Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hard Work II: Electric Boogaloo

Apparently the latest D.C. flame war is the Ann-Romney-vs-Hillary-Rosen Chain-Cage Death Tweet Grudge Match.

This sucker kicked off after the Romneybot trotted out the Little Woman to try and display that, yes, indeedy, he DOES understand that Wimmens Are People, Too, and so they should vote for him because he married one of these women-things so he can do women-positive stuff like cut people off those oh-so-demeaning entitlement programs and refund the money saved to the wealthy (like...Ann Romney!).Ms. Rosen pointed out, rather obviously, that Mrs. Romney wasn't exactly wet-nursing a dozen toddlers in a go-down off of Gin Lane; she was (and is) an insanely rich housewife who could afford to "stay home and raise five boys", as opposed to 95% of the rest of the moms in the U.S., who would quickly be reduced to standing on a streetcorner with a baby on one hip and a basketful of matches on the other if their family lost their share of the income.

This pisses me off on a number of levels.

It pisses me off because of the ridiculous assumption that stay-home moms "work" harder than moms who, y'know, work.

Which is ridiculous, because stay-home moms are way at the bottom of the work food-chain, below the working moms and far, far below the single working moms, for whom there are simply not enough hours in the day.

It pisses me off because of the way it automatically genuflects to the "traditional" wife and mother without any thought of how difficult it is to "choose" to be a stay-home mom after the relentless thirty-year cramdown of wages for the non-two-yacht family.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

I wanted to talk about this.

That's the Twitter feed from Rosen's original post. Go and read the comments from the Obama people walking Rosen's comment about how Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life" back; "I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly.", "Families should remain off-limits" (because...Romney trotted out his little wifey for no reason other than personal pride?) and especially this one: "i personally believe stay at home moms work harder than most of us do."

To which I say; great gigongeous flaming titanic planetary-sized balls of horseshit.

And I speak with some authority because I've been a stay-at-home-dad. And a paratroop sergeant. And a diesel mechanic, a jumper stable undergroom, the downstairs guy in a JiffyLubeTM, a high school AND a community college teacher, and a professional geologist.

And I will freely tell you this; every single damn one of those jobs. Every one. Every fucking moment of every one.

Was harder than being a stay-at-home-dad.

Oh, there were things about being a SAHD that kinda sucked.

The hours often aren't great. The clientele is not always friendly. Flat-out the WORST thing is the fucking boredom; raising a kid is often like playing catch with a dog - trust me, you're going to get bored waaaaaayyyyyy before the dog (or the kid) does. Remind me I said that after reading "Thomas the Train and the Blustery Day" to your toddler for the eight zillionth time.

So at-home parenting is sort of like one of those brain-killing data entry jobs people with "computer science" degrees used to get in the Seventies and Eighties. Long, insanely dull, repetitive, occasionally panicky, sometimes stressful.

But "hard"?

Fuckety fuck, no.

And the reason this "Ohhh, those sweet stay-home mommies, they work so haaaard!" crap drives me so nuts is because - while they're doing their best to make things harder for the sort of people who don't have the Ann Romney kind of cash to hire nannies and au pairs and cleaning services and diaper services and all - the GOP sorts of people luuurves to talk about how wonderful and hard-working all those SAHMs and SAHDs are (though good luck expecting them to get excited about, you know, the people with penises staying home with the kiddos - how the hell you gonna hang with the Tea Party Commandos with that baby bag, there, dad?)

But here's the Big Reveal; staying at home with the kids really ain't hard work.Physically the worst nuisance is between about 18 months old and five or six; as babies they're basically noisy luggage - you can take them with you wherever you need to go as long as you remember their mountain of kit (diapers, wubbies, change of clothes, Cheerios...) - and after that they're in school most of the day. It's a pain again when they're older - starting in the late-grade-school tween years - because of the emotional headaches; you have to worry about herpes and smoking weed and drunk driving and on-line predators.

But the "work" part throughout pretty much consists of feeding 'em, cleaning them, and cleaning up AFTER them, and word up - nobody reading this is living in fricking "Little House on the Prairie".

And sure as HELL not Ann Romney. Little Mansion on the Hudson, probably.

Laundry? You got a machine for that. Dishes? You got a machine for that. Cleaning? How the hell long does it take to vacuum a floor and wipe down a countertop? You've got a fridge and a microwave and a range/over - you don't exactly have to hunt, kill, butcher, and roast a mammoth haunch over an open fire.

When my kid was little and I was out of work I swear, I could get pretty much all the housework done in the space it took for him to nap; maybe an hour, tops. I could toss him in the car and do the marketing, with stops on the way for the library and some coffee. Hang out at the bookstore, go to his fave indoor play place. I pretty much had a leisurely day with the kiddo, tantrums and the hour or so of housework aside.

Now...what I couldn't do was the stuff I liked doing; I couldn't sit and read (unless he was sleeping), or exercise, or watch a movie or a soccer match on television, or blog. And that was frustrating, no kidding.

But it was not effing hard work.


So this pisses me off because it's a plain and simple attempt by a hereditary rich couple to try and con the marks suckers "independent" voters into believing that the RomneyTron 2000 is really a warm, empathetic humanoid that loves him some good ol' plain folks because he's, you know, a family man with a Hard-Working Li'l Woman just like them!

But instead it tells me the opposite.

Because as a guy who's been one; if this gomer and his wife think she was "working hard" when she was staying home with the kiddies and the nanny and the housekeeper and the gardener?

They need to go out and learn about real hard work.

'Cause hanging around the house vacuuming the carpets and wiping the baby's ass ain't it.

Nasty?Yep. I'll give you nasty.


pharris said...

I am in total agreement with you, having been a SAH dad for two years, and now a single one.

And I confess that I almost thought you'd missed one of the most important points in Mrs Romney's circumstances, until near the end. The Household Staff. Hell, I could see more of my son now that I'm working full time + OT if I had someone to do the shopping, laundry, etc, etc. My heart truly bleeds for Mrs Romney, who had to direct the help in their duties for grueling hours every day.

(Unrelated -- Chief, I really think that you need to look into a gig where you get paid to do this. You're miles ahead of most bloggers out there, not to mention the vast majority of, for example, the columnists at the Snoregonian.)

Ael said...

I suppose it depends on expectations.

The *hardest* working person I know is my wife who is "stay at home". Except of course that she does not "stay at home". In addition to the obvious kid duties detailed in your post (4 kids), she has school duties, soccer duties, skating duties, church duties, band duties, scout (and girl guide) duties.

This doesn't mention the time she spends arguing with city councillors, administrators, etc.

Her job is not just to prepare her kids for the community, it is to prepare the community for her kids.

FDChief said...

Ael: No argument that you can MAKE the job of stay-home parent as hard as you want to.

My point is that the job ITSELF isn't "hard work". Digging ditches is "hard work". Pulling power packs is "hard work". Designing 100-foot-high retaining walls is "hard work". Reconstructive surgery is "hard work".

Raising kids - if you have the luxury to be able to stay home and do it - is boredom with a side of repetition, and to pretend otherwise is to be a skeevy beeyotch pandering to the Stupid Wing of the American People.

Now it sounds like your wife has chosen to take that extra time and actually USE it. That's awesome. That's what being a "parent" and a "citizen" really means.

But it doesn't come with the hardware, and most people don't bother, and many that do - like Ann Romney - have the advantages she had.

Lisa said...

I agree -- it's a pap sound byte to pat the little ladies on the head.

Ditto my disgust with Santorum and the press that his wife cares four four (?) kids, homeschooling them, PLUS caring for the Trisomy 18 infant. Oh, and no mention of all of the home assistance that must require.

And the hypocrisy of being in the party that would curtail benefits to the poorest, while rolling out his stage prop Bella (sorry to be so crude) and shoveling the line about what a little blessing she is and how he wants to curtail prenatal testing to avoid the horror of women choosing to abort such fetuses.

No, never a discussion of the grotesque disconnect between apotheosizing such a family and explaining how the average working mother might manage such eventualities, especially without a mate or healthcare. One cannot live on the "blessings" of monthly ER visits, especially if they do not have a politico husband in the wings.

Ael said...

Like I said, it depends on what your expectations are.

If you want to enrich your children you have to shape their environment. This means shaping the community, and because many two income families can't spare the volunteer time, you need to pick up more than your "share" in order to have functioning extra-curricular activities.

But even when dealing only with the kids, you need to watch their development, make sure they are getting the appropriate opportunities and guide them loosely enough so they are learning by making their own calls and tightly enough so that mistakes don't result in permanent adverse outcomes. That takes a lot of observation and judgement.

Its kinda like growing a 20 year garden, but where the garden is also growing *you* at the same time.

Designing distributed drug information systems is easy by comparison.

FDChief said...

Lisa: That was the other thing that irked me about this whole business - the notion that SAHM/SAHD work so "hard" opposed to "working" moms and dads who do, what? Sit around drinking mojitos? It's not JUST a "pat on the head" but a kick in the pants to every working parent.


Ael: Y'know, the more I do childrearing the more I'm thoroughly convinced that the "observation and judgement" we think we're doing as parents is really more like "hoping, guessing, acting on our worst fears and suspicions, and throwing stuff against the wall in hopes that some will stick".

I'm watched parenting that I'd predict would produce serial killers crank out terrific kiddos, I've watched benign neglect work, and not work, and I've watched helicopter parenting both succeed and fail. There just doesn't seem to be a reliable decision tree here.

The biggest single determinant seems to be a combination of family income and parental intelligence. Smart, wealthy parents get handed a combination of enough smarts to figure out how to work with these little people in an environment that gives them the padding to bounce off the critical inflection points.

Dumbass rich people seem to come in second; they make the mistakes but wealth in America covers a multitude of sins, and their kiddos usually manage to miss the pitfalls. Usually.

Smart poor people can get lucky, but the field is tilted against them; one fuckup, one bad break and it can be game over - the kid ends up dead, or in jail, or with a kid themselves, or on the street, or raped...

And the dumb poor people..?


But I'll tell you what; if kids were required to come with a product hazard label...

Lisa said...


I think your categorizations about what will tend to produce the optimal offspring are generally correct. However, the wildcard is the kid.

Parenting seems to be a symbiosis whereby each participant may or may not benefit. A fabulous offspring will triumph against the odds; a "bad egg" will languish in Marin county.

Yes, money can "cover up" problems, but I know enough offspring in perpetual rehab to know that money is not a fix.

Not only is it a "combination of family income and parental intelligence," it is also innate character combined with societal impacts, qualities neither of which a parent can tinker, both constituting "luck of the draw" results.

For all our efforts to systematize the process of childrearing, from Skinnerian Baby Boxes to the Free School Movement, it really is a crap shoot (pardon the pun).

ISTM, modelling, via parental behavior, is perhaps the biggest determinant of outcome, beyond the innate qualities mentioned. So Ael's wife is demonstrating civic involvement, and I think that is very good. I saw my mother do the same, and that had an impact upon me.

Both of my parents showed via example that one can have agency in one's world, a very important lesson, I think.