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Ann Romney, the wife of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, onstage during Illinois primary night rally on March 20, 2012. (Reuters)
Ann Romney, the wife of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, onstage during Illinois primary night rally on March 20, 2012. (Reuters)

Tabatha Southey: Tart

In the 'Mommy Wars', truth is the first casualty Add to ...

“If you're a stay-at-home mom, the Democrats have a message for you: You've never worked a day in your life. That's exactly what Obama adviser Hilary Rosen said about Ann Romney last night.” This was a recent blog post on the official Mitt Romney campaign site.

The source of this outrage, Hilary Rosen, is not an adviser to Barack Obama but a liberal pundit who runs a public-relations firm in Washington, D.C. And last week, she did tell CNN that Ann Romney, the wife of the presidential hopeful, had “never worked a day in her life.”

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Which meant, of course, that media outlets have been indulging in one of their favourite fantasies: the “Mommy Wars.”

It's easy to see why so many people love the idea that mothers who work outside the home and stay-at-home mothers are engaged in a battle for domination of the world's elementary-school playgrounds. It's popular because it calls to mind a big, sexy catfight – teen bitches turned pro.

Women fighting women is B-movie hot, but one of the problems with the notion of Mommy Wars (and use of the word Mommy by anyone over the age of 6 is certainly another) is that even if animosity between these two groups existed, and I've never seen any evidence of that, it would be virtually impossible for the participants to tell who was on which side.

As catfights go, it would be cinematically unsatisfactory – no cat-suited blonde versus bikini-clad brunette here. All of the vixens would look pretty much the same.

And, as soon as you had your opponent pinpointed, she would soon defect by, at the very least, opening a successful Etsy store.

There's a revolving door between being a working mother and being a stay-at-home mother, so very few parents are inclined to identify strongly with either group – let alone draw the battle lines that the likes of writer Caitlin Flanagan (the oft-quoted J.R.R. Tolkien of the Mommy Wars mythos) insist are there.

Rest assured, if you're a mother and you feel slighted, it has nothing to with your employment status either way. It's personal.

Of course, there will always be women who, for political reasons, summon indignation over a comment like Ms. Rosen's. The press is delighted to quote them.

But the distinction Ms. Rosen was trying to make is one that most parents understand well: Her remarks were not a volley lobbed in the Mommy Wars, but an attempt to make a point about economic inequality.

Her full quote is this: “What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country, saying, ‘Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing.' Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future.”

This is likely true. Really, one just wonders why Mitt Romney is asking his wife to check on the womenfolk of America and get back to him in the first place. He is allowed to talk to them, isn't he? He's the one running.

Do I worry that Ms. Romney might lack an understanding of the problems facing the overwhelming majority of women for whom staying home and raising five children isn't an option? Yes, although honestly the best evidence I have is that she is married to Mitt Romney.

Have I, too, occasionally fantasized about a Mommy War? Dramatic drop-offs and pickups amid a rain of Cheerio fire? Carefully negotiated détentes at the sandbox, covered in the front pages? Perhaps tense ultimatums during which both sides would assume artificially calm voices and count very slowly to five at one another, all culminating in the Great Play-Date of Versailles?

Yes, I have, and sometimes I decide that we should end media speculation forever by giving in and actually having a Mommy War.

Afterward, we could demand massive reparations, in the form of shade at playgrounds provided by monolithic pacifier monuments in bronze.

Years later, Mommy War re-enactors could carefully stitch replica mom jeans, don authentic period BabyBjörns and recreate the Daring Assault on the After-Hours Clinic and the Taking of Pizza Lunch.

But I know I will find no volunteers.

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