Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ann Romney: Does addressing mothers count as addressing stepmothers too?

I try to leave politics off my blog because I realize that it’s a polarizing topic and I strive to not alienate my readers. However, the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa unknowingly gave an interesting view into how many people in this country view alternative forms of parenting, and it deserves to be addressed.

I shouldn’t go any further without being honest – much to Ashley’s dismay, I am a registered Democrat. I don’t always vote within party lines or agree with every portion of the party platform. However, I am a liberal, especially on social issues, so my view of the current GOP and their policies toward women is not very positive to begin with.

With that being said, Ann Romney’s speech piqued my interest. I have nothing against the woman personally, other than I think she is a bit na├»ve and out of touch regarding how most women in this country live. I think she’s very admirable, especially with all of her medical battles, and I don’t begrudge her for being a stay-at-home parent. Because she comes across as genuine to me, I wanted to hear her speech in the hopes of seeing a different side of Mitt Romney.

But what I got out of it was what I like to call “Mommy Superiority Syndrome.” Some of the gems of her speech:

“I want to talk to you about that love so deep, only a mother can fathom it. The love that we have for our children and our children's children.”

“And if you listen carefully, you'll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It's how it is, isn't it? It's the moms who have always had to work a little harder to make everything right. It's the moms of this nation, single, married, widowed, who really hold the country together. We're the mothers. We're the wives. We're the grandmothers. We're the big sisters. We're the little sisters and we are the daughters.”

“You are the best of America. You are the hope of America. There would not be an America without you. Tonight, we salute you and sing your praises!”

Hmmm….so according to Ann – and this is a statement I have heard from many people, not just her – only a mother can fathom the deepest love there is. It’s similar to the statement, “You don’t know true love until you have a child.” According to Ann, it’s the moms of the United States who keep America together. The single mothers, the married mothers, the widowed mothers. The grandmothers. The wives. The sisters.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? You might recall my Mother’s Day reflections that in an aisle full of cards acknowledging Mother’s Day for mothers, for grandmothers, for mothers-in-law, for wives, for sisters, for aunts….. there was not one card for a stepmother.

You might say – as some have on Facebook on mutual friends’ postings, “Oh Southern Stepmom, why are you getting so upset about this? She was trying to be positive! She probably meant stepmothers too – stepmothers are like mothers, and you can’t break down every type of mother there possibly is so as not to offend anyone! Here she is – trying to make positive statements about women, and you’re just tearing her down, you big mean liberal!”

If Ann had meant to include stepmothers or to infer that mother applies to all women who take care of children, she could have easily said stepmothers when she referred to many types of mothers in the second quote. She could have not broken down the types of mothers at all. Or she could have not blatantly said – only a mother understands; because of mothers, there is an America.

Do I think Ann Romney hates stepmothers? No. Do I think she, like most people in America, thinks that in order to be a mother, you have to physically bring a child into this world? Yes, I do.

You may say I’m thin skinned. You may say I’m a liberal who hates Mitt Romney and wouldn’t have voted for him anyway no matter what his wife said. You may say everyone’s too concerned about being PC these days and I need to stop being such an angry woman.

If I were thin skinned, I would not have survived almost six years of being a stepmother. There is little that would have convinced me to vote for Mitt Romney, but if his wife had acknowledged me and the other 14 million stepmothers to minor children in this country, I would have definitely gained a lot of respect for him. I probably am an angry woman, but I’m an angry woman for a reason.

I have had many people praise me for my sacrifices and how I have reared my two younger belles. I don’t do it for the praise. I do it because those two kids need me. They needed a mother in their lives because their bio-mother couldn’t do it/chose not to do it herself. Yes, there are days when I want to tear my hair out. There are days when I wish the burden was a little easier, or that my husband and I could enjoy more than 3 overnight trips away by ourselves in six years. There are days when I wonder if they will ever appreciate anything that I have done for them.

But, I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me, as one person suggested. I don’t want a glowing review of my parenting. A simple thanks from my girls, or even perhaps their bio-mother one day, would be nice. But I don’t expect people to bow down at me for what I have done. It was my choice, not my obligation.

But what I would really like is for my relationship with the two girls I have raised to mean something to a school or to a doctor’s office without requiring a legal paper trail or a lengthy and expensive adoption process. I would like for my role as a de facto parent to be acknowledged in the eyes of the law, not to be considered the legal stranger to them that I am considered to be now.

That’s right, folks. My only connection to those girls that I have loved as my own and have been expected to love as my own is through my husband. I am Dad’s wife. If something were to – heaven forbid – happen to my husband tomorrow, the only connection I have to them would be severed. The state could take them from me. I would have to file for guardianship, which could be contested by the state or by any relative. If we were to – heaven forbid – divorce, I would be facing an uphill legal battle for visitation, and most states don’t even allow stepparents to petition for visitation, much less grant it.

The ugly assumptions people make about stepmothers, the ridiculous assertions people make about us – that’s all relative, but not really even the point. The point is that if Ann Romney didn’t have to specify stepmothers because stepmothers are considered valuable women in America, if motherhood wasn’t defined by biology, then there would be cards for stepmothers on Mother’s Day. There would be features on national news outlets about inspiring stepmothers on Mother’s Day, just as there are about stepfathers on Father’s Day. And most importantly – I would have legal protection for the role I play every day. I wouldn’t be “just the stepmother.” It would be me that was holding the country together too.