Nice job, Hilary Rosen. Seriously. With one thoughtless swipe at stay-at-home-mothers–
you’ve become the new Hillary to hate. Which is good, because this one stopped giving a hoot about being liked a long time ago.
That Hillary is wayyy too busy to be sucked into another tired Mommy War, and we should all be too. But despite some pundits arguing that Rosen had a point about the plight of working mothers just above the poverty line, and that what she said was taken out of context, nobody’s talking about that– just the firebomb Rosen threw. Why should we give Rosen the benefit of the doubt, consider what could have been a well-reasoned argument? Unfortunately, that’s not what she said. To me, that’s kind of like saying “But some bitter people DO cling to guns and religion,” which they do, but we all knew Obama was a bonehead for saying it.
And so here we go again, with every politician and pundit tripping over one another on their way to the podium to announce that THEY honor mothers, and that motherhood is the hardest job there is.
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. Peggy Noonan went on Morning Joe today to wax on about the saintliness of women who stay home to raise their children (again, not someone who would seem to have much experience on that). She said, “It reminds me of the women 30, 40 years ago who would say they were ‘just a housewife’ at cocktail parties. It’s the tender moments like that.” And I almost threw my cereal bowl at the television. Is it “tender” that women who stay home feel unseen and unrecognized, then and now? No. It’s tragic, is what it is.
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.