Connie Schultz: Rhetoric seldom matches reality of motherhood
The one good thing about Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign for the presidency is that he provides many opportunities to point out to the rest of the country what we here in Ohio have known for too many years.
The man is no moderate. One of the ways he proves this, over and over again, is by how he talks about women. I may enjoy a little too much sharing the moment in 2012 when Kasich took the stage and offered this description of politicians’ wives:
“You know, Jane Portman, Karen Kasich and Janna Ryan, they operate an awful lot of the time in the shadows. It’s not easy to be a spouse of an elected official. You know, they’re at home, doing the laundry and doing so many things, while we’re up here on the stage getting a little bit of applause, right?”
As a full-time columnist married to a U.S. senator, I found this description of my life utterly fascinating. I do laundry, all right, but to tell the world I’m never applauded for the effort crosses a line, big-time.
If you’re one of those old-fashioned reasonable Republicans tempted to argue that Kasich is certainly more moderate than some of his fellow presidential candidates, please stop right there and think about what you’re about to say.
If it takes Donald — Round up the Muslims! — Trump and Ted — Science? We don’t need no stinkin’ science! — Cruz to make John Kasich look reasonable, we might as well move this shindig of a primary to a moisture farm on the three-moon planet of Tatooine.
Last week, Kasich was speaking at a campaign event in New Hampshire, when a man in the crowd asked where the candidate stands on paid maternity leave.
Keep in mind that we are the only industrialized country without paid maternity leave. Say that out loud, and then remind yourself it’s 2016.
Kasich is just fine with that. His response, as reported by The Columbus Dispatch:
“The one thing we need to do for working women is to give them the flexibility to be able to work at home online. The reason why that’s important is, when women take maternity leave or time to be with the children, then what happens is they fall behind on the experience level, which means that the pay becomes a differential. And we need to accommodate women who want to be at home, having a healthy baby and in fact being involved, however many years they want to take care of the family.”
Sorry, so sorry, about that moment of rambling. Mine, I mean. I should have stopped banging my head against my late father’s 12-pound wrench propped up on my desk before I started typing again.
Kasich’s telecommuting suggestion would work so well for nurses, teachers, police officers, factory workers, doctors, waitresses, cashiers, baristas — you know, any woman in a job that involves something other than tapping the keys on a laptop. Did he even hear himself? I wonder that. A lot.
About those mothers who, in Kasich’s mind, could work from home: What fun for bone-tired mothers caring for newborns whose idea of sleep is a brief flutter of eyelids between feedings. Has this man never spent a day with a newborn?
As for the majority of you mothers who don’t work in jobs that allow you to telecommute: Poof. You’re invisible in Kasich Land. Problem solved.
I admit to feeling more than a little intemperate about all this because, in the past three years, our family has grown by four grandchildren. Two of them were born in the past three months.
My husband and I rushed in to help, because we could, which makes us luckier than most grandparents our age.
Every time we’re with our daughters, who are fortunate enough to have jobs that let them spend the first few weeks with their babies, we leave wondering how all those mothers without their advantages manage to do it all.
We know the answer. We all do. Except John Kasich, maybe.
The heartbreaking truth is that mothers without paid maternity leave try, try, try — too often without help and without hope, too. They are never able to get ahead, and their children start out behind.
This, from the country that President Barack Obama declared during Tuesday’s State of the Union address to be “the most powerful nation on earth, period.”
Tell that to the mothers.
Better yet, prove it.