False Equivalencies of Motherhood

Posted on June 19, 2012 by

Not all choices and lifestyles are equal. Our inability to achieve the ideal doesn’t make it any less ideal. This used to be common sense, which isn’t so common anymore.

This year’s presidential race recently detoured over into the mommy wars when a Democratic strategist accused Ann Romney of never having worked a day in her life, since she was a stay-at-home wife and mother of the five children she shares with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. While I found the discussions entertaining, there was nothing new to see here and I largely tuned it out.

That is, I tuned it out until the Old-Fashioned Housewife tipped me off to this video where some liberal talking heads decided to look at the story from another angle:

My interest was piqued precisely because Chris Hayes and company decided to peel back the layers on the issue rather than simply regurgitating the same old arguments that have been debunked with research. Unfortunately, they also made all roads and choices leading to and related to motherhood equal. They engaged in double speak, and they caught the Romney campaign in the middle of the exact same type of doublespeak.

Women like me, full time wives and mothers were rightly put off when the democratic strategist downplayed the role of women who dedicate their lives to raising our families when she said that it wasn’t work. There was nothing new about that, as I’ve gotten used to it over the years.

Unfortunately,  Governor Romney insinuated the same thing in his speech declaring that single mothers on the dole need to go get jobs so that they can experience the dignity of work. In this he erred greatly. The primary reason that people on the dole need to get jobs is not to experience the dignity of work. It’s to free the rest of us from having to pay our living expenses and theirs too, when they are perfectly capable of going to work to do so.

Whether or not they feel any dignity as a result is to me, a secondary consideration if it is to be considered at all. I would never say that a woman at home taking care of children isn’t doing something of value, regardless of how she is being provided for. That’s not the point. The point is that not all motherhood is equal in origin and quality.

A married mother whose husband is supporting her and their children is not necessarily a better person than the single mother on the dole, but her choice to stay at home isn’t being bankrolled by the taxpayers, and it costs you and I nothing. The same cannot be said of the never married mother who depends on you and I for her daily subsistence. A widowed mother isn’t the same as a divorced mother who left her husband to find herself, and that mother isn’t the same as the faithful wife whose husband decided one day to move on the greener pastures.

The reason conservatives get into trouble is because they allow the opposition to frame the debate. Liberals will never admit that there are varying degrees of anything, or that one lifestyle choice is better than another. Debating them on those grounds is fruitless and will always lead to faux pas such as the one Romney committed.

I know women who are single parents, who work hard and do the best they can to provide for their children and be a positive influence despite the bad decisions they made that gave their children a rocky start, to put it mildly. Those I respect most are the ones who acknowledge that they didn’t do right by their children rather than wearing their folly as a badge of honor. Nevertheless there is a clear and objective truth here, supported by decades of observation and research. Conservative politicians need not dance around it to try and grab votes they haven’t a snowball’s chance of getting anyway.

When you make the decision to have sex with unsuitable men (translation: any man not your husband), and bear children, you set into motion a chain of events that will make life very hard. It will be hard for you, and it will be hard for your children. It will require that you relinquish them to a third-party caregiver far sooner than you would like because you have to work to feed  and clothe them. They will lack the stability and discipline of their father, and much of the nurture and guidance of their mother.

I recognize that there are children born to intact families whose mothers still have to go to work, but most don’t do it to feel dignity. I know I didn’t. They do it because they feel they must. If they have to do it, why should a person who made the irresponsible choice be coaxed into doing the same with false promises of feelings of accomplishment?

Your self-worth is not increased one iota by handing your baby over to someone else to care for her. That’s a lie.  You have to do it because your kids have gotta eat. And let’s stop pretending that all choices are equally valid. Maybe if we told people the truth more often, they’d make better choices in the first place.

Posted in: Gender Dynamics