On Monday, Ann Romney addressed the Prescott Bush dinner to proclaim her “I’m just folks” credentials. “I know what it’s like to finish the laundry and to look in the basket five minutes later and it’s full again,” Romney said. “I know what it’s like to pull all the groceries in and see the teenagers run through and then all of sudden all of the groceries you just bought a few hours ago are gone. … I know what it’s like get up in the middle of the night when they’re sick And I know what it’s like to struggle and to have those concerns that all mothers have.”
But Mrs. Romney and all the Republicans who gave her a standing ovation, are conveniently choosing to miss the point. No one doubts Mrs. Romney understands what it’s like to be a mother. It’s what it’s like to be an ordinary mother, one who doesn’t have resources, who struggles and has to make choices every single day that she doesn’t really get.
For example, here’s Mrs. Romney in a 1994 interview with the Boston Globe, speaking of her student years at BYU:
“They were not easy years. You have to understand, I was raised in a lovely neighborhood, as was Mitt, and at BYU, we moved into a $62-a-month basement apartment with a cement floor and lived there two years as students with no income…We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time. The stock came from Mitt’s father. … Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education.”
So while the Romneys had to rough it in a neighborhood that was somewhat less lovely than they were used to, they didn’t have to take out student loans in order to get an education, or work and study at the same time in order to pay for expenses. Mrs. Romney’s hard times consisted of living in a “tiny” apartment without “money to carpet the floor” and forcing her to glue remnants together for carpeting. Oh, the horror. The horror.
Mrs. Romney went on to discuss tough times while her husband attended Harvard Law School: “Mitt was still in school and we had no income except the stock we were chipping away at. We were living on the edge, not entertaining.”
Oh the poor, poor dear, having to give up entertaining and dip into capital to “survive.” It must have been so terribly frightening to live “on the edge” like that.
Mrs. Romney is, by all accounts, a warm and loving mother and I admire the way she has faced not just one but two medical conditions (breast cancer and multiple sclerosis) with dignity and grace.
But can we get real? She had, and continues to have distinct advantages in her struggles over the average woman. For example, she’s never had to worry about losing her home (or any of the multiple homes the Romney’s own) or to face personal bankruptcy as a result of out-of-pocket medical expenses. Two such major medical conditions, even with insurance, could cripple an ordinary family. Mrs. Romney’s also never had to worry about her medical insurance being rescinded. I lost sleep about that every year at renewal prior to the passage of the Health Care Act last year, and now Mrs. Romney’s husband has made a pledge to repeal it. Mrs. Romney finds “joy therapy” for her MS symptoms in dressage, a sport where an inexpensive horse is over $20,000. It’s hard to find the joy in anything when you’re choosing between paying the mortgage or the hospital bills. That’s something that no matter how nice a person she might be, Ann Romney – and her husband – just don’t seem to get it.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU