty of other folks who can write the next one in your place. The daily grind is: pitch, or perish.

B”ut criticism, so a counter-cliché goes, is not dying. An irony: this is an elite sport that is no longer elite in terms of who is able to practice it, but in economic terms it’s clutching to a perverse and outmoded hierarchical structure. It’s more meritocratic than ever, now: which is to say it isn’t meritocratic at all. That’s a paradox in bad need of a resolution…”

~ Michael Pattison Manifestoes Film Criticism

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~ Matt Zoller Seitz To Sam Esmail

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