Stay-at-home moms get much homage from Republicans – unless the moms happen to be poor.
A Democratic operative and talking head by the name of Hilary Rosen made a half-baked remark on CNN last week when she said that Ann Romney, mother of five and wife of Mitt, “has never actually worked a day in her life.”
Dems, like Michelle Obama, almost beat Republicans out of the gate to condemn the tactless comment, which Rosen has since taken back. Nonetheless – surprise! – the GOP is exploiting the incident for political gain.
"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys.” Mrs. Romney tweeted. “Believe me, it was hard work." Amen went the GOP chorus.
Ann Romney further confided on Fox News that her husband has considered her career choice more important than his: "He would say, 'My job is temporary...Your job is a forever job that's going to bring forever happiness.’"
During the welfare debate of the 1990s, however, the Republican Party pooh-poohed such reasoning. Needy, single moms who stayed home to raise children got scorn, not sympathy. They should get their lazy butts off the couch and get a job, the party said, by which the GOP did not mean a job inside the home.
The reasoning behind Aid to Families with Dependent Children, welfare as we used to know it, sounded a lot like Ann Romney’s defense of her stay-at-home role. A presidential panel wrote in 1935 that the program was designed to "release from the wage-earning role the person whose natural function is to give her children the physical and affectionate guardianship necessary not alone to keep them from falling into social misfortune, but more affirmatively to make them citizens capable of contributing to society."
But the mood changed by the ’90s as AFDC recipients morphed into Cadillac-driving, steak-buying, couch-lounging welfare queens in the GOP’s fervid imagination. Thus, the Republican Congress, along with Democratic President Bill Clinton, ended the guarantee of financial assistance to such mothers – the only entitlement program Congress has mustered the nerve to eradicate.
The truth is most AFDC recipients did work. The trouble was, both low-end jobs and their own lives were too unstable for them to sustain work. A child’s illness, babysitting problems, transportation issues would lead them to leave their jobs and use AFDC as a safety net until they got another low-paying job.
Another truth is that welfare as we knew had to end. It lacked popular support and gave the Republicans too big a club to use against Democrats. The replacement, however, should have been more humane.
But the point here is simply that, despite all the self-righteous indignation they have expressed over Rosen’s inferred put-down of stay-at-home motherhood, Republicans actually subscribe to that put-down for some women.
Ann Romney photo is by Brad Skidmore