I missed the Hillary Rosen/Ann Romney kerfluffle because I was at the Baltimore VA getting my peronnial tendons recombobulated (What an amazing job they did), and otherwise recovering from that visit. Luckily, Jon Stewart was there to catch me up.

What Hillary Rosen said: “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and  why do we worry about their future.”

She’s correct (maybe not right, but correct). So it becomes an attack on traditional blah blah blah blah. The point is that “work” is for pay. Labor is another story. What matters is that she elected to stay home and raise her children, but if you read the second sentence above, that’s what I gathered from Rosen was her salient point.

I can’t picture Mitt and Ann having the kinds of conversations my wife and I have had, not just about whether we’d make the mortgage, but whether we could afford milk or groceries until payday, and that’s the sentiment I read. 

But who cares? FDR and Eleanor had mad cash, and you can’t say they didn’t feel the pain of the working class without living it. It comes down to judging the Romneys without knowing them personally, and I’d rather not do that. I think I’d rather stick to analyzing the past actions and proposed policies of the candidates in the race and skip the “I feel your pain” crap.

All of that, described above, was a smokebomb that hides something much larger.To me, the real story is the dichotomous nature of the American homemaker.

I find a lot of similarities between veterans and homemakers. Both do difficult jobs whose financial rewards are clearly not sufficient recompense. Both are honored by being placed on idealized pedastals  that at the same time acknowledge and glorify their sacrifice, and kind of let them know the acknowledgement is the payoff.

It is common fodder to say military service gives you (fill in the blank with any number of intangible traits that don’t translate onto a resume). Now that I mention that, does it sound familiar? Try writing a resume with the list of skills you pick up from being a homemaker for 15 years or so. It may be noble and “the toughest job”, but it doesn’t translate to a position that pays significant geld.

So our heroes are living on the streets because they’re unemployable, or maybe they are just a bit less competitive than a civilian, so they have to start lower on the ladder.

Well, our moms are in even worse straits, because these women, many of them with 15-20 year old degrees, find themselves fighting for work with fresh graduates, or for low skill/low wage positions. Many often still have the vast majority of parental duties on their shoulders, and the work for which they are applying is usually the least flexible in that regard. So they have years of service, often where they are taken for granted, and when they finally re-enter the emplyment pool they get what amounts to a slap in the face.

What’s the message this is sending our daughters about the prospects of staying home to raise children? It’s a decision that carries far more weight than what at first appears obvious. 

I’m in sales, so when my employer tells me “We feel strongly that our sales force should do X, Y and Z”, I take a look at the comp plan. If the comp plan rewards me for doing X, but not the other two, I know what the company is really saying. Often, Y&Z are things that come with the reward of knowing you did a thing well, so I act accordingly.

So young women, particularly those who have listened to a lot of deeply felt rants about the nobility of homemaking plastered all over the news, I’d suggest you take a look at the comp plan. I’m not saying not to do raise your kids yourself, but understand that your rewards will most likely be intangible.

If my comparison between mothers and veterans is at all accurate, however, I’ll tell you this: the intangible rewards cannot be bought, misspent, lost, stolen or siezed. You will always have them, and they might be your most valued possessions.