Ann Romney speech: The tired-mom theme and policy that can help

Ann Romney speech: The emphasis on moms suggests growing recognition that they take on more than they should have to do. Now, what can the policymakers do for the tired mom?

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Ann Romney speech at the Republican convention emphasized the moms – tired moms with more than their share of work.

Forget “family values.” These days – at least if you go by Ann Romney’s speech yesterday at the 2012 Republican Convention – the hot political topic is simply Mom. Mom, that is, and how amazingly tired she is.

Now, it’s not all that surprising that a presidential candidate’s spouse would take her (and yeah, it’s still pretty much always “her”) convention speech to talk about family, children, how she met the “man that should be our next president!,” yadda, yadda. It’s not even off the playbook to reference the struggling Americans she met and bonded with on the campaign trail. And given the polls showing Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney trailing among women voters, it would be expected to catch a concerted convention effort, led by Ann Romney, to display the party as female-friendly. 

(Although that “I love women!” thing was maybe a bit much.) 

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Still, the emphasis in Ms. Romney’s speech on mothers – and in particular, on the “juggle” of work and kids and other family duties with which the the vast majority of moms struggle – seems to reflect something new: A widespread, bipartisan recognition that the way we’re trying to do family in this country is off.  And specifically, it’s off because moms take on more than they should have to carry.

“Sometimes I think that late at night, if we were all silent for just a few moments and listened carefully, we could hear a great collective sigh from the moms and dads across America who made it through another day, and know that they'll make it through another one tomorrow,” Ms. Romney said. “But in that end of the day moment, they just aren't sure how.

“And if you listen carefully, you'll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It's how it is, isn't it? It's the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right.”

She went on, talking to the moms out there.

“You're the ones who always have to do a little more. You know what it's like to work a little harder during the day to earn the respect you deserve at work and then come home to help with that book report which just has to be done. You know what those late night phone calls with an elderly parent are like and the long weekend drives just to see how they're doing. You know the fastest route to the local emergency room and which doctors actually answer the phone when you call at night.”

Cameras caught the women in the audience nodding, in that “You said it, sister,” sort of way.

The conclusion to Romney’s speech, of course, was that if we elect her husband, all will be better.

That’s obviously the subject of some good political debate. Democrats would surely scoff at the idea of the uber-wealthy Romneys – and the Rebublican party overall – being at one with financially struggling working moms. Meanwhile, Republicans say that parents are struggling more because of the Obama administration, and if the GOP could just run things, economic pressures would be far less.

We’ll leave that argument to the political junkies to analyze. But what we can do at Modern Parenthood is propose a few issues that pols from both parties could address as they "salute" and "sing the praises" of mom, and that voters might want to consider, as well. 

We’ll keep at this during the remainder of the presidential campaign, but three for now:

Maternity leave: The US is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have some sort of government funded or mandated paid leave for moms after they give birth. Is that OK? Something that should change? A priority at all?

Child care: A recent study found that center-based day care costs more in most states than tuition at a four-year public college. Meanwhile, according to the US Census, millions of families cobble together various forms of childcare – from alternating shifts between parents to recruiting Grandma to using unlicensed home care – so they can make ends meet. Should there be any public relief for families struggling to pay for child care? Or is this a private issue, where if you have a kid, it’s your responsibility to figure out what to do?

Work and pay: Forget the mommy wars. Half of the American workforce is made up of women, and 65 percent of moms are employed. Women still make anywhere from 77 to 81 cents to a man’s dollar (depending on which statistics you use), while researchers have found that working mothers make 7 to 14 percent less than women without kids. Again, is this a public problem? One that should involve a political solution? Or is this about individual choice and effort?
The speeches are nice. We’ll see what the politicians from both sides say about the solutions.

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