"Hasn't worked a day in her life."

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It took me a couple of days to catch up with "mommygate," but when I finally read the comment that was drawing all the fire, my first thought was, "Uh oh. I hope she didn't say anything about cookies." Because the last thing the Democrats need in this election year is another round of "Who's a Real Mom?"

But then I thought, wait a minute. This is Ann Romney we're talking about. Five boys, yes (my mother had four, plus two girls). That's a lot of work. But she's rich. She didn't do it all herself.

And than, to our chagrin, we find that, indeed, she did. A good Mormon wife, as only a convert can be, the Romneys believe in hands on parenting. I buy that the decision to bring help on board when she became ill was a painful one. Admitting that you are no longer physically able to do all that you had done before is something I only have had to confront with advancing age and arthritis.

So I don't think we can dismiss her on the sole count of staying home. Everyone who knows her, apparently, loves her. I don't know her and I never will, but I can believe that too. Besides, she loves horses. The woman can't be all bad.

BUT here's the thing. Here's what I know about stay-at-home moms whose husbands have done well in providing for them. My mother also stayed at home (with, if you were counting above, six children). We got household help at about the same stage that the Romneys did - a cleaning woman who came in once a week. For whom we had to clean the house so she wouldn't think we were slobs.

I used to tell people, my father was a businessman, my mother was a saint. And she was. Just like Ann Romney, my mother was loved by all who knew her. She was a pillar in our local Lutheran church. She dispensed loving care to all who came within her purview.

And she was able to do all of this because she was married to a wheeler-dealer. My dad was always on the make for a buck. He owned his own business and I think he was as honest as any businessman with a family of 6 kids in the 1950's could afford to be. But he wasn't a saint. He provided for us. And he sent us to college.

My point is that, eminently worthwhile women such as my mother and Ann Romney were and are, they haven't had to hustle. My mother had her moments of having to make do (they didn't include clipping coupons), but she had a strong arm on which to lean. She never had to apply for a job that would make the difference between a roof over her head and living on the street. She never had to worry about being evicted because she didn't have enough for the baby's medicine and the rent. She never had to apply for foodstamps. She could afford to be a saint because she was married to a sinner.

Back in Wisconsin, dear friends of mine opened a little clothing shop in Sturgeon Bay that they called Motherworks. One of the owners, Jean, was a single mother with two (three? it's been a while) children. The shop folded after a few years, and some of us scattered to different parts of the country. I don't know where Jean is today. But I always loved that name. Motherworks. I wrote a poem about it and one of its founding mothers, my friend Jean.


Tall, and twilight eyes are glowing amber.
Wise Minerva's woman wings a care full way.
Freckle dust falls soft across her arms and cheekbones
Where the sunlight falls
On garden summer days.

Long she walks and moved in fierce assurance;
Hair a sun flare, acid sparks her tongue.
Tall and comely, iron-armed, a woman
Fighting fear and reaching for the sun.

"Mother, come and hold me, Mother, quickly!"
Children call and cry with hurt and hunger,
Sleepy children's eyes caress her.

"Come and sleep and I will watch you,
feed you, guard you,
I will hold you 'til your hands can hold their own
And your eyes can see the morning."

They are looking up in wonder, love,
(An amber woman, tall and comely.
Strong and twilight eyes)
And whisper,
"Mother's working.
All is well."