Mom-in-Chief?

MichelleDNCM E M O R A N D U M
TO: Michelle Obama
RE: Mom-in-Chief? Was it Really Necessary to Try to Out-Mom Ann Romney?

Full disclosure: I have been and remain a supporter of your husband, President Barack Obama, as well as a supporter of your tireless efforts to curb childhood obesity, your unwavering support of military families and your roll-with-it response when your hair styles and outfits get endlessly critiqued by anyone with a Twitter or blog account …

However, in the interest of equal time (see Ann Romney MEMORANDUM), I must share some disappointment.  Despite delivering a stirring, ovation-generating speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention …

“Every day, the people I meet inspire me…every day, they make me proud…every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth.”

You were so almost there at being inclusive, Michelle!  

“If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire…if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores…if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote…if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time…if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream…and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love…then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.”

Yes, yes!! Let’s remember and celebrate the sacrifices those before us made to remind us of our potential. That we, too, must sacrifice…

But was it really necessary to play the mom card?

“Our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joys…Saturdays at soccer games, Sundays at grandma’s house…and a date night for Barack and me was either dinner or a movie, because as an exhausted mom, I couldn’t stay awake for both.”

I held you to a higher standard. I was convinced you wouldn’t try to “out-mom” Ann Romney. I know how much you value the importance of looking beyond stereotypes, of getting beyond personal interests, of respecting each and every individual in our society. 

“We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean…and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.”

I totally get rhetorical devices. I understand why every politician (or their spouses and supporters) have to invoke the greater good to motivate the electorate, to ensure that we don’t stumble or screw up our communities, our countries or our planet for those who come after us.

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“And I say all of this tonight not just as First Lady…and not just as a wife…”

No…no….Michelle! Do NOT say it, you’ve made your point…!

“You see, at the end of the day, my most important title is still ‘mom-in-chief.’ “

AAArrrghhh! Did you really have to invoke your momminess?

This may come as a newsflash, to both you and Ann, but many of us who are not parents also want to leave the world a better place than we found it.

As First Lady, you own the bully pulpit. In fact, we need you more than ever in this mommy-centric era in which we live to get beyond the easy punch lines, to respect and value the efforts of all women. Yes, we know that mothers and fathers play a central role in raising children (we are endlessly reminded of how fabulous you all are) but you don’t do it alone. As Hillary Clinton reminded us — in the previous century — It Takes A Village.

And it bears repeating that women who are not moms and men who are not dads in this century live in that village, too.

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20 thoughts on “Mom-in-Chief?

  1. Can’t believe that Michelle tried to out-Mom Ann! Didn’t anybody tell her that a mother of two daughters can never out-Mom a mother of five sons :)

    I am just joking, of course.

    I loved your observation – that the expression “the next generation” is not used any more. All politicians (and their wifes) use “our children”. The same is happening also in our part of Europe. Frustrating!

    I love the expression “the next generation”. There is so much of ME there: my nieces, husband’s nephews, my friend’s children…

    And the expression “our children” just hurts me. There is no me in that expression.

    Yes, I love Hillary’s sentence it takes a village….

    I am not a voter…. but me personally would love to see Hillary Clinton as a president of USA!

  2. I noticed it, and came over here to see if you did, too.

    I actually really liked most of her speech, and thought it harkened back to FDR, actually: asking us to sacrifice for the others, which was interesting (and a sign of just how sobering the economy really is, I suppose?) But I could feel her gearing up for the mom part.

    An aside: so many parents are obsessed with their own children: are they eating organic? Are we parenting well enough? Am I mom enough? Missing is the emphasis on every child: the next generation, leaving the world for the younger set.

  3. Angela

    Pamela, I cannot say enough times how much you rock. I just had another miscarriage last week and these speeches are just pissing me off! I have to change channels when the political crap comes on, I know what page they’re on and it’s pretty much the same page as all the other politicians.

  4. Karen Paul

    I’m so glad you are talking about this because it is really bothering me too. I understand “why” they do it I think. People seem to feel threatened by a first lady that doesn’t stay within what they consider to be “safe” places as first lady- which means that motherly role. I hate it and i think it needs to change. But unfortunately I don’t think it will, even if we ever do get a woman as president, she will no doubt have to “be a mother” to get that job. Wrong – annoying. I feel left out every time they do this. I actually yelled at the TV during Ann Romney’s speech – “EVERYONE IS NOT A MOTHER!!!!” – much to my husband’s chagrin. Luckily he understands better than anyone, because he is not a “dad” either.. and we both have that feeling sometimes – that being left out feeling. Anyway so glad I can come here and share with you all who truly “get it”. Peace and Love

  5. Lol – great post, Pamela. You perfectly captured the build-up to that cringe-worthy moment – “mom-in-chief”. Blech!!

    American politics… sigh. I do love Michelle and Hillary. I only wish they didn’t succumb to the pressure to pander. (Not to go off topic too much, but I have a vague memory of Hillary baking cookies to prove something.) Now – a female, childfree President in this country – wouldn’t that be something!

  6. bwsgirl

    My comments here may not be popular, but I disagree. I read the memo to Ann Romney with delight because I was sickened by her pandering speech, but I was moved and heartened by Michelle Obama’s speech. Yes, she played the mom card, but it’s an important part of her life, just as it’s an important part of a lot of people’s lives. I don’t mind it being mentioned at all. But, when it’s the only conversation you have (ahem, Ann Romney), then in that case, gimme a friggin’ break. I thought Mrs. Obama was much more inclusive. Again, I expected the tired, trite mom-speak, but I don’t believe that it was overplayed in this instance. Sorry. (Ok, I’m ready for the bullets . . . )

  7. Pamela

    Don’t get me wrong. I admire Michelle greatly for how much she has achieved and the devotion and care she has shown to family and friends and citizens. Her speech, overall, was stirring and worthy of adulation. Her family narrative (as well as the narrative by Julian Castro preceding her) were uplifting depictions of the American dream. Michelle’s descriptions of her father, in particular, had me verklempt in a more than a few places.  Her humility is one of her greatest attributes. That’s all the more reason why, in my opinion, she didn’t need to proclaim herself “mom-in-chief.” It felt too much like a Disney movie line … I tried to imagine various other scenarios — would an Olympic champion call him or herself an “athlete-in-chief?” Would Meryl Streep call herself an “actor-in-chief” …?

    And, of course, the mom-in-chief characterization elevates still further the role of mom in a society that already glorifies it — I’m not sure the pedestal can get much higher.

    Perhaps in the next convention cycle they can find a speaker who calls herself Chief Infertility Officer?

  8. bwsgirl

    Granted and conceded. The ‘mom-in-chief’ remark did make me throw up a little. But at least I didn’t feel like throwing up during the entire speech. You are so funny-thanks for making me laugh at this and at myself. You do rock – but so do all of the posters here. All of you guys ROCK!

  9. IrisD

    What Hillary had said when Bill was running for his first term, or was it just after, was that she had not sat home and baked cookies all day. It was the complete opposite. She had portrayed herself as a professional and as a woman who had her own opinions and interests in policy matters. This got her into all sorts of trouble on the right by people who questioned who had just become president, Bill or Hillary. God, I miss those days!!! What irks me about the “Mom in chief” comment, isn’t that Michelle and other mothers feel that this is the most important thing that they do. I mean, if I had a child, I would imagine that taking care of them and making sure they became good members of society in the future, would be my priority. What bothers me is this “patting themselves in the back thing” for a role that women have played since the beginning of time. It is as though now you have to talk about mommyhood, as though no one has done it before. I never recall women of my own mother’s generation talking so much about themselves this way. It makes something which is supposed to be selfless become narcissistic. Look at me, look at you… you’re a MOM!! I’ve been a teacher, I’m a professor, I’m a woman, I’m a sister, a daughter, a wife, a very devoted Aunt… But I don’t go around patting myself in the back publicly for all those things.

  10. Pamela

    Amen to that, Iris. Amen!

  11. Big Mobama fan here too. ; ) Overall, I thought it was a pretty good speech, even spine-tingling in a couple of places — but I too was rolling my eyes at the “Mom in Chief” references.

    The NY Times asked the question today “Do we need to hear from the candidate’s spouse?” I’m not sure there is an equivalent to the U.S. First Lady anywhere else in the world… I mean, there is certainly interest in political spouses, and some of them have been strong or controversial figures (e.g., Cherie Blair… our own Margaret Trudeau, 40 years ago, lol) — but I can’t recall a Canadian political leader’s wife ever addressing a political convention (with the possible exception of Olivia Chow, wife of the late NDP leader Jack Layton, and a member of Parliament in her own right).

    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/09/04/do-we-need-to-hear-from-the-candidates-spouse/?ref=opinion

  12. Double amen! Well said, Iris. And – you tested my memory, so I looked it up. Hillary’s comment was followed by the first Family Circle cookie bake-off of potential First Ladies…which has now happened every election, apparently. To my horror.

  13. I love you Pamela! I watched an on-line version of the speech, and missed the very end – the mom-in-chief comments. But even then, the bits you pulled out made me cringe. I hate the fact that Michelle Obama has to downplay her own achievements (after the way Hillary was vilified) and emphasise her role as mother as the only role worth mentioning. As a feminist, I always cringe at the idea that the wives have to play the submissive woman role, and I hope that one day soon, you get a female president who doesn’t have to do that.

  14. Loribeth, my thoughts exactly. I didn’t see your reply when I wrote mine.

  15. Although I must admit, Hillary’s recipe does make great cookies. ; )

  16. Bea

    So much better than the last speech, though. That Ann one you cited was just horrendous.

    I don’t see anything wrong with telling us that, as an exhausted mum, she couldn’t stay awake for dinner and movie. That’s just relating how life was, and what was sucking her energy. Could have been any other thing (even if, let’s face it… the mum-card is easier to play).

    And I don’t have a problem with “our children”. Part of the problem of infertility in our society today is that the parents hog all the ownership of the next generation’s future. I think it would be nice to get back to the concept of “our children”.

    But Mum-in-chief is a bit rich for my blood. That definitely causes a cringe.

    Anyway. Good luck America with the election!

    Bea

  17. Topanga

    Dear Mom-in-Chief,

    Would it make you cringe to marvel at the fact that the youth of this great nation once got the majority of their education from non-moms in little one-room school houses? Would it be scandalous to say that many non-moms continue to influence and shape future generations today?! Could it be…that your own children…are in the presence of such non-moms?! Please don’t start busting a move to your Pink Floyd rendition of “Hey, Non-Mom, Leave My Kids Alone!”, just yet until you know this: When one of your fellow “Mom-in-Chiefs” drops her screaming, unruly children into my classroom…the buck stops there.

    Sincerely,
    Mrs. Nonmom

  18. […] together after listening to political convention speakers invoking their parental superiority (ala Michelle Obama and Ann Romney), the damage goes far beyond simple annoyance or an eye role. The calling out or […]

  19. […] politicians and their spouses have long used parenthood as a superpower cloak many times over — with nary a […]

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