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On Romney & Rosen & Why Assumptions Are Total BULL

By Katherine Stone |

right and wrong

Why do we make assumptions about who is right and who is wrong? Who's opinion is worthy and whose isn't?

When I was born, my parents were two college students who had just been dating.  The night they brought me home, they put me down to sleep in the bottom drawer of a dresser and invited the prostitutes from across the street over to celebrate.

Both dropped out of college. Dad got a job at a convenience store and mom, who was unknowingly suffering from postpartum depression, began drinking entirely too much. We lived in a neighborhood where there was so much crime we had iron bars on our windows. One time thieves broke in and cracked my mom’s head with a pistol before stealing my piggy bank.

Flash forward. Seventeen years later. I now have a brother, two sisters and a stepmom. We live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood in a very nice town. My college-dropout father starts a new company from the table in our dining room. It eventually becomes a multi-million dollar enterprise.

As a young adult, I lived in one room of the condo of a stranger. She wouldn’t let me use the rest of the place, except for the bathroom and the kitchen, as long as she didn’t need them. I worked two jobs, starting my day as a publicist and ending it selling sweaters and slacks at Talbot’s. I’d leave the house at 8am and return after 11pm. When I went to the grocery store, I had to bring a calculator, because I couldn’t afford to spend more than the 20 or 30 bucks I had for food for the week.

Flash forward a decade later and I’m working as a marketing director at a massive corporation, with my own office and an assistant. I get to fly business class. I live in a nice big house. I can afford whatever I want.

When my son was young, I worked full-time at that job and put him in childcare. Late afternoons were the worst. I’d be invited to a last-minute meeting with the chief marketing officer or the CEO — the kind you jump at the chance to be part of — and I’d agree to stay, only to drive the hour commute home speeding down the highway at 90 miles an hour and sobbing because I knew my son would probably be the last one there.

Flash forward, my children are six and ten and I’m now a stay-at-home mom who works out of a home office and finds herself continually pulled between household responsibilities, child raising and writing up stories.  I turn down opportunities because I don’t want to be away from my kids, but I grieve for those missed experiences and the related income they’d bring. Still, I’m grateful for the work I have, because there also was a time in my life that I was on the unemployment line, and it wasn’t much fun.

I’m grateful to have spent most of my life healthy. Except for that six months where I suffered nerve damage from a botched spinal surgery, lost the use of my left leg, spent 24 hours a day in excruciating pain living on Oxycontin, had to have a nurse take care of me, and ended up in the psych ward because it hurt so bad I wanted to kill myself. (Trust me, you would have, too.)

Poor. Rich. Employed. Unemployed. Working mom. Stay-at-home mom. Healthy. Unhealthy. Every day we make assumptions about people based on what we think we know about them. This week those assumptions cropped up again when Democratic analyst Hilary Rosen said stay-at-home mom Ann Romney, wife of GOP candidate Mit Romney, had never worked a day in her life. The claws came out immediately on all sides. Some defending Rosen, others attacking her.

I was supposed to write about that incident today. Instead I want to write about assumptions.

A kid who wears a hoodie and has been suspended from school is up to no good.

A child with special needs is living a life that’s a tragic shame.

A wealthy stay-at-home mom has never worked a day in her life.

A pretty girl is either stupid or slept her way to the top.

A mom who works out of the house is choosing money over her children.

I call bullsh-t. It’s all wrong. Those assumptions and so many more. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You have no idea what my life’s worth of experiences has been. You might look at me now, in this small moment, and think you know but you don’t. You have no idea how much my opinions about healthcare or childcare or motherhood or economics are or are not worthy. And vice versa.

I share a few stories from my life here as a tiny representation of the lives of all of us. We are complicated creatures, composed of hundreds if not thousands of puzzle pieces. Many of us have swung from one extreme to another, lived in many places, done many different things, had heartache and joy. We aren’t one thing or the other.

My dad taught me once that when you assume you make an “ass” of “u” and “me”.  I do it. You do it. We all do it. Still, he was right.

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About Katherine Stone

katherinestone

Katherine Stone

Katherine Stone is the founder of the most widely-read blog in the world on postpartum depression, Postpartum Progress. She writes about parenting and maternal child health on Babble Voices and Babble Cares, as well as at Huffington Post Parents. Katherine is a mom of two and lives in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter at @postpartumprog. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katherine's latest posts →

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26 thoughts on “On Romney & Rosen & Why Assumptions Are Total BULL

  1. Stephanie says:

    I’m sad that we seem to have lost civil discourse. We can’t have a discussion with two points of view (or more) without it ending in a winner and a loser. No one is willing to concede any good to the other side. Every issue has a right and wrong. Me versus you. It’s especially disheartening when women do it to each other over such complicated issues like working beyond raising kids.

  2. Katie says:

    All I have to say, Katherine? Is BOOM!

  3. Kim says:

    This is perfect Katherine.

  4. Bored says:

    I’m entirely too bored with everyone’s “side” of the story. I think Stephanie (^^^) has a great point when she said,

    “I’m sad that we seem to have lost civil discourse. We can’t have a discussion with two points of view (or more) without it ending in a winner and a loser.”

    In short, this is yet another one of the “me” verses “you”/ or “win”/”lose” articles. Who cares what others think, just do what you must (work or don’t)!

  5. Shandeigh says:

    amen.

  6. Alexandra says:

    I think it’s so true we need to judge less and learn more. Civil discourse works when people want to learn facts and then share opinions. Too may skip the facts. They turn to pundits to tell them what to think. Someone else’s opinion becomes another’s “facts.” If most applied their life experience to the political issues at hand, they’d realize their hypocrisy in thinking any answer could be all or nothing.

  7. The Mommy Psychologist says:

    You’re just as guilty as those you are describing. You are assuming that all mothers have partners in your argument. There’s no way to get around the fact that this is a classist problem laden with assumptions. I’m guilty as well.

    http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/04/12/mommy-wars-whose-job-is-more-difficult/

  8. Mommy Psychologist,
    I’m having a hard time understanding how I made the assumption that all women have partners in this post. This isn’t about people having partners or not having partners. I shared some of the story of my life. I said that I think many people have lived lives like mine, in that we all have diverse experiences. We aren’t one thing or the other. Then I said that I hate when we make assumptions, whether it’s about poor people or rich people, or healthy people or unhealthy people, etc., etc., etc. Partnered, partnerless or anywhere in between.
    ~ K

  9. Jill @BabyRabies says:

    Love you, lady, and I’m happy to be in this thing with you. Beautiful.

  10. Alena says:

    What does this article makes you feel she was making assumptions about all mothers having partners? I solo parent and nothing about this made me feel excluded, or that she was making any assumptions. I wish people would appreciate the fact that she’s making a valid point about assuming we know a whole story when we don’t…instead of needlessly tearing it apart.

  11. Amber @Beyond Postpartum says:

    Yeah, my life teetered between Country Club pools and earwig infested basements (thanks to the 16 oz. empty cans of IC Light my alcoholic-hoarder mother consumed by by the daily case and which accumulated by the hundreds, if not thousands).

    It doesn’t matter whether you have a husband/partner or not, your past, present or future are not the complete package. I might have a cleaning lady and babysitter now, but earlier in my life I was fielding calls from bill collectors and managing grandparents with Alzheimer’s Disease as the primary caregiver. I was 6 then.

    You have no idea where I’ve been. And, I certainly wouldn’t assume to know where you have been,either. Thanks Katherine, for reminding us of this important fact, which actually directs our emotions and certainly impacts our actions.

  12. Diane says:

    Thanks for writing this. We were just talking the other day, choking on the idea that a woman raising 5 boys is “not working”. BULL S**T, a farmload of it.

  13. grace says:

    This is wonderful. Thank you.

  14. Ami says:

    I really appreciate this. Thank you.

  15. Voice of Reason says:

    Katherine, this is one of the most honest and enlightening pieces I’ve read on Strollerderby. Bravo!

  16. Laurie says:

    It’s been interesting to see the reactions of people who have found out I’m leaving my job, and I’m a single person with no kids. Typically, like many older single women, I’m considered rather socially invisible, and my work a sad substitute for any meaning I could have found in my life as a parent, although I’m not intentionally childless and not at all career-obsessed. ( I hear crazy stuff all the time.) Now that I’m leaving my job for a largely unknown alternative, the implication is “how dare you? It’s all you have.” Now my job matters, to people who don’t pay my rent.

    Nomatter what we do, as women especially, it seems that our choices and output will be judged, and there is this stubborn and outdated cultural imperative to justify our existences. (“working men”? Working dads”? I don’t think so.) Realizing this has given me the mental freedom to do what is best for me as long as it’s not harming anyone else. I’m still working on not feeling compelled to defend my choices, but I’m doing better. I understand why many women did that this week. There is nothing more personal than how we spend our lives, how you parent, work in or out of the home (by necessity and/or choice.) Unfortunately this important issue collided with sound bites and a political agenda, and that makes for choppy waters indeed.

    I like your main point here, Katherine, of walking in our own shoes and doing the best we can, no judgment.

  17. Angela, Jumping With My Fingers Crossed says:

    Thank you, I needed to read something like this on this beyond frustrating topic. Love it!

  18. Noreen Ryan says:

    Well said, you have have spoken for so many of us who can’t write as well as you. Thank you!

  19. LK says:

    The unfortunate thing is that Rosen’s comments were taken to be about stay at home moms not “working” (or, actually, were spun that way by the GOP propaganda machine). The issue Rosen was addressing was NOT about stay at home moms v. working moms. Rather, the issue is that Ann Romney, being one of the uber-privileged elite with multi-millions at her disposal, cannot possibly understand or be relied upon as an “advisor” on the economic situation of the vast majority of American women – stay at home moms and working moms alike. For most of us who work OR stay at home, we have concerns and burdens that Mrs. Romney has simply never had to face, and though raising 5 kids certainly is a lot of work, when you have vast amounts of money to hire vast amounts of help, you just aren’t going to understand the choices and sacrifices that most of us have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s a shame that so many women have fallen for the trick created by the Romney campaign and perpetuated ad nauseum by the media and bloggers, and allowed Rosen’s comments to pit them against one another, while entirely overlooking the real issue .

  20. Pikachu says:

    Wow, LK, that actually made sense, thank you, that’s what I was thinking, but couldn’t put into words.

  21. Vacationland Mom says:

    It’s imperative for the political machine to pit people against each other, particularly us women, because though we still earn on average only $0.77 per dollar that a man makes in the same position, we are VERY powerful in this country. They have to throw us off, make us choose sides, and in general DIVIDE us into camps. They are all hoping that their camp will end up the victor. UGH. Sometimes it’s like the who has it harder, mom or dad, debate, that happens in many many hetero-parented households, mine included.

    Unfortunately it’s in our nature to try to categorize everything and with so much information coming at us on a second-by-second basis, our brains are scrambling to make sense of it all. Not an excuse, though, brains.

  22. Blue says:

    Along those lines, LK, this was a great piece on the topic–basically, that it’s about the privilege of having choices, or not: http://perilsofdivorcedpauline.com/social-issues/i-used-to-have-ann-romneys-life-i-had-it-easy/

  23. LK says:

    Thanks, Blue. That was an excellent piece and illustrated exactly what I was talking about. It is so frustrating how this whole Rosen thing has gone right down the predictable (and pointless) “mommy wars” path with hardly any acknowledgment of the fundamental issue of wealth and privilege.

  24. Pauline Gaines says:

    Thank you Blue, and LK, for mentioning my piece about class privilege being at the heart of the Romney-Rosen issue. And thank you, Katherine, for reminding us that we shouldn’t make assumptions about people. When I was married and crazy rich the first time around, many people couldn’t fathom how I could be unhappily married because my life looked perfect.

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