A mother’s work. Rosen, Romney, and my wife.

Before 9:20 Thursday morning I had never heard of Hillary Rosen. Apparently she’s kind of a big deal in the world of political strategy, but that’s not why I heard her being discussed on the radio. She made a revealing statement about Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, that has the political world abuzz.

His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we . . .  why we worry about their future.” (source)

It’s the first sentence that has the talking heads shouting and I wanted to chime in. First of all, her words are being take a bit out of context and sensationalized for public consumption. The conversation was about her giving Mitt a pulse on women’s thinking when it comes to economics. Rosen was making the point that Ann’s opinion was irrelevant because she hadn’t been in the marketplace, and even if she had, the Romney’s bountiful checking account protected her from the burdens most American women face. Frankly, she’s probably right. However, I do think she showed her cards on the whole work issue and her beliefs are shared by many.

The American culture is completely driven by money. A wise old friend used to tell me, “If money isn’t important why are the roads crammed full at 8:00 and 5:00 every day?” We know it’s true, but rarely do we think about all the implications. Rosen’s comment let one of those implications slither out of the box – we determine someone’s societal value based on their ability to contribute financially, and far too many of our relationships are established or maintained based on a cost-benefit analysis.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a young couple tell me they weren’t having more kids because they “couldn’t afford any more.” Of the 3,700 abortions that occur each day, a vast majority of them (93%) are because the child would be “inconvenient.” In most cases, the inconvenience is a financial one. Babies cost money and they don’t bring any in, so they don’t make sense in the cost-benefit analysis. One of the leading excuses for divorce is financial hardship. We work too many hours, to earn enough money to put the kids we do have in a day care, and feel like we’re doing our job. Well, we are, but we aren’t either.

I’ve been teaching a class on vocation for the last eleven weeks and I’ve established the idea that there are two classes of work: Domestic and Provision. They are equal in importance. Domestic work includes a child’s responsibilities in the home, a man’s obligations as a husband and a father, and a women’s role as a wife and mother. Provision work is the means by which basic needs are provided, normally through a typical J-O-B. Because it yields no financial dividends, our culture has denigrated the domestic vocation to some inhumane, oppressive drudgery to be avoided at all cost. Provision work is where we believe the figurative and literal money is.

One of, if not the, major factors for buying a new home is proximity to a good school (at least for young families).  A home in the district of an A-rated school can be between 50,000 and 300,000 more expensive than a comparable with a B-rated school. In order to afford the mortgage mom and dad both have to work. The ends justify the means. Question: Why do we think it’s important for our kids to be in a good school system? Answer: We want them to get into a good college.

A “good college” costs big bucks; I’ll spare you the statistics. Making sure we have enough to send our kids to a good college requires mom and dad to work even harder to bring home even more bacon. 40 hours become 60. All the while junior is being dropped off at 7:30, picked up at 6:00, fed and in bed by 7:30. Usually mom or dad (rarely both) get to spend a good hour or two with their child each day, while a group of professionals devote their Provision work to fulfilling our Domestic work. It’s insane. Question: Why do we want our kids to get into a good college? Answer: So they can get a good job.

We think of a good job as one that pays well and has benefits. This is where it gets particularly rich. Why do we want the good jobs? Answer: so we can afford a house in a good school district. Round and round we go… “When you comin’ home dad? I don’t know when…”

Rosen’s right, Ann Romney never worked a day in her life. That is, she never performed provision work a day in her life. Many think she wasted her life in chauvinistic servitude. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Her work was different, but it was work and it was important.

My wife works like a humming bird’s flight muscles. Her hours would make an NFL coach feel inadequate. Her skill set rivals the collective abilities of entire staffs. People praise Jordan for performing in the playoffs with flu-like symptoms. I’d like to see him pull off what Jeni does every day, while pregnant. She’s a super hero.

I’m sick of our culture demeaning women for choosing to devote themselves to their domestic vocation. It’s irresponsible and ignorant for the feminist crowd to criticize a woman for choosing kids over a career. It doesn’t help pay the bills, but life’s about more than paying bills.

A mother’s domestic work is a noble vocation and  those who embrace it are worthy of our highest respect.

(Just for clarification, I am in no way saying that anytime a woman pursues a career she is doing something wrong. I am saying our culture, and the feminist movement in particular, is wrong to say that a woman is discrediting her gender when she chooses to stay at home.)

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6 comments

  1. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and quite frankly you’re danged if you do and danged if you don’t. As a mother you feel guilty enough because we constantly think we’re not doing/giving enough without the comments like “she’s socially behind because you stayed home” or “why do you need a break? you don’t spend enough time with her since you work all day.” The peanut gallery should take a lesson from Kait’s teacher. “Your business ends at the end of your nose.” As parents, we judge ourselves harshly enough. We don’t need help from everyone else. Lend a helping hand or kind word rather than an evil look or harsh critism and leave the judging up to the real Judge.

  2. Well put Ryan. Most people think staying at home with kids is the “easy” job. When Amber was home with Kait, I knew I had the easy job of the two of us. And we did hear all of the comments and jabs, some from people that we would have never expected to judge us so harshly for making that choice. We were fortunate as well to have been there for every key milestone (walking, etc.), and are happy about that. We didn’t have to get the recap of the first steps or first words from a third party, non-family member.

  3. I’m reading a great book, Femine Appeal. One of the chapters discusses this topic of working in the home. The author makes an excellent point. It is not actually the type of task that is a stumbling block in our society. For example, if we said, “I work at a Daycare, or I offer house cleaning services, or I work in food preparation,” no one would blink an eye as long as we are getting a paycheck for these things and not ‘merely’ performing them in our own homes. When we step back and look at the issue from that point of view, it is easy to see that there is an underlying contempt for the life of humble and diligent doing, not because of the tasks themselves, but because it flies in the face of a culture where a person’s self-worth is determined by a paycheck and public acclaim. The issue is pride on every level.

  4. Well said and something that should be often repeated. When your secondary vocation interferes with your primary vocation something is amiss.

  5. I’m getting more and more tired of hearing how intolerant conservatives are when as a conservative woman, my life is constantly slammed. I stay home, by choice. I home school, by choice. I also love and support my husband, who is a soldier, by choice. It seems they are very intolerant of my choices, and the only choice they would have supported is if I had chosen to have aborted a baby by just any man who had no job. Just saying.

  6. Ryan, thanks for sticking up for us women. Even though I only had two children and stayed at home with them for a long time, I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that stay-at-home Moms work very hard. I was also irate at Rosen’s comments. She is ignorant to the facts. Keep up the good work.
    Christy

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