What century does Ann Romney live in? Two million Dads are full time parents, too, and we know it can be an ass whipping.
Last night at the Republican National Convention, Ann Romney gave a speech. By all accounts she hit it out of the park. The transcript is available on line this morning. You can read the entire speech here.
But I’d like to note the section that came in the middle of her speech. Because I think it says a lot about the narratives the drive a particularly antiquated and divisive view of parenting and care giving in America.
In her speech Ann said:
“Sometimes, I think that, late at night, if we were all silent for just a few moments and listened carefully, we could hear a collective sigh from the moms and dads across America who made it through another day, and know that they will make it through another one tomorrow. But in the end of that day moment, they are 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 have always had to work a little harder to make everything right. It’s the mom’s of this nation, single, married, widowed, who really hold the country together. We’re the mothers. We’re the wives. We’re the grandmothers. We’re the big sisters. We’re the little sisters and we are the daughters.
You know it’s true, don’t you?”
She goes on the say:
“You (moms) are the ones that have to do a little bit more and you know what it is like to earn a little bit harder earn the respect you deserve at work and then you come home to help with the book report just because it has to be done. You know what those late-night phone calls with an elderly parent are like, and those long weekend drives just to see how they’re doing.
You know the fastest route to the local emergency room and which doctors actually answers the phone call when you call at night, and by the way, I know all about that.
You know what it is like to sit in that graduation ceremony and wonder how it was that so many long days turned into years that went by so quickly. You are the best of America…You are the hope of America. There would not be an America without you. Tonight, we salute you and sing your praises!
I am not sure if men really understand this, but I don’t think there is a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy. In our own ways, we all know better. You know what, and that’s fine. We don’t want easy.”
And so it goes…
This message was carefully crafted. After months of massive GOP missteps on birth control and rape, Ann Romney’s job was to reach out to women and convince them that she understands their lives. And how did her speech writers decide to do this? By pandering to an idea of men and parenting that is fast becoming a thing of the past.
An America where Dad smokes his pipe and reads the evening paper while mom cooks dinner. An America where Dad golfs each weekend while mom does the housework. An America where Dad goes to the office and mom gets the kids off to school, and scouts, and soccer and all the rest of the places that Dad couldn’t find if he had to.
In doing so, Mrs. Romney made it quite clear that she doesn’t understand my life and the lives of millions of other dads who are a primary caregiver for their children. According to CNN and the most recent U.S. Census, some two million men function as the primary caregivers in their families. And that number is skyrocketing. Men are raising children while many women go to the office.
I’m glad Ann hit her speech out of the park. Good for her. But WHAT she hit out of the park was a speech that panders to the idea that men don’t understand caregiving. That men don’t do the “hard work” or feel the challenges of care giving for aging parents or babies.
Here is an except from an article I wrote about being a Stay at Home Dad. The article is titled Babies and the Rebirth of Men. Forgive me for putting myself in quotes but this speaks to the transformation that men everywhere are undergoing. A transformation this is mostly happening below the cultural radar.
“The opportunity to open up my life to my son continues to change who I am, even as he grows and moves out into the world, and eventually away from me. In caring for him and looking after his littlest needs, I have set my feet on a path that has taught me things about myself I would never have known without him. It is a complex process full of dark moments and frustrations.
Ask any parent. Its the tearing down of who you were and the giving over to service and change. It is not a journey for the weak of heart. When I see a mother or a dad collapsed beyond exhaustion on a park bench staring blankly at their kids, I know how they feel. But the process of really engaging in my son’s life for the last six years has taught me one thing that I will never forget.
That who I am inside the boundaries of myself, is only a small part of who I really am. I am defined by what I create in the world in relationship with my son, with my wife, and with others. It’s a lesson that was a long time coming. As men, we can learn this through service to our children and the purposeful setting aside of our own needs. We learn it in the baptism of birth and the long nights and days of care and attention.”
For the two million or more full-time dads, there are tens of millions more who are sharing 100% equally in parenting. Dads who damn well know where the emergency room is. Dads who fully understand what it’s like to care for an ailing parent. Because they’re doing all of it.
When Ann Romney says, “I am not sure if men really understand this…” and “It’s the moms who have always had to work a little harder to make everything right,” I can only respond by saying, Ann, we dads understand sacrifice, caregiving and the happy exhaustion of full time parenting. We understand every aspect of caring for aging parents and attending PTA meetings. We modern dads are not the stereotypical disengaged working men of fifty years ago who dismissed the work that mothers do. We do this work, too and we know it can be an ass whipping.
So, if you don’t mind, please don’t tell us we don’t understand the immense sacrifices of parenting and caregiving. It’s insulting. It’s divisive. And its manipulative.
Family Relaxing in Living Room from Shutterstock