When Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen this week said of Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, that she had “never worked a day in her life,” it touched off an uproar from the Romney campaign. Their accusation that Rosen was against stay-at-home moms, and their attempt to paint President Obama with the same brush, drowned out the real issue.
As a working psychologist who has studied and worked with working families for over 30 years, I know that the real issue is that Ann Romney, as a member of the 1%, has never had to worry about money, about how to support her children, how to pay for medicine, etc. She has been privileged in a way the rest of us can only dream of, to be able to concentrate on developing her children’s talents.
So when Mitt says that he consults with his wife about “women’s issues,” they are both deluding themselves, and the media is buying it uncritically.
Rosen’s point was that Mrs. Romney doesn’t understand the economic pressures felt by the typical American mom who works outside the home and raises her kids. Women work both because they want to and because they have to. Even middle-class women often have to work to be able to afford anything near the resources they want their children to have.
Ironically, the labor movement in the ’40s was able to gain credence and power by arguing that their wives should be able to stay home out of fairness, just as the wives of the managers, so that they could provide a home environment conducive for the success of their children. And, it worked! (We could go into how much of a success the boomers have been, but that is for another essay.)
Rather than defend Rosen, the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign distanced themselves from her. Rather than defend working women, they played to the stay-at-home-mom rhetoric.
Why did the Obama campaign concede the field on this one? If the Democratic Party is not willing to stand up for working women in such a simple and direct way, what does that say about how much loyalty they are going to command in the coming election?
This election is about two very stark choices, but if the Obama gurus are going to cave at the slightest hint of controversy, watch out. As my then 9-year-old son said many years ago: “Life is hard. Buy a helmut.”
Phil Tankel, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who has worked with individuals, couples and families for the past 30 years. His doctoral work focused on couples who share work and family responsibilities.