Rosen: More to be Pitied Than Blamed

Posted: Apr 12, 2012 9:10 AM
Yes, yes, we know that the President is working hard to consolidate support among female voters -- but Obama adviser Hilary Rosen's remarks about Ann Romney "never work[ing] a day in her life" are cynical, shameful, appalling, divisive and above all . . . ignorant.    They constitute the newest iteration of the long-running, ugly and gratuitous left-wing attack on women who have made the very important choice to stay home in order to raise their children themselves.

Perhaps the most insulting implication of Rosen's remarks (from which she shows no sign of retreating) is that stay-at-home moms are somehow lazy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Not only do stay-at-home moms work hard and tirelessly for the welfare of their children and husbands, but they also often end up taking on much more than their "fair share" (to use a favorite Obama phrase) of the volunteer work (at school and in the community at large) that women who work outside the home (by necessity or  by choice) simply can't cram into their schedules.

What's more, their choice often requires a certain degree of sacrifice.  For some, the sacrifice is financial; they have to make do with less financial security or material comfort than they would have if they had decided instead to join the workforce.  For them, staying home with children is not a "luxury" (as Hilary Rosen characterizes it); it is a necessity, which may entail giving up a car, vacation, new clothes, dinners out and more.  

For other women, the sacrifice is social: There are highly-educated, accomplished women in their own right who voluntarily surrender their own professional identities and claims to recognition or prominence, and instead become known primarily as "mother of" or "wife of"  because they believe it is most important to raise their children themselves.  For yet others, the sacrifice is intellectual: Rather than being surrounded all day by interesting colleagues or stimulating work, they willingly endure a certain degree of monotony and a life dictated not by their own needs or desires, but by the needs and desires of others. 

These women are not martyrs -- most of them love what they do and realize it is important.  But for all that, their decision to stay home with their children is no less selfless and no less admirable. And it is certainly not lazy.

For far too long, people like Rosen have made a cottage industry of trying to shame and demean women whose calling is that of a mother, wife and homemaker.  She -- and those who share her worldview -- would be better advised to understand and acknowledge the ambivalence that has plagued almost every woman with children since the dawn of the feminist age: Those who stay home feel keenly the attempts to stigmatize them, while those who work outside the home carry their own burden of worries and regrets about the time they are missing with their children (even Rosen herself admits that she sometimes "envies" women who are not working for a paycheck).  All who struggle with this dilemma are deserving of social respect and compassion, whether they work for a paycheck or not.

What Rosen and those who share her reflexive contempt for stay-at-home mothers perhaps don't understand is the way that many of these moms view their role. Working for a paycheck as a political strategist, or a lawyer, or a writer, or a senatorial aide, or a commentator, or judicial clerk (all of which I've done) -- or in any other paycheck job -- may or may not be meaningful and have lasting significance.  Even to the extent that it is, or does, its meaning and significance is for this world only.

Aside from working in religious ministry, raising a child is the only work that has implications both for this world and the next.  Properly understood, the job of bringing up a child is, in effect, the work of helping to mold a little, infinitely precious soul for eternal life.  There's nothing -- nothing -- more important. And maybe that's the part of the equation that those who denigrate stay-at-home moms don't understand.

In any case, I've held a number of jobs throughout the years, and I've worked very hard outside the home in a variety of capacities.  I can testify from personal experience that there is nothing that requires the kind of wisdom, insight, negotiation skill, generosity, personal fortitude, strength of conviction, patience, commitment -- and, yes, sometimes the ability to withstand a certain degree of tedium -- as the job of mothering.

And there is nothing I will ever do that will be as important.

If Rosen honestly doesn't understand that, she is truly more to be pitied than blamed.