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Friday's child has to work for a living

Maybe Ann Romney has worked a day in her life, but I’m with Hilary Rosen: “She’s never dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future.”

Mrs. Romney might have single-handedly raised her kids and kept the mansions all spiffy and clean, but not for one moment has she worried about how to survive without child support or how to provide for her children on her wits and hard work alone. She never had to suck it up at a job she didn’t particularly like for a paycheck that was not going to cover the bills. She never had to worry about getting hired or fired. So don’t throw that old ’70s bromide back in my face, Mrs. Romney. Every mother is a working mother, yes. But you got lucky, if you can call being married to Willard Romney lucky.

I grew up in a feminist household. My mom sometimes worked as a teacher, but she took time off as needed to be at home with my siblings and me. Years later as an adult, I realized what a luxury it was that my parents could make that choice. Not that we were rich. My dad was a county psychologist who helped launch education programs for what they used to call “displaced homemakers.” These were the women who gave up careers to stay home, raise children, and keep house so their husbands could focus on their careers. And then their husbands divorced them.

The post–World War II ideal in America was a Father Knows Best scenario, with Mom in an apron and Dad in a business suit. In reality, it proved difficult for many families to live out the TV fantasy—although it appears to have worked for the Romneys, bless their hearts. The reality was that sometimes both parties felt unfulfilled. What was presented as the ideal choice turned out not to be the right choice for all families, even that fraction of people who could afford it.

During my first marriage, my husband lost his job. I was a freelance writer and our kids were toddlers. As the months turned into a year, I asked a female in-law for advice. Her husband had been out of work, but there was a difference: they had resources from wealthy family members who were willing to pitch in and help them cover their expenses. Mark and I did not have that. The relative said she simply insisted on staying home with their three children. She would not entertain the possibility of getting a job, even part time or temporarily to help the family through the current crisis.

Even now, I’m astounded by this. I cannot relate to her at all. I’ve worked since I was 18, and I’ll probably be working until I’m 70 or 80. I’m grateful I can support myself and my kids, and only occasionally bitter that I don’t make a gazillion bucks. But now Ann Romney is feigning self-righteous indignation, standing up for a woman’s so-called right to a choice few of us have. For the vast majority of women, marrying into wealth is not a dignified or fulfilling approach to making a livelihood, especially when it means marrying a man who has no respect for women. It’s your world and you’re welcome to it, Mrs. Romney, but don’t pretend to care about mine.
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