During a scene in a Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode, Dets. Goren and Eames ask a suspect about his whereabouts during a murder. He explains that he was “babysitting” his kids. This irks Eames, who responds, “Oh, I love when men say they have to babysit their kids. If they’re your kids, it’s not babysitting. It’s called being a dad.”
This popped into my head during the uproar over Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen’s statement, for which she later apologized, that Ann Romney, wife of the presidential candidate, had “never worked a day in her life.” This is only true in the factual sense. However, it was considered an attack on stay-at-home mothers. Mrs. Romney responded that her “career choice” was being a mother. This is probably poorer wording than Rosen’s. I presume she was not a professional surrogate, so is she actually saying rearing her own kids was a “job”?
I was raised by a stay-at-home mother. It was great for me and arguably even better for my father, who never had to cook a meal, wash a dish, or do laundry for most of his life. I remember when my mother was in the hospital in 1991. My father and I lived up the bachelor lifestyle. We even had dinner at Quincy’s Steakhouse one night. It was cool for about a day. Then we noticed the dirty clothes that refused to clean themselves, the tumbleweeds drifting through the house, and the creature with tentacles that tried to grab me when I opened the refrigerator.
My father worked long hours, often six days a week, without complaint, just as my mother took care of the house and our sorry asses seven days a week without complaint. I wouldn’t consider it an insult to say that my father had never spent time in a grocery store. So why is it an insult to say that my mother had no professional experience? Aren’t both statements fair and accurate?
I recall during the late 1980s when there was this need to “justify” homemaking. Housewives weren’t just Peggy Bundy stereotypes eating bon-bons and watching Oprah all day. No, they were actually chauffeurs, cooks, housekeepers, psychiatrists (I always thought the last one was a stretch, as few kids grow up well adjusted). Why, a housewife was a “five-figure occupation.” That struck me as offensive. First off, why wouldn’t you expect someone to clean her own house and take care of her kids? Who else is going to do it? Octavia Spencer? Also, a wife is an equal partner to her husband. A stay-at-home mother is not her spouse’s contracted employee. If that was the case, then my father somehow wound up marrying Florence from The Jeffersons.
“Work” is defined as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result,” so I suppose that includes Mrs. Romney and pretty much everyone but Kim Kardashian. Now, a “job” is defined as a “paid position of regular employment.” Mrs. Romney has a “couple Cadillacs” but not one of those (limited space in the sixth house to store it). That was most likely Rosen’s point, the one everyone will miss because it is more politically expedient to focus on her arguably poor word choice.
These days, people with jobs are afraid of losing their positions outright or being replaced by someone younger and cheaper. That was never a concern for Mrs. Romney. It’s not like she married Newt Gingrich.