Perils of Divorced Pauline

The Names Have Been Changed, But the Story Is True

divorcedpauline

divorcedpauline
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USA
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April 05
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World-class gnarly divorce survivor. Custody Battle blogger with a sense of humor. Mom. Wife. Cat-Lover. Visit me at www.perilsofdivorcedpauline.com or on Twitter @divorcedpauline.

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APRIL 17, 2012 11:29AM

I Used to Have Ann Romney's Life. I Had it Easy.

Rate: 18 Flag

  GotPriv

Note: This piece was fueled by exasperation and inspired by two excellent blogs posts -- by Grace Hwang Lynch and Pamela Kripke -- that urge those who "got privilege" to name it.

I used to have Ann Romney's life. The first time around I married into a family that was rich. Romney Rich. So when I became a mom I didn't have to work-at-a-job-that-paid-money-which-is-what-Hilary-Rosen-meant-for-Chrissake.

I got divorced nine years ago. I then spent four years as a not-rich single mom. I am now a not-rich remarried mom. And you know what? My years spent as a rich married lady were easier!!

Not because being a SAHM is easier than having an office job. And certainly not because being a SAHM of five boys is easier than having an office job.

But because having plenty of money, and plenty of choice, is easier than not having enough. And I don't understand why more people aren't acknowledging this.

Ann Romney isn't less than because she chose to stay at home, or because she's rich. But she shouldn't be treated as a victimized saint. And Hilary Rosen shouldn't be demonized.

The glaring omission of Privilege in this tiresome Mommy Wars debate denies the experience of mothers who ARE hindered by race and social class and marital status. Omitting Privilege from the conversation doesn't acknowledge their reality and lack of choices.

Ann Romney says she did most of the grunt work of raising five boys. If that's the case, that's admirable. Frankly, I'd take an office job any day over personally wrangling five sons. But at any point if Mrs. Romney had wanted a nap, or lunch with the gals, or an impromptu tennis match, she could have had it in a snap.

I know, because I was once privvy to those choices. Here's what my life looked like when I had Privilege:

  • I had a maid, a gardener, a pool man and a full-time nanny.
  • When we moved, a Staff person unpacked all the boxes, hung pictures, and organized the kitchen.
  • When I was found to have a rare autoimmune condition during my first pregnancy, I didn't have to worry how I was going to pay for the $40,000 that insurance wouldn't cover.
  • When I ended up on bed rest the last trimesters of both my pregnancies, I had a live-in cook/assistant.
  • I had a baby nurse for three months after both children were born.
  • If I wanted to take a nap in the afternoon I could.
  • If I wanted to take a 10 a.m. yoga class I could.
  • If I wanted to buy the new Spring line at Baby Gap, I could.
  • I flew first class and on a private jet.
  • When my son was two my former in-laws planned a week-long family yacht trip. They wanted me to leave my then-two-year-old with the nanny. I said no. My mother-in-law baby-proofed the yacht.
  • When we traveled to visit my former in-laws in one of their five homes, a staff person would call ahead of time and ask what we needed so our rooms would be prepared.
  • Staff traveled on all family vacations so we had round-the-clock help and childcare.
  • When my ex-husband and I went over budget, my former in-laws gave us six-figure sums to get us through the "lean times" because "all parents help out their kids."
  • Each grown child and spouse received annual five-figure gifts to be spent on "extras."
  • When my second child was born and my office became her bedroom, my mother-in-law offered to build a new wing on our house.
  • When one of the smaller family vacation homes got too crowded with grandchildren, my mother-in-law built a new house up the hill, with adjoining steps, a 9-hole putting green, and a jacuzzi that fit 25 people.

Because I had grown up middle-class and my mother had to have a full-time job, I never forgot that I had Privilege.

But Ann Romney came from money and married money. She has never known what it's like not have money, which may be why she could say that she doesn't consider herself rich.

Some women with her background work tirelessly to level the playing field. Eleanor Roosevelt and the Kennedy women come to mind.

But Ann Romney does not.

I am aware that she and her husband donate a lot of money to charity. However, I have yet to hear anything from either of them to make me trust that the Romney camp will create policies to help those with less privileges.

In fact, when I hear Romney contemplating policies that would strip welfare women of benefits in order to give them "the dignity of work," I feel deeply afraid for women unlike his wife, who apparently doesn't need the dignity of work. Because if this man becomes our next President, the average woman is charred toast.

For a gander at some of the anti-woman policies Romney has supported thus far, read here. For some thoughts on pro-women policies Ann could suggest her husband support, read here.

I'll be honest: I often miss my former life. I don't miss the guilt I had, having so much when others had so little, but I do miss the absence of stress.

The kind of stress that comes from lack of choice.

And that is what Hilary Rosen was talking about. When you don't have to worry about money ever, and you can afford to buy your way out of most problems, being a SAHM, even to five boys, is easier than being a mom who does have to worry about making ends meet, and who can't buy her way out of most problems, whether or not she stays at home.

Or in Ann Romney's case, stays at homes.

I appeal to all women who don't have to have a job, and especially those women who can afford help, those women who have enormous financial cushions to buffer them from job loss or foreclosure or bankruptcy due to health problems, to admit what they do have.

Privilege.

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Comments

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Oh! I can hear the pain in this post... and this is why, dear one, you are a beautiful being who writes. You also made me laugh in parts (Ann Romney isn't less than because she chose to stay at home, or because she's rich. ) but I can honestly say that every woman, from the other side of the fence is a target...until you get to know her.
Pauline, this is a wonderful post. You are one of the most honest people I know./r
Brazen Princess: Thanks for the kind words. Just wanted to clarify that I wasn't trying to imply in any way that Ann Romney is less of a person because of her circumstances...it's just the lack of transparency that irks me.

Christine: xo
Interesting and honest. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Exactly what I have been saying, have the graciousness to say that you were lucky and that your life is nothing remotely like anyone else's life because you never ever have to worry about money.
Great post.
An honest post. I liked that you did not come from privilege to begin with as you could appreciate it differently than someone like Ann. In the end it is how we view ourselves that matters, and she is probably not identifying authentically with anyone who has ever had to worry about money. I think in her mind, if we can assume that is what she thinks about, raising her children, being present for them, was her commitment as a mother. Many women, most women in fact have that as one of their commitments, sometimes not even able to commit to it foremost, as their other commitments, ie, food, keeping a roof over their heads, etc. monopolizes their efforts.

Ann Romney is very typical of the affluent who spend times with charities and finding things to fill their time with. I have met a few of them in my past work and all I can say is that clueless doesn't really begin to cover it. There is an attitude that goes with all of that which is hard to miss and harder for most people to understand, but it comes from a kind of ignorance, denial and sense that their lives just aren't the same. I have seen these women, come down a notch or two when they try to fit in with other women and do some service project. On a very high scale funny parody note, it sometimes looked like that new comedic series, GCB aka Good Christian Bitches. That of course involves the religious angel they get tangled up in. Never the less, these women do exist, they have heavy purses and to get their attention and their financial support if you are part of a non profit, you have to learn how to deal with them. They are different. Make no mistake. They are also kind, caring and very often intelligent, but clueless also fits somewhere in there...just saying.
Sheila -- Absolutely, I don't think anyone is criticizing Ann Romney's work as a mother. My hat's off to any woman who can stay home and raise 5 boys. Good Christian Bitches? OMG, I haven't heard about that but is sounds hysterical. Will have to check it out.
Wonderful post.

One quibble - I've read that a great deal of what the Romneys claim on their taxes as charity is actually donations to the Mormon church. Which may or not do lots of good works (unfortunately I've only heard about the missionaries and the baptisms).
It is a clueless viewpoint -- for her to position herself as a mere stay-at-home mom. Like she's just one of the military wives taking the kids to the base pool for swim classes. There's middle-class privilege and then there's SERIOUS privilege. I enjoy the former and I've always felt damn well rich.
Thank you for sharing your honest perspective on this! I wish I could say more, but this post just said it all. I'm sorry you lost that way of life, though I know in so many ways the life you're living now is billions of times better.
Pauline, I read this with great interest as I'm writing a book about a period in my life when I was not Romney rich, but rich enough. Frankly, due to my innate sensibilities and maybe lack of imagination, or because I was never top 1% rich--I felt excess financial wealth as privation as much as privilege. So interesting to hear your perspective. (I also did not grow up with any wealth.)

When I lost much of it over twenty years, crooked money planners, frauds abouding, my instant reaction was ....relief. Odd but true. Great post, wish more with wealth would write about it. Though writing about it in a long form is freaking hard. R
great post, Pauline! I said it earlier and I'll say it again:

More money = more options = easier choices.

(Plus lunch with the girls, naps, yoga, and tennis matches on a whim.)
I totally get this. It is the argument that all of us, rich or poor, have wanted to make. I wasn't as privileged as you but I too had the choice. I might not have been able to fly first class or extra wings built because of not enough room, but I was able to cut corners and not go out to eat every week so that I could stay home. I had to work part time but I was able to choose to stay at home. This is all that every woman should have. If I had wanted to work full time I could have. These are the choices that make privilege.
That Romney "pillow talk" could influence women's issues gives me terrible anxiety. You nail it right here Pauline. It's ok that Ann has it good. Very good. They worked for it. But she'd best not dare take up for women who have to make it work with a minute fraction of the privilege she has enjoyed.