Dear Ann Romney,
Hi. How are you? How was that $500 per plate fundraiser the other night? Tasty? Or rubber chicken at fundraiser prices? Could you have made better chicken at home?
Wait, do you cook?
OK, that was snide. I’m sorry. You seem like a perfectly lovely person. I bet we’d find plenty to talk about over a plate of brownies and some sparkling water. Women usually do, you know? We have so much common ground that we can usually overlook our differences, unless one person is determined to be a jerk. I’m sure you’re not determined to be a jerk.
But even though you seem nice and you’re trying hard to be relatable, Ann, you’re making it clearer and clearer that you’re not. Like I say, you’re trying. At that $500 per plate dinner you said this:
“I know what it’s like to wake up early in the morning and get them off to school; I know what it’s like to be up in the middle of the night when they are sick; and I know what it’s like to struggle and to have those concerns that all mothers have,”
Yes. That is the common ground. But then you continued on and said this:
“My hats off to the men in this room too that are raising kids — I love that, and I love the fact that there are also women out there that don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids,” Romney said. “Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn’t easy for any of us.”
Ann. That was awful. It sounds awful. It made me feel awful to read it. Because it underscores the differences between us so starkly. Because we all know, we KNOW, that your life is not really like ours. And you should know it too. It has similarities because you’re a mom, probably a very good mom. So, we have that and that is HUGE. But the rest? Ann, your life is not like ours.
Your life is not like mine today when I had to spend the afternoon juggling a whiny toddler and own pregnant bulk as we sat tethered to the house waiting for a plumber to come during the 4 hour window the company offered us to get our toilet fixed. Waiting and hoping that the cost of the repair wouldn’t blow this month’s budget. You never had to wait because there was probably someone else to do the waiting. Someone on your staff. Or maybe someone was on staff to do the fixing without bringing in a plumber at all. And the cost was never an issue.
Your life is not like my sister, a public school special education teacher who is the primary breadwinner in her two-income household. You never worry, as she does, about the implications of school budget cuts that leave her without a raise year after year. Budget cuts that still leave room for high-stakes tests wherein her students’ performance affects her job security even though her students have no chance of achieving the arbitrary standards politicians set forth for them. Standards that will affect her own children when they go to public schools. Because private school is not an option.
Your life is not like my friend S whose husband chased a dream of running a non-profit arts institution across the country only to have the organization fall victim to the economy and fold shortly after he arrived. They lost everything and S can stay home with her kids now only because her in-laws are generous enough to let her family live with them while they regroup from financial ruin.
Your life is not like my son’s beloved daycare teacher who achieved the dream of home-ownership by virtue of a home built by Habitat for Humanity. Her first home. Which did not have a car elevator to the underground garage.
Ann, your life is not like ours. You have a safety net that most of us only dream of. Yes, you stayed up nights with sick children like we do but you didn’t emerge, bleary-eyed, into the daylight thinking of how to continue to care for the sick child who couldn’t be sent to daycare and still deal with the responsibilities of your paying job. You didn’t worry about losing a day’s pay to stay home with that sick child – or worse, losing your job. You didn’t worry about what to do with the other kids while you took the sick one to the doctor. You didn’t worry about how to pay for the doctor. There was money. There was assistance. There was security.
You’re a mom like all of us, Ann, and you know the highs and lows of motherhood like we do. We could talk about that all day long, I know we could. But your life is not like ours. Your circumstances are not like ours. You may love the diversity of experience that you imagine American motherhood to encompass but, Ann, you don’t understand it. Not really. And your husband doesn’t seek to remedy the discrepancies between your experience of unqualified security with the rises and falls the rest of us face. He doesn’t see (anymore) the need for universal access to affordable medical care. He isn’t calling for paid family leave. He isn’t proposing to raise the federal minimum wage. He isn’t talking about fixing the mess our schools are in due to No Child Left Behind’s draconian standards. He’s not talking about the needs of moms like the rest of us because the only mom he knows is you.
And you, Ann? You are not like us. You could learn what it’s like to be us but not at $500 per plate fundraisers. To learn about us you need to be in our communities, our kids’ schools, our workplaces. You need to see us for what we are. We would welcome you in to come see. I hope you take us up on that.
Come learn about us, Ann. And then teach your husband.