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Last June, when I appeared on The Gayle King Show, Gayle randomly asked me my thoughts on The Mommy Wars. She explained that back when she was working and raising her two kids, there was a lot of tension between moms who worked and moms who stayed home. As a mom who has been on both sides of that fence, I responded honestly. I said that I didn’t think it was that much of an issue anymore. Because, in my experience, it’s not.
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Then, last week, that same, old, stupid Mommy Wars flame that I claimed was a non-issue, was fanned by pundit Hillary Rosen. Rosen, a working mom, said something along the lines of “blah, blah, blah, she’s never worked a day in her life, blah, blah blah…” in a tirade against how Mitt Romney is using his wife as his women’s issues barometer.
An idiotic move, but…
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Come on! Let’s all kumbaya and celebrate our vaginas together. Let’s not get caught up in this ridiculous rhetoric yet again. And let’s certainly not allow The Mommy Wars to make political headlines in an election year.
Say it with me: The Mommy Wars are nonsensical. We all work hard. We all love our kids. End of story, Media.
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What is it about pitting working mothers against stay at home mothers that makes for such hawt and scandalous news? Here ya go, folks! In lieu of naked mud wrestling, lady #1, who has seven kids and stays home will catfight lady #2 who has 3 kids and works full time. Let’s watch closely and see who wins!
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I think there’s another story here. The story of the conservative right and how it bandies about the loaded term “family values.” See, the Mommy Wars are a perfect foil for Romney’s effort to get the lady vote. Who’s a Better Mommy is a contest that’s clean, wholesome, riles us up, and doesn’t make him have to work that hard. We can duke it out among ourselves, while our right to choose is wrenched quietly out from under us.
Mommies are so easily distracted, aren’t we?
I’m all for family values. In fact, family is my first priority. But my definition of family values is a bit broader than Rick’s and Mitt’s. And it’s a little to the left. It has nothing to do with whether I work, stay home or (dare I say it!) work from home. Family values are about valuing family. In every shape, size and sexual orientation. This quick re-ignition of the so-called Mommy Wars sparked by Rosen’s 8 word on-the-air comment is symptomatic of just how low on the totem pole family values are here in this country.
Wanna talk about the real Mommy War? The one that is founded on real family values? The one that all moms AND dads at home and otherwise have been raging for decades? Let’s discuss how hard and how expensive raising a family is!
The family situation in America is unsustainable. There are very limited government supports for elder care. There are none for the shit that hits the fan when a baby (or two or in Ann Romney’s case, five) enters the game. For us 99%ers, today’s economy requires that both parents work. Daycare costs a fortune. It’s prohibitively expensive for multiple children. If you don’t have family helping you out, it can cost almost as much to go to work as to stay home.
And for the stay at home folk, not even the warriors among us can handle being alone with our young child(ren) 24/7. Ann Romney, I respectfully don’t care what you say. If you reared all five of your boys with no help, you’re simply not human.
The conservatives have been busy promoting family values by trying to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and demonizing gay marriage. They need to get their faces out of the Bible, I mean Constitution, and see the forest for the trees. Student test scores are low nationwide. We are far behind in math and science education. Our kids can’t read. They’re obese (thanks for tackling this one, Michelle Obama!). We also see grown ups who hate their jobs because their jobs make their lives outside of work (you know, the lives that involve their families?) infinitely more stressful. We parents spend our lives strategizing and juggling and balancing logistics. We are constantly doing this in myriad ways to make it all work BECAUSE we value our families.
In fact, I’d like to challenge both sides of the aisle to cowboy up on the family values front. Offer parents an actual family leave, not the bullshit one that FMLA covers. Provide us with work flexibility that doesn’t punish us for having to take our kids to the pediatrician. Socialize childcare. Enter the 21st century! Feel the peer pressure!
I gotta say, riding on the coattails of the old Mommy Wars is an entertaining deflection. The Romney’s are running with it. Ann even claimed that the PR uproar Rosen’s comment caused was the “best birthday present ever!”
We need to shift the conversation away from “who’s a better mommy?” to how to strengthen all our families. We need to focus on how to grow better, happier, and more effective people and citizens. In the words of my radical feminists sisters of the 1960s and 70s, the personal is political. I just want to make sure we are politicizing the appropriate piece of the personal.
(this post was inspired by my husband and his rage against this particular machine.)