Oh Ann Romney, I just don't know what to say. I'm so sorry. In the competition that is the candidate's wife speech, Michelle Obama obliterated you at the DNC Convention last night. I hear she even did her own writing! As MSNBC's Alex Wagner tweeted last night, "First Lady to Ann Romney: 'I will take your pasta & tunafish in a basement, and raise you a car with rusted holes & a dumpster coffee table.'"
But this is not a competition over who struggled more as a young couple. What stood out to me was how Ann Romney and Michelle Obama each spoke about their experiences as women and mothers and exactly how well their husbands understand their struggles. To hear Ann Romney tell it at the RNC Convention, you'd think Mitt Romney idealizes motherhood without caring much about the specifics -- or truly appreciating how hard she works. Michelle Obama's speech, on the other hand, describes a man who is deeply aware of and empathetic to the challenges and work mothers face.
"Tonight I want to talk with you about love," Ann said. "I want to talk to you about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it -- the love we have for our children and our children's children." We didn't hear much beyond that about what Ann's love for her own children and grandchildren means to her in specifics, though. From there she talks about the struggles middle-class families are facing right now.
"And if you listen carefully, you'll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It's how it is, isn't it?" Naturally, the women in the audience loved this. "You're the ones who always have to do a little more." But while Ann mentions women working harder to earn "the respect you deserve at work," she also says she doesn't think men really understand that there's not a woman in America "who really expects her life to be easy."
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Yikes -- did Ann just reveal more about Romney there than she meant to? Because what I'm picturing now is a Mitt who just never got how hard his wife works, who put motherhood on a pedestal but was ultimately not very empathetic about Ann's struggles as a mother. "That's fine," Ann says like a martyr. I don't agree. I think that empathy deficit says everything that's wrong about Romney's candidacy.
Michelle Obama talked about being a mom, too -- America's "mom-in-chief." She made jokes about being a working mom who was so tired that on her dates with Barack they had to choose between dinner or a movie because she was too tired for both.
But she was at her best when she focused on the women who raised her and Barack. They both grew up with families who didn't have much money "but who had given us something far more valuable -- their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves."
To Ann Romney's vague statement that women have to work harder than men, laboring in mute acceptance, Michelle talks about Barack's single mother struggling to pay bills. She tells us about his secretary grandmother, who watched as men she trained were promoted over her. Michelle does not think "that's fine." She thinks it's unacceptable, especially for moms trying to support a family. So that's why she mentions Barack signing the Lily Ledbetter Act demanding equal pay for equal work.
You see, men can understand how women work harder. And they can do something about it. That's a difference that matters to me. “For Barack, these issues aren’t political -- they’re personal.” Moms need a president who actually sees and values the work moms do in specifics. Not in some bland, "you moms are so important" kind of way that results in exactly zero policies that support us. We're smarter -- and more valuable -- than that.
What did you think about the differing ways Michelle Obama and Ann Romney talked about motherhood?
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