An Old Man’s View of the Mommy Wars

Mitt Romney bain capital.jpg

Mitt Romney at Bain Capital – the “money shot”

Some 55 years ago  (yikes!) I got my first job on Wall Street. I was still a teen and would go to college later.

I noticed something right away. There were no women on Wall Street. Well, ok, there were some. There were older middle-aged spinster ladies who never married and worked as “private secretaries”; and there were a few hot young college girls, mostly from the Ivy League working as “assistants”.

Almost all of them lived in Connecticut, the Elysian fields of Northern New Jersey or in small studios in tonier parts of Manhattan. None of them lived in Brooklyn.

The older women worked because they had to; the young attractive ones were looking for a husband in order not to have to work. Yes I know; this sounds like a broad generalization but that’s kind of the way it was. In banking and finance or stock trading there simply were no women who didn’t spend their day typing. Even bank tellers were all male and at that time the teller positions paid enough to support a small family. As soon as one of the young grads “snared” a husband, she quit – or was let go as soon as she became pregnant. No pill back in those days.

Within a decade would come Betty F. and Gloria S. and Wall Street would be in a tizzy over bra-less women in minis and hot pants. Personnel Departments would soon be called Human Resources and wrestled with dress codes for the office. Suddenly there were women at work who were more interested in a real career rather than emulating their mothers.

Now what exactly is “work”? The first definitions in the American Heritage Dictionary define “work” as

“Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something. A job; employment: looking for work. A trade, profession, or other means of livelihood.

Something that one is doing, making, or performing, especially as an occupation or undertaking; a duty or task: begin the day’s work. “

Most of us, the vast majority, view work as what we have to do to make a living – to keep a roof over our heads, to put food on the table, keep the lights turned on. The vast majority of us have no accumulated wealth to live on for any extended period of time and thus we are forced to sell the only thing we have of value – our labor, either physical or mental. We may not like what we have to do but we do it anyway.

Why? Because the vast majority of men and women do not have a CHOICE as to whether or not to work.

Today many jobs do not pay a living wage forcing single people to take multiple low paying jobs or seek roommates. For millions of married couples or those living together both have to work to make ends meet.

When children come to these couples the first major issue is whether or not they can survive on one income if mommy stays home as a full time mother. For millions the answer is “no”. Mommy goes back to work because she has to, not necessarily because she wants to – for these women there is no mommy choice. The couple needs the money. Tens of millions are in that boat.

I find it incongruous that those who so fervently support “family” do not support paying a living wage to those who work full time.

Other couples will find ways to sacrifice and make ends meet if mommy wants to stay home. Once she makes this decision to stay home and spends several years out of the workplace she may no longer have the skills necessary to support herself again if the need should arise – i.e. divorce – especially if she had a low skill job to begin with. She is now totally dependent on her partner to provide the basic necessities of life. Tens of millions of women know this is true.

My mother was a stay at home mom – an Italian woman who grew up when the highest ambition for women, especially immigrants, was to make a home. She cleaned, shopped at the food store, cooked meals, never learned to drive (not that we could afford two cars) took care of three sons.

But she never called it “work”. Poppa worked. “Work” was something you got paid for doing, especially when you really didn’t like what you were doing but did it anyway. “Work” put food on the table.

My wife worked for the first ten years we were married, until we had a son with profound disabilities. She quit her job and stayed home and cared for him and the two daughters that came later. I was doing OK and we could make it on one income. But she never called staying home “work” – and it was difficult for her because she always felt dependent since she no longer earned a portion of our income.

She raised our girls to always be able to take care of themselves. She had not gone to college – Italian girls didn’t go to college then – tuition money was spent on sons, not daughters. She made me promise our girls would be college educated. They were. At the end of her life, after caring for a disabled son for ten years and raising two fine daughters, she felt she had not accomplished anything special. Of course she had, but she didn’t see it that way.

What about those who have always had a choice, from the very beginning of their lives? Those born with the proverbial silver spoon?

Before the last Presidential election there was a storm in a teacup when Ann Romney and Republicans became irate when Democratic strategist and pundit Hillary Rosen stated that the nominee apparent’s wife “hadn’t worked a day in her life”. Mrs. Romney tweeted in rebuttal that she raised five boys and “Believe me, it was hard work!”

What Rosen actually said was “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.”

We knew what Hillary Rosen meant. There was nothing Clintonesqe about her use of the word “work”. Rosen meant a paying job outside of the home.

Now no one is denying that staying home with a bunch of kids yelling “Mommy! She’s looking at me!!” or writing on the bedroom walls with crayons is work – however there is a vast difference between the struggles of “ordinary folk” and the likes of Mrs. Romney.

Mitt reported “income” in excess of $20 million the year before his nomination – and he didn’t “work” for it. That’s twenty million. The money just flowed in from his “investments”. And because it is “capital gains” it was taxed at a lower rate than your meager income for which you worked so hard at that job you might hate.

That twenty million is not Mitt’s wealth mind you. Oh no.

That twenty million is the amount Mitt’s wealth earned.

How big a stash of wealth does it take to earn twenty million?

As someone who spent his life in banking and finance I can safely assure you it takes a gigantic pile of money to earn twenty million in “income” in a year. Like you didn’t know.

Ann Romney is the daughter of a millionaire industrialist, born in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and attended a posh private school along with Mitt, the son of then Michigan Governor George Romney. They dated and agreed to marry. She converted to Mormonism, took religious instruction directly from the Governor and attended Brigham Young University. She and Mitt married when she was 19 and she had her first child while still in college. She dropped out of school and finished her education through the extension program offered by Harvard.

She was a stay at home mom from day one. She never “worked” a day, using the colloquial “work”.

Mitt and Ann have several multi-million dollar homes and she admits to having a Cadillac at each for her use when she happens to be in town. She is a nationally ranked amateur equestrian and has won a gold medal in the dressage; a member in good standing of the horsey set.

Do you think she had help with those kids? Someone to clean the vast interiors of her homes? Scrub floors? Cook meals? Cut the grass and trim the hedges? Do you think she worried about the quality of the kid’s schools or a lack of health insurance? Do you think they stood on the corner in the rain and took the school bus on busy streets? Did she worry about what she was going to do if her old junker of a car broke down? Did she worry about tuition money for colleges for her sons?

You don’t really think she was “working” do you?

Wake up and smell the coffee.

It borders on obscene for Ann Romney and those like her to equate themselves with “stay at home moms”, noting how hard and difficult it was for her to raise her sons – on an income of millions a year.

It is almost like, having absorbed Rosen’s remarks, she is saying to other women “Staying home with those kids was work too!”

Yes, Ann, we know. Staying at home with kids is work. But not for you.

Tell it to the single mom waiting for the bus at 7 A.M. on her way to her first low paying job before going on to her second low paying job – in order to put peanut butter and jelly on the table for dinner. Tell it to the couple dropping the kids off at Grandma’s because they both still have to work. Tell it to women with no healthcare insurance. Tell it to women with no retirement benefits save a meager social security check – which Mitt’s party  would like to take away. Tell it to women who don’t have a choice.

Tell it to the women at the Club.

Sorry but in the humble opinion of this old guy Ann R never worked a day in her life and had absolutely no conception of the economic struggles the average American woman goes through. She stayed at home because she could and she stayed at home without a care. It’s as if she missed the decades since the fifties in their entirety.

I saw those young women on Wall Street fifty plus years ago – hoping to latch on to a man going places and planning to never work again.

They were, how did they say in my youth? – Kept?

Ann Romney can no more speak for working women or the average stay at home mom than Mitt can speak for the average working man.

This week it was Gwyneth Paltrow who had to walk back comments:

“I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening. When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult,” she said. “I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”

These folks deserve a special wing in the Museum of the Totally Out of Touch.

Happy Mother’s Day – particularly to those mothers caring for their disabled children alone.  There is a special place in heaven for you.

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photo: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/10/picture-of-the-day-mitt-romneys-money-shot/246658/

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About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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7 Responses to An Old Man’s View of the Mommy Wars

  1. New Zealand feminist Marilyn Waring wrote an excellent book on the topic of women’s work back in the 90s. It was called “If Women Counted.” In it, Marilyn recounted the vast amount of strenuous work done by women in Africa, such as wood and water gathering and subsistence crop production – none of it counted as work because they don’t receive payment for it.

    Like

    • toritto says:

      Hi Doc – I’m not sure if, even today, such subsistence labor is counted as “work” especially in non-industrialized countries. Here in the West, the “mommy war” of words seems to revolve around whether or not being a stay at home mom constitutes “work”.

      The argument ignores the ramifications of class – for the likes of Ann Romney to whine that she too “worked” borders on obscenity. She never had a job outside the home and had all the help and money anyone could ask for while being a stay at home mom. I think the average stay at home American mom “works” – but for A. R. or Gwyneth Paltrow to claim equivalency proves just how out of touch the 1% really is.

      Thanks as always for reading and commenting.

      Like

  2. hipmonkey says:

    This is the Ayn Rand club of elitism. This is who governs us! How did that happen? Why can’t WE stop it?

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    • toritto says:

      Hi Hip – Looking back I think the change came with St. Ronnie who clearly knew how to take advantage of the underlying racism in America. The “new left” also failed when it forgot one critical element – the workers. Racial and class divisions in our country prevent the solidarity necessary for a mass movement for change. Our children are ignorant of their history and the media and celebrity culture keep that way.

      I’m gonna be 72 soon – it’s too late for me to do anything but write about it all.

      Regards and thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

      • hipmonkey says:

        I’m 60 and I’m banking on the young to pull a 60s style revolution (or better). I kind of think the murder of JFK was a coup that put the Fascist regime in charge. I think that got the ball rolling, but it was in the planning since the birth of the USA. The war of 1812 and the Act of 1871 were certainly setting us up, the depressions milked us, and certainly other presidents that were killed by the banking cabal were more easily covered up. Like you, all I can do is try to educate those young ones to what’s really happening and hope they wake up and use their natural rebellious nature and youthful strength to fight back. (It’s not looking good though)
        (Though the Occupy Movement looked promising, the cabal destroyed it really fast)…. Keep posting, I really like your blog.

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  3. That black and white photo of the suits stuffed with cash says it all, doesn’t it? Makes me wish I was there, standing right next to the photographer, straw in one hand, spit balls saturated with chemicals that would make them sterile in the other. One splat on the forehead or the tip of the nose would mercifully (for the rest of us) be enough to ensure that there would be no fruit of the loins for them. It’s bad enough that they are the way they are, but do they have to breed, too?!?!?

    Like

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