A woman’s right to choose

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    Mitt-Romney-Ann-Romney-4-3-12The right of choice runs deep in America. And that includes women’s right to choose.

    No, I am not weighing in on the age old debate over “right to life” vs. “choice.” I am adding my 2 cents worth on the ill-publicized comments from Democratic National strategist Hilary Rosen about Mitt Romney’s wife. 

    As heard on CNN, Rosen told the world that Ann Romney, wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, “has never worked a day in her life.” 

    Say what?

    Since when is raising five boys not work? Sure, it is easier when you are a millionaire, but raising a family is still work.

    I’ll bet Ms. Rosen has a lot of bruises on her body after being touched with a 10-foot pole by Democrats after this foot-in-the-mouth comment. 

    David Axelrod, one of President Obama’s top political advisors, called her comments “inappropriate and offensive.”

    Not soon afterwards, Rosen was  doing the Michael Jackson moonwalk — politically backpeddling and shuffling saying, “I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended.” 

    Like, anyone with a mom?

    Lessons learned

    I learned the value of a stay-at-home mom from an early age.

    As a young newlywed, I made a similar dumb gaffe (although in the 1980s, it was not a 24-7 news cycle/national audience) to my then mother in-law. 

    A stay-at-home mom, I was sitting in her home, enjoying one of her delectable three square meals a day, when this seemingly innocent conversation began with this proud, Polish mom of  nine.

    My mom, you see, raised seven kids. She also worked outside of the home for a paycheck.

    I don’t recall how the conversation started, but sitting at her dinner table, enjoying another free delicious meal, I responded to something she said: “The difference is my mom works.” The implication being that my mother-in-law did not.

    The silence was painful and only more piercing when she responded, “No, the difference is your mother gets a paycheck for the work she does.” Ouch!

    It did not take much reflection to see how right she was. At that moment my respect for her and all moms shot up 1000%. I had sat at her table benefiting from her work for years.

    Running a household of 11, putting all the kids through Catholic school, feeding, clothing, managing a budget in a caring and nurturing environment, was indeed work of love that paid high emotional, not financial dividends.

    Years later having had partial responsibility for child rearing, my respect has only been magnified. 

    Democrat Hilary Rosen provided a gift to team Romney. Polls show Obama  with a  20-point advantage among women voters. The focus prior to this ill-considered comment by Ms. Rosen was on the Republican “war” on women.

    There is an old adage that in politics, “when your opponent is beating himself, let him.” Republicans in general, and Romney in specifically,  had been doing a good job of alienating women voters with their rhetoric.

    My former mother-in-law is far from a flame-throwing liberal women’s rights advocate. She worked very hard raising her family to become successful tax paying citizens with a bevy of grandkids. She contributed mightily to her kids and society — and was never given a paycheck for it. 

    She did earn love and respect.

    Ms. Rosen helped change the conversation. While not politically helpful to team Obama, she has helped spark a national conversation.

    Women’s rights, gender equity, equal pay, health care and an anemic economy impact women. These issues deserve our leaders’ attention and action.

    Now, with this particular sideshow behind us, let’s hope Obama and Romney can raise the debate to one that elevates the role of women in our society, and develop sensible policies recognizing their unique needs and contributions. We need to get the focus back to where it belongs — getting the country working again.

    First Lady Michelle Obama had the last word on this topic when she tweeted,  “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”

    Don’t mess with Mama!

    Tom Watkins served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and state mental health director. He is a US/China business and China consultant and can e reached at tdwatkins88@gmail.com.

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