By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
Unless you’re living in some proverbial bubble, you already know how stay-at-home-mother of five, Ann Romney, was recently criticized by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen for ‘never working a day in her life’. As the Editor of the Metro Mama / Metro Baby section here at BNNYC, I feel compelled to give my two cents on the subject. I actually discussed this topic already last month in my “Letter to a Future Stay-at-home Mother” but in light of what’s being talked about in politics lately, I’ll take another stab at this timely subject.
President Obama and virtually everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, quickly distanced themselves from Rosen and responded to the Ann Romney incident with the catch phrase, “There is no tougher job than being a mom”. I realize that this little disclaimer-type phrase applies to ALL mothers, whether they get a paycheck or not, but more often than not, when someone utters this phrase, it’s because a stay-at-home-mom is under attack for not getting a “real job”.
My writing career with Beauty News NYC doesn’t prevent me from wearing the signature SAHM attire of Lululemon yoga pants all day, so for all intents and purposes, I am a SAHM. Now, I know the sentiment of ‘motherhood as the toughest job’ is supposed to make me feel proud of my position as ‘center of my children’s universe’. And I realize the actual words that make up this phrase are in and of themselves quite complimentary and respectful and yet, for some reason, I cringe every time I hear them.
Ok, so maybe I’m crazy. I’ve never actually been good at taking compliments in general so maybe this is just my hyper-sensitivity rearing its ugly head. Because the thing is, being a stay-at-home-mom IS a tough job. No two ways about it. But the toughEST? Hmm…maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. On one hand, there are days when I literally pass out mid-sentence at 8:15p.m., I’m so exhausted taking care of my two unstoppably energetic toddlers all day. On the other hand…I did get to watch Bethenny Ever After on my DVR and then take a little power nap while my son was at a drop-off playdate and my daughter was napping in her crib today. And thanks to online food shopping, free delivery and at least some babysitting help that (admit it) 99.9% of SAHMs have at some point during the week, a manicure doesn’t exactly have to be a rarity in a SAHM’s life.
I guess I kind of want it both ways. I want NON-SAHMs, be they men or working moms, to admire and respect my choice and ability to do the so-called “toughest job in the world” and give me loads of credit for it. And yet, I also crave some envy for my Lululemon-existence, especially when I can’t help but detect a bit of pity and condescension in my working friends’ voices when they utter this obligatory phrase.
The fact of the matter is, motherhood is the toughest job in the world and any mother, working or not, is doing the “tough” part. Raising our children to be loving, considerate, hard-working, respectful men and women with good values is the ‘toughest part of this job’, and you don’t have to be home 24/7 to do that. So when people in the paid workforce say to me, “Wow, I honestly couldn’t do what you do all day”, there’s a part of me that knows they’re really thinking, “I couldn’t change poop diapers all day” or “I couldn’t give up my successful career to drive a carpool.”
It’s obviously beyond ridiculous that Ann Romney was criticized for ‘not working a day in her life’. Work can be defined in so many ways, paycheck or no paycheck. And to accomplish something as great as raising 5 children (especially while battling MS and breast cancer as Ann Romney has done) is nothing to be ashamed of or criticized for. Some moms run companies, some moms run the PTA – our society functions because both exist.
I very much want to maintain the idea that my job is tough because it is tough (and I’m not just talking about the poop diapers). It certainly is the toughest job I’ve ever had. And while you don’t need a degree to be a mother, I personally draw upon what I’ve learned throughout my many years of higher education and prior work experience each and every day in my current job description as SAHM. It’s ironic that SAHMs have so much trouble entering the workforce later on in life, because after running the household and raising a family full-time, running a business or ‘working’ as Hilary Rosen would define it….well, that would be a piece of cake.