Where are the Moms in the White House?Government policy alone will not change the number of mothers in the halls of power. But both parties have an opportunity to couple their rhetoric about moms with policy measures. Amy Julia Becker
The political conventions of 2012 made one thing clear: both parties want to woo the moms of America. As Lisa Belkin pointed out in the midst of the Republican convention, in his convention speech, "Mitt Romney used some version of the word ‘mom' 14 times." Romney's mom-laced speech came after both Paul Ryan and Ann Romney had courted the moms of our nation as well.Ann Romney explained that the moms "always work a little harder" than anyone else, and she said there are some things the men just can't understand. The Democrats followed with Michelle Obama's powerful words about what it means to be an American, which ended with a proud declaration that her most important title is still "Mom in Chief."
Both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama praised their husbands, and they painted similar portraits of family life. They described marriages that began with some degree of financial duress–the Romney's dining room table was an ironing board, Barack Obama's most prized possession a coffee table he had found in a dumpster. They both called upon memories of their husbands years ago to help us imagine these men without the trappings of fame and power and fortune. They extolled their husbands as fathers, and then they returned to their appeal to the mothers of this nation. There was something in those speeches for everyone, but it was the moms who were praised, and the moms who were being courted.
Moreover, both women implied that there is wisdom in being a mom, that moms know something about leadership, about values, about what matters to this nation, and about how to work hard to achieve goals.
Of the 15 members of Obama's cabinet, four are women, and two are mothers. Hillary Clinton, one of the moms, has already announced her intention to end her tenure as Secretary of State after the election. And both she and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have grown children. The dads on the cabinet include at least four who have school-aged children. Romney has begun preparations to form a cabinet, although he has not named his choices yet. But his transition team and circle of close advisors rarely include moms.
So why are there so few moms on Obama's cabinet? And why so few advising Romney? If moms are so great, and so valuable, to both parties, why aren't more of them in official positions of influence?