Michelle Obama looked fabulous last night. Her delivery was masterful and her speech contained phrases (“Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.”) that have powerful resonance. Yet I found myself oddly irritated as she wrapped herself solely in the mantle of “mom in chief.”
I’m the last person to denigrate motherhood (I love you, Mom!), but I worry what it says about where women are today that both political parties feel the need to pander to them with such over-the-top praise. Did anyone really think that Mitt Romney meant it last week when he said he knew Ann Romney’s job as mom was “harder than mine . . . a lot more important than mine”? Please.
With all due respect to my two (now grown) children, I have never seen or identified myself solely as a mother. So watching first Ann Romney and then Michelle Obama go on and on — and on — about motherhood, I couldn’t help but be offended that they think women can so easily be won over with such fulsome flattery. I yearn for the days of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who managed to raise a delightful daughter without constantly throwing it in the nation’s face.
And I wondered what kind of message all of this sent to women who can’t or choose not to have children, as well as all the fathers who more than pull their weight in bringing up kids. President Obama apparently is such a father, but you don’t see him calling himself “pop in chief.”
Michelle Obama is a smart, accomplished woman. She graduated with honors from college; she has been a lawyer, Chicago city administrator and community outreach worker. As first lady, she has staked out laudable work in helping military families and battling childhood obesity. It would have been nice to see a little more of those accomplishments last night.
I realize that the mission for Ann Romney and Michelle Obama was not to deliver policy treatises but to give context and humanity to their husbands. Too bad that, in doing so, both women surrendered a little of their own.