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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 04/16/2012

Hilary Rosen vs. Ann Romney reaction: Mothers are not so easily divided

Last week’s political tempest — Hilary Rosen’s dismissal of Ann Romney’s credentials to speak on economic issues because the stay-at-home mom of five had “never worked a day in her life” — took off in pundit circles as a possible game-changer in the quest for female votes. Especially mothers.

The conventional wisdom held that the ally of President Obama had misstepped and driven undecided stay-at-home mothers into the arms of the GOP, the party that supports the SAHM troops (as opposed to the Democratically-backed work-outside-of-the-home moms).

That conclusion, however, has been short-lived. Commentary in The Post and elsewhere over the weekend questioned the notion that mothers can be so easily pitted against one another.

The reaction to the reaction, in fact, suggests that mothers have come a long way from the Hillary Clinton-not-baking-cookies days.

“This is not about the so-called Mommy Wars, where mothers with a paycheck sneer at the ones without one — a binary simply not reflected in women’s lived experience. It’s about class and about how government policy compounds its impact on households with kids,” wrote Irin Carmon in Salon.

One of the most popular and retweeted commentaries came from Amy Wilson, an actress and author of “When Did I Get Like This?” (Harper Collins, 2011).

Wilson is also one of the forces behind the “Listen to Your Mother” series that offers particularly pithy mothers a forum to monologue abut the realities of parenting. That series, by the way, will be coming to the Synetic Theater at Crystal City on May 6 and will feature a collection of top-notch local writers.

More on that event is here.

Wilson’s reaction captured the sentiment of many mothers who did not like being so quickly cast as either victims — or heroes — by political parties. Here’s an excerpt:

“I hate when people say that. I really do. ‘Motherhood is the hardest job in the world.’ Because the person who says it is usually someone who couldn’t have any idea whether that was true or not. (viz: Oprah. Joe Scarborough.) It’s patronizing, devoid of meaning, and wrong. Was getting my kids to school this morning harder than working in a Chilean mine? Of course not. Is juggling dinner, homework, and bathtime harder than rush hour air traffic control at JFK? (About the same, I’d say.) There are times when being a mother is way, way harder or soul-sucking or monotonous or impossible than anyone who hasn’t been one can imagine. But painting us all as selfless saints is a ridiculous generalization that allows public figures to pay lip service to motherhood without standing behind it.

“Yes, I was bothered by what Rosen said. But I’m even more bothered by the rush to respond with this head-patting ‘mothers are so wonderful’ nonsense that is meaningless and does nothing to promote mothers’ standing in the world. …

“Please, pundits, spare us SAHMs the patronizing pats on the head and the empty plaudits about how you think we have the hardest job in the world. Rosen will suffer the consequences but she told the truth: people who aren’t SAHMs think being a SAHM isn’t a job at all. And until that conviction changes, on both sides of the aisle, the real issues facing women — childcare, pay equity, health care, and the freedom to work outside the home or in it — will never get any better.”

— From “please stop saying motherhood is the hardest job in the world,” by Amy Wilson

What do you think? Is the phrase “motherhood is the hardest job in the world” patronizing?

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By  |  07:00 AM ET, 04/16/2012

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