Hard work. (Steven Senne/AP)

On Wednesday night, Democratic pundit Hilary Rosen commented that Ann Romney couldn’t understand the economic problems of women, as she had “never worked a day in her life.”

Then the storm started. Ann Romney joined in on Twitter. “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys,” she tweeted. “Believe me, it was hard work.”

Her son Josh chimed in with a slightly misspelled tweet, and it was on.

Nothing gets our collective ire flowing, if flow is what ire does, like the suggestion that we are not working hard enough. Especially when it comes to our parenting. Especially when it comes to the time-honored question of mothers staying in the nest or venturing out for worms and bacon.

You thought it was bad getting between a mother bear and her cubs? Try telling the mother bear that she made a mistake by staying home.

Remember the Tiger Mother?

There are harder jobs than raising the Romney boys, I would imagine, just based on their posture when standing behind Mitt at the podium. But it took effort to get them that way, and Ann clearly supplied it.

Stay-at-home parenting has always been an exposed nerve, as subjects go. But that it was So Completely Pivotal In This Race That Everyone Involved Had To Comment Extensively, I had no idea.

First I heard Ann Romney say motherhood was hard work, then I turned my back for a few seconds, and by the time I’d returned the discussion had mushroomed into something that sounded roughly like this:

“Ann Romney is so smart and economically savvy, she could have invented relativity and created world peace, but she opted to raise five boys instead! And it was much, much harder.”

“James Brown once met Ann Romney and he said, ‘Hey, I know what they say about me and showbiz, but you take the cake hard-work-wise.’”


Even better were the droves of people insisting that you couldn’t talk about this. Nothing says, “This topic is off-limits” like “I’m commenting on this very topic.”

The Obama camp whizzed by to distance themselves from Rosen’s remarks. Michelle Obama took to Twitter to note that, “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.” (Real controversial, Michelle!) Even the president weighed in.

Cue fit after fit of hyperbolic dudgeon. It's one of the few growth industries left in this country.

By Thursday night, Rosen had appeared on TV to apologize.

And I’m sure we have more of this to look forward to.

There’s nothing like debating Which Mom Works Hardest and Whose Candidate’s Wife Would Look Best On Top Of A Wedding Cake and Whose Kids Have The Firmest Handshakes to while away the long summer evenings.

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it is that it is far too early in the year to start talking about substance. What are we, policy wonks? Leave that to Paul Ryan. Let’s fight about which candidate’s wife is the better mother! Let’s debate which spouse has the warmest Ability to Understand the Economy Through the Hearts of Her Fellow Women, or whatever else is the latest course of action our candidates’ wives are supposed to be pursuing.

Look, a molehill! Let’s discuss it! Let’s discuss it further!

Everywhere I turn (which is a sad statement about the places I turn) I see people saying that What Romney Must Do Is Let Ann Speak To Women For Him or other, equally fervent people proclaiming that What Romney Must Do Is Absolutely Not Let Ann Speak To Women For Him. That some sort of woman-whisperer is required to convey our economic concerns has always struck me as an odd concept. Can’t we walk up to Mitt and tell him? Can’t he talk to them himself?

But if we didn’t beat these subjects to death, what would we do?

I suppose it’s good to have hobbies.

Which is not to say that motherhood isn’t hard, no matter how independent your means are, or that the subject isn’t important. But if we get so worked up about things like this, I worry what will happen when we get into discussing actual issues.

Actual issues. That’s a good one.