Dear Ann Romney,
I don’t often advise Republicans. I picked my team a long time ago. I’m with the jackasses. What can I say? They’re my team. But I think this latest kerfuffle is less about party and more about class and valuing “women’s work.” I wish you could have met a woman I admire so much. Her name was Brownie Ledbetter. She died a couple of years ago. Though her politics were different than yours, I think she could have advised you well in this area.
In the heat of a conversation, a political pundit made a stupid comment. In response to the notion you consult your husband’s campaign on women’s economic issues, she said you “never worked a day in [your] life.” I bet that hurt your feelings. More to the point, I think you bet it could other women’s feelings. Otherwise, you would stayed out of sight, like you usually do. Your reaction, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” I have no doubt it was. I have one son. This mom business is hard.
Boy, have you got my friends talking. But let’s be honest, just between us gals, shall we? You’re handling this all wrong. You could unite women and send a call for volunteerism. But you’re playing to old fault lines, and it’s just not helpful.
If I may speak for the working moms, at least the ones I know. We don’t mind that you have a lot of money. Truly, good for you. We don’t mind that you never once had to drop off your kid at a daycare with a bad feeling in your stomach because you know he really needs a “mom day,” but your work obligations won’t allow for that. We don’t care that you never had to let your boss down (again) by getting up at 5 p.m. and walking out because it’s a dollar a minute if you’re late to pickup. We don’t even really hate that you never had to have that uncomfortable conversation with your husband about whose schedule is more important on a particular day when your kid is sick.
Your money bought you out of all that. You had nannies and housekeepers and help. Do you know what every woman I know would give for that kind of opportunity? We are a little bit jealous. We’re human, after all.
And you know what you did? Exactly the right thing! You volunteered at your church. You contributed to your community. You made the world around you a little better with the amazing luxury your time and resources afforded you. So stop trying to be something you aren’t. Just own it. It might make my stay-at-home mom friends respect you more, too. You know, the ones up to their eyeballs in dirty diapers and snotty noses with no one to help all.day.long.
Take a lesson from Brownie. She spent her life working for causes she believed in. In fact, she was on the right side of history in the Central High crisis here in Little Rock in 1957. I asked her once why she got involved in her causes when so many good people were silent.
“When my father died, he left me some money,” she said. “Who was gonna threaten me? I didn’t have job they could take away or a business they could close. I didn’t need them. So shame on me if I didn’t stand up. Shame on me if I didn’t spend my life working for people whose circumstances didn’t allow them to. Shame on me if didn’t use my position to make this place better.”
We are all tired. We are exhausted from work, family, community commitments and PTA obligations. And we don’t have time for this fight again. Just tell the truth. Give an authentic answer. We’d like you a lot better. We might even listen to other things you have to say. But not until you’re willing to be honest about who you are.