First let me say that, like so much else about his campaign, former Gov. Mitt Romney's employment of his wife, Ann, as a human shield in the struggle to win over women voters is pathetic and unconvincing.
And yet, Democratic National Committee adviser Hilary Rosen's charge that Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life" really was offensive and insulting.
Strictly speaking, Rosen is hitting me, Mr. At-Home Dad, where I live. I've got two children. The Romneys had five. To say, as Mrs. Romney did via Twitter, that raising five boys was "hard work" is the understatement of the millennium. It's excruciatingly hard work.
But forget about at-home parenthood for a moment. Rosen's insinuation that you must have a job outside of the home to truly understand what's happening in the economy is patent nonsense. In a material sense, families have always been economic units. Before the triumph of the marketplace as we know it, and the introduction of a male breadwinner, families produced goods in their home. That dynamic changed, of course, when fathers took jobs in factories or other worksites. Mothers performed what we now call "domestic labor."
Memo to Rosen: It's called "labor" for a reason.
Now, one might interpose here that families of the Romneys' means can easily outsource their domestic duties to an army of servants. This is true, but I don't think this is what Rosen was implying. (If Rosen wants to pick a fight with mothers who hire nannies, she's going to land herself in a hot water with a lot of upscale suburban Democratic women.)
And this is beside the point I'd really like to make, which is this: One of the tragedies of the trajectory our postindustrial economy has taken in the last 40 years is that it has forced women who might otherwise wish to stay at home and raise their children to enter the workplace. I hope it's obvious, given the fact that I'm at home myself, that I believe it's a great thing that mothers who want to work outside the home today have opportunities their grandmothers could never have imagined.
Yet Hilary Rosen seems to think that at-home moms (and, well, dads) aren't full participants of the economy.