The Scorekeeping Society

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The aftermath of Hilary Rosen’s statement that Ann Romney “hasn’t worked a day in her life” has focused mainly on whether or not “mothering” is considered “work.” The Obama administration has fallen all over itself in an attempt to gain distance from Rosen’s statement, and Rosen herself has issued an apology. In fact, it would be hard to find anyone who would seriously assert that raising children and keeping house doesn’t require effort.

But the commentators are missing the real issue here. It isn’t how Ann Romney spent her time that bothers Rosen and others like her — it is the fact that Romney wasn’t paid by an outside source for her services. If she had operated a daycare center from her home, taking care of someone else’s five children for pay, or if she had gone into other people’s homes to clean and organize and drive carpool, no one would have suggested that she “hasn’t worked a day in her life.” It isn’t the nature of the work that angers them. The true, underlying objection to stay-at-home moms is that there is no way to measure the worth of their labor. We are a society that likes to keep score, and the way we keep score of an adult’s value is through dollars.

The truth is, most stay-at-home moms don’t stay at home. They are extremely active and productive. I was hoping Ann Romney would talk about some of the work she has done outside her home as well as how hard she worked inside her home raising her boys. She has worked as a teacher and as an administrator in many charitable organizations, particularly within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormons are a lay church, meaning they have no paid ministry. As president of a congregation’s Relief Society, for example, a Mormon woman is responsible for ministering to the spiritual, social, and welfare needs of hundreds of families. She oversees weekly classes, coordinates compassionate service projects, counsels with women who are struggling with various problems, and delegates duties to an army of women who watch over the flock, all through voluntary service. In many ways, her job is similar to that of the director of a Red Cross or Salvation Army unit in a neighborhood that experiences the equivalent of a home fire every week. But because she is not paid for her services, there seems to be no acceptable way to measure the value of her work. And without a unit of measurement, the “score” is assumed to be zero.

For many years Ann Romney served as the teacher of a rigorous daily scripture-study course for high school students. The program is administered by the worldwide Church Educational System, which requires teachers to attend monthly faculty meetings and in-service training sessions. It also requires intensive daily study and preparation on the part of the teacher. True, a “real teacher” (i.e., “salaried” teacher) would spend the entire day leading perhaps five sections of the same course, instead of just one hour-long session. But the preparation required to teach a class is the same for one section or multiple sections. Ann Romney worked just as hard at just as respectable a job as any employed teacher. But she received no credit in the eyes of the world because she wasn’t financially remunerated. There was no way to keep score.

Romney is also an athlete. Despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she competes as an adult amateur in equestrian dressage at the national level. I suppose if she were a paid athlete, we would consider this a “job.” Certainly she puts in as much practice and effort to reach the national level as a professional athlete might. But since she is an unsalaried amateur, this is considered just one more example of Ann’s little hobbies as a wealthy stay-at-home mom. She has dedication and success, but it isn’t really “work,” is it?

This obsession with scorekeeping has invaded our school system as well, where it threatens to stultify the naturally creative minds of the young. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program has turned many of America’s children into mush-headed test-takers. “Teach to the test,” once the hallmark of the worst kind of teaching, has become the new mantra of public school education. With jobs and funding at stake, school administrators chastise teachers who introduce art, music, or even spelling (which isn’t on the standardized tests) to their students. “Get those scores up!” administrators fairly bellow, and that means focusing only on the tasks that are tested. It’s all about keeping score and bringing in the money.

In an advanced economic system, where money and exchange form the basis of measuring work, it is very easy for the capitalist to start viewing the world narrowly in terms of “making money” instead of “making useful goods and services.” But value is determined by much more than money. Interestingly, the people who characterize stay-at-home moms as “not working” because they don’t get paid are often the same ones who try to eliminate scorekeeping in Little League and other youth sports. “Children should play for the love of the game!” they proclaim.

I think they have this backwards. Games require scorekeeping. Goods and services require a medium of exchange. But caring for family, friends, and community can be done for the rich reward of merely a hug. Women who rear families and care for their homes do not need a paycheck for validation. Let’s put scorekeeping back on the soccer field, and take it out of our homes.




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Comments

Rodney Choate

With due respect to Ms. Skousen and all the posters, is it possible that this is mostly a squabble between some women who don't have a man to "take care of them" and some women who do? Is it possible that SOME people are being given too much credit in their motivation for what they say.

On another note, I would say that the decision whether any partner in a relationship will forgo the use of their mental and other faculties for outside production, for any length of time, is an extremely personal one for the people directly involved. The "working mom" crowd is wrong to stage attacks into the other camp, and the "stay at home mom" camp is wrong to profess moral superiority and disdain for other choices. Each side simply has the right to defend themselves with the retort: It's just none of your business!

I have a good bit of experience dating and I know that I have been rejected on numerous occasions by attractive women because they could tell I didn't have enough money for them to be "stay at home wives". They knew I would expect them to continue taking care of themselves. It wasn't their children they were thinking of either.

John Baker

One of the commenters to this excellent article says that motherhood is a job at which a woman "cannot fail." Nothing could be further from the truth. Every conscientious good parent intuitively knows just how difficult, and fraught with pitfalls, successful parenting is. Each child is totally unique, presenting different parenting challenges even within a single family, and many an excellent mother may be successful with one child while not so with another.

While couples may make the choice to have two incomes, no one should -- other than for crass envy -- denigrate a mother who can and chooses to stay home raising her children. Yes, the Romneys are wealthy. Precious few who aren't can or will run for the Presidency. Let's take this opportunity to measure Mother Romney by what she's said and done. One has a sneaky feeling we'll learn far more about both the Romneys than the press has yet sought to learn about the Obamas.

Visitor.

While couples may make the choice..."

For most americans there is no choice. Have 2 incomes or the kids go hungry. Mostly, because of laws passed by Romney and his ilk make it impossible to pay for all the taxation, regulation, forced subsidization of one's own competitors, etc.

Of course the Romneys do not care to see how their laws effect others. Their trying to plan a happy little utopia.

darius404

That is absolutely not true. It IS true that having only one parent in a household makes life more difficult for the family, but it is entirely workable. My brother and I were raised by my mother alone when our parents divorced. The two key things that helped were 1) living in a nice town/neighborhood, with a good school system, and 2) support from other family members. My grandparents and aunt all lived in the same state as us, my grandparents within an hour's drive. Their closeness and support was immensely helpful, though even without it I think we would have been fine.

The place we lived made the biggest difference though. Nothing beats a good school with attentive, helpful teachers/administrators IN ADDITION to a parent fully involved in her children's lives and education. We never starved. We never went without housing. We could even afford luxuries. Even without the support of other family members, we would have done fine.

We were never on welfare. Don't assume the problems some people have are the problems EVERYONE has. Government support is NOT the deciding factor in a poor family's success. Social support is: good parent(s), good family, good school employees, good neighbors. THESE are the things that really matter, not whether you get government money or not.

And don't pretend that Republicans are the only people who want to do wasteful things with our money. Democrats do too, they're both just different flavors of the same waste and rent-seeking.

John Baker

Couples can make the choice weather or not, as well as how many, children to have. Many just have several kids and then go --- oops --- can't afford this without two incomes.

Mark Uzick

I see Mr. Baker...so we should blame the victims: Just because Romney and his ilk have made it impossible for many to afford a normal life, it's their fault for being too stupidly optimistic to give up even the attempt to have one.

Love and the responsibility of raising a growing family is what traditionally motivated most people to become successful at earning a living but these days, as business and occupations become relegated to a semi-criminal status - strictly limited by special permissions granted by review boards, licensed, punitively regulated, zoned and subject to confiscatory taxes and fees, these "old fashioned" notions of a life well lived must go by the wayside and families viewed as an unacceptable burden for the individual and a parasite on society at large.

Visitor.

So, if one is not a multi-millionaire, they can not run for the potus? Why is that? Let's take this opportunity to question why this is so.

Visitor.

If a parent does fail, they will not admit so. Read the entire comment. And if they do fail, there is no consquence. No firing, no bankruptcy, etc... only no hugs?

I doubt there is little chance of Romney's childern failing. Hopefully, the housekeepers are getting paid with more than hugs. And hopefully they can be fired.

Brian

I think Rosen's comments are quite appropriate. And Mrs. Romney's retort, quite inaccurate.

The US seems to be building a priviledged class. The Romney's and Obama's both belong to this class.

Ann Romney is deeply steeped in this culture. She has hired numberous "housekeepers". Then claims she works so hard keeping house.??

She is extremely wealthy. Mostly because of the family she wed into. What is wrong with admitting that? She doesn't have to work. And she hasn't. What is the shame in admitting this? Most politicians wives are like this. Michelle Obama is like this. She worked briefly as a lawyer, then "married up" and now has others keep her house for her and help her with her childern's needs.

I would, personally, like to have people who have worked, and lived in the real world be my represenatative in government. I'd like an electrical engineer with a wife who's a doctor be my "representative" in government. But, of course, these kinds of people are far too busy earning a living to run for office against people who have nothing but time on their hands.

It's sad that when someone calls attention to such a disaparity, she is immediately assailed. Rosen is only pointing out the obvious. Our presidential candidates are all millionaires, and multi-millionaires. Why is this? What precludes a normal average earner from become a "viable" presidential candidate?

We need to face realities. And one of those realities is that politicans' wives are not like those their husbands' force into heavy subserviance taxation and regulation. They are priviledged. Let's discuss this honestly. Not with meaningless defenses of "she does charity work", "she get hugs, not money". All that is nonsense.

Visitor

Ann Romney's response reminds me alot of Jenna Bush's response to criticism she's not serving her country like her father is requiring others' of her age to do so.

She stated she is "serving" by getting paid a decent salary to "teach" children, who are required to attend and pay for her services.

Talk about out of touch. Equating her job as a comfortable babysitter with that of soliers getting killed and maimed at her fathers' bequest. The ultimate in self indulgence, and self ignorance.

But I'm sure she does a great deal of charity work. Although none of it is to prevent anyone from falling victim to her fathers' failed and evil laws.

And I'm supposed to give her a pass for this charity work? I don't think so.

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