It’s good that Hilary Rosen apologized for her comments that Ann Romney, who chose to be a stay-at-home mom to raise her five boys, had ‘never worked a day in her life.’ It took a day for Rosen to finally acknowledge that her comments were unhelpful, but she finally said, “I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended.”
Now, I am opposed to the culture of offense where people look to be offended by some public comment. We all need to chill a little and stop pouncing on each other. People can express their opinions without it always leading to a culture war. But Rosen’s comments are different and I’m saying that not as someone running for Congress but as someone who has counseled thousands of women, many of them stay-at-home moms.
Too many have told me that they already feel inferior. Their husbands get to go out of the house and have a change of scenery. They get paid for their work and therefore often feel more appreciated and have greater control of the family’s finances and spending. Many stay-at-home moms still have to ask their husbands for money or are degradingly given allowances for the families needs, something I have always railed against. With rare exceptions, a couple’s money should be equally pooled, as should most things in marriage. But too many husbands feel that they are the breadwinners and their wives have not earned their share of the family income. So why should they have equal say in how it is spent?
Not that Rosen doesn’t have any validity to her points, either. Indeed, she is correct. Many moms would choose to be at home, but they can’t. The family is desperate for the second income. But even so, Rosen’s unnecessarily demeaning comments against stay-at-home mothers — and I’m happy to believe her that she never intended her remarks to be insulting — reinforce a negative stereotype that mothers who are at home are not pulling their weight or earning their fair share.
Let’s turn the tables for a moment. There is a growing movement on the part of husbands to be stay-at-home dads while their wives go out and earn the bacon (I apologize for the deep offense I have now no doubt caused my Jewish readers). A 2008 US Census publication puts the number of married fathers who work in the home as their children’s primary caregivers at approximately 140,000. Now, would Rosen have said the same thing about these men, that they never worked a single day in their lives, or would she, as have so many others, praised them for their maternal role in putting their children first? Would she have lauded their ability to get beyond the traditional macho-man role and prioritizing their family even before their careers? So if Rosen is going to rail against a war against women, then let’s agree that a gender bias that praises men who put their kids first but punishes women for the same is an unfair assault in that battle.
For the record, I am actually an advocate of women having a profession even when they are near full-time mothers. It constitutes advice I often give unhappy wives who come to me for counseling. Get out of the house more and develop your career. If you don’t need the money, volunteer for charity.
My wife and I are blessed with nine children. But my wife has always worked alongside me in everything I have done. And I have raised my six daughters to do all the things that I have done with my boys.
Women are the equal of men in all ability and professionalism and I believe in encouraging our daughters to be both moms and professionals, simply because human beings seek the dignity that comes with both.
We acknowledge, on the one hand, that we are links in a higher chain of existence and raise our children to continue that chain. But in addition, we are people in our own right and seek the maximum development of our individualism irrespective of our position in a family.
Still, this is my opinion. Others may disagree. And that’s the whole point of the need for Rosen’s apology. Rosen is a political consultant with two kids. G-d bless her. It’s beautiful that she has chosen to do both. But it is not for her to judge other people’s choices. Besides, if Rosen had had five kids rather than two — and Mormons, like Jews, have large families — she might have found it slightly more challenging to sustain her career.
The point is that everyone contributes in their own way, and it’s time for us to all stop assailing and judging each other. Not only is it important to reverse the culture of taking offense, it’s also important to curb a culture that gives it, too.
Written in memory of Machla Dabakarov, the mother of a dear friend of Rabbi Shmuley, who passed away last year.
Shmuley Boteach, America’s Rabbi, is the international best-selling author of 27 books and has just Kosher Jesus. He is currently running for Congress from new Jersey’s Ninth District. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.