One of the features in this month’s More magazine is a feminist’s dream: Three U.S. Congresswomen — all of whom are Democrats (naturally…not many conservatives would do this), wives, and mothers — have decided to move in together. Unlike 99% of spouses in America, Carolyn Maloney, 69, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, 43, and Melissa Bean, 48, take refuge in one another from their exhausting days on Capitol Hill while their husbands — Clifton, Steve, and Alan — hold down the couples’ respective forts in New York, Florida, and Illinois.
Of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, only 73 are women; and a tiny fraction of this group — including the three women above — are moms. If you asked a feminist why there are so few women (and so few moms) in Congress, the answer is simple: discrimination. If you asked a normal person, you’d get the truth: Most women have no desire to leave their husbands and children behind and move to another city in order to live a life devoted to one’s work. Indeed, a life in politics is no small matter.
“Your D.C. days often start with predawn workouts, sunrise media events or breakfast meetings and may not end until final votes are cast at 10 or 11 at night,” writes Annie Groer, author of “The Girls in the House.”
And Congresswoman Bean admits, “Members of Congress almost never have dinner with their families.”
Like everyone in Congress, Maloney, Schultz, and Bean work around the clock. Their fancy kitchen is “rarely used” and has a “nearly empty” refrigerator. And, alas, they are largely free from their maternal responsibilities — unless you count checking in with one’s kids periodically via texts and email to be actual mothering. Their children live with their respective fathers (save for Maloney’s, whom I assume are out of the house by now), who take on the lion’s share of household duties and clearly do the bulk of the parenting.
This setup is fine and dandy as far as feminists are concerned: They’ve always wanted women to get out of the kitchen and husbands to pick up the slack at home. (That’s some serious slack these men are picking up.) But if part of the feminist argument is to be taken seriously — that no one parent should be expected to do all the work at home — then it seems to me Clifton, Steve, and Alan have a legitimate bone to pick with their wives. But they were noticeably absent from the article.
Few readers will relate to the lifestyle these women lead and thus may be tempted to shrug it off as unimportant. But the significance isn’t so much the ladies’ strange choice of lifestyle; it’s that they claim to represent the typical working mom.
“Like all women in America, we are trying to juggle our public and our private lives, the difficulty of getting home for a child’s doctor appointment or school play, the balance between work and family,” says Maloney.
Democrats sure are self-delusional. Ms. Maloney and her cohorts are not “like all women in America.” Most women in America wouldn’t dream of leaving their husbands and kids behind to share a home with other women and work around the clock. Indeed, most mothers in America — if they work outside the home at all — work part-time, which bears no resemblance to the life of a Congresswoman. A more honest quote from these women would have been something to the effect of, “This is not a great life for most women (most people, actually) — and here’s why.”
Naturally, some will read this and ask, “So should all the folks in Congress be men?” To which I’d say: No, we need Congresswomen: women whose children have flown the coop, women who have yet to have children, and childless women. Congresswomen who are mothers are like military moms: They have chosen to live lives that take them away from their children to such a degree it makes one wonder why they even have children. And to pretend maternal absence doesn’t have colossal implications is to bury one’s head in the sand.
Feminists will also take offense to the idea that it’s socially acceptable for fathers to be absent but not mothers. To which I’d say this: I personally would never have married a man who wanted a life in politics any more than I would have married a brain surgeon; I happen to want my man around. And life without Dad around is a harder life, indeed. But like it or not, there is a difference between a father whose work takes him away from home and a mother whose work takes her away from home. It’s a terribly inconvenient truth — but there it is.
That said, my beef isn’t with the Congresswomen’s choice to live whatever life they want; it’s their dishonesty. There was no mention in the article about how hard this life is on the women and their families. Instead, their lives are treated as normal, admirable even. After Groer explains what an average day looks like for a Congressperson (see first quote above), she writes, “That’s how Carolyn Maloney lived for a dozen years after her 1993 swearing-in and then she said, ‘Enough.’”
As a wife and mother, I assumed by “enough” she meant Maloney couldn’t stand to be away from home anymore. But no. Groer says Maloney “got tired of not having anyone around to talk to” — so she went “roommate hunting.”
You know. Just like most women in America.