"Mom-in-Chief" Michelle: Someday Our Parenting Roles Won't Define UsJoanne Bamberger
Mom-in-Chief is a cute turn of a phrase that’s become something of a dirty word, at least in the world of politics.
Women political spouses will never win. If you are married (with kids for the purposes of this argument) and you don’t talk about your motherhood role, you are suspect and scrutinized for not wanting to make cookies. If you adopt a more traditional role, with your primary responsibilities focused on child-rearing, you’re taken to task for not speaking up for yourself and your own accomplishments.
So the question I’m left with is this — is there anything we can say anymore about women and parenting without offending someone?
Yes, I cringed a little bit when the First Lady referred to herself in her Democratic Convention speech as primarily a “mom-in-chief,” but that was partly because it’s a phrase she’s used so much in the past. It seemed like she was digging it up out of political necessity just because Ann Romney spent so much time in her RNC speech talking wistfully and so frequently about her role as a mother — so much so that she almost forgot she was supposed to be selling us on her husband, not justifying her decision to be a stay-at-home mother to five (or six!) rambunctious boys.
As always, Michelle’s comment started yet another firestorm online and on listservs everywhere. Was this a play for the all important “suburban mom” vote this year? Was she trying to counter Ann Romney? Was she afraid if she didn’t speak in terms of what we call traditional gender roles, that some undecided voters would be put off?
Wherever you come down on this argument, the only thing that is clear is this — we will NEVER get over parsing what mothers do or say if it doesn’t conform to our own thoughts on the subject. Few play the dad card in the way that women seem to fixate on how much one should identify herself by her own professional accomplishments versus those that involve caring for others.
Here’s a novel idea: How about if we end our obsession with this whole “mom-in-chief” piece of rhetoric? It was clearly something that was concocted to help the American voters fall in love with the new First Family almost four years ago. Yes, FLOTUS has used it in her remarks since then to remind us that she’s like us in at least one way. But it’s time to move on.
I’m really just not sure how much more of this back and forth between political mom camps I can take. What would really annoy me is if the President refers to his wife as the mom-in-chief in his acceptance remarks at the Democratic Convention. Because it’s one thing when we talk about ourselves in terms of our caregiving roles as opposed to other things we take on in life. But when our husbands try to put us in a particular corner? Well, that never ends well!
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.(A great pre-2012 election read!)
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