Dear Mrs. Romney,
I work very hard in my daily life to assume the best about people. So the only thing I am going to assume about you is that you are probably a pretty nice person with a good heart. I like to make this global assumption without the taint of the opinions of others. And I would appreciate it if you would stop assuming things about me. I am not a part of the amorphous American female collective you spoke of last night. In fact, I take great offense to being lumped together with the female stereotype you presented. I am not the woman you described, nor are any of my female friends. I am much, much more.Allow me to introduce myself. I am a member of the middle class, but I haven’t always been. I have been teaching middle school since I graduated from college. My first job paid $1300 a month. For seven years I supplemented my income by working evenings and weekends at a movie theater and a retail store. This was to pay my rent and my car payment and buy a few groceries. After seventeen years as a teacher, I have earned a Master’s degree, an Education Specialist degree and an administrative license. I am happily married with two elementary-age kids. My husband and I are both educators, and there is still no money left at the end of the month. We continue to live paycheck to paycheck.That’s what two teachers with two kids do.
We don’t have a housekeeper or a nanny. We don’t have personal assistants. All our limited disposable funds go towards riding and violin lessons, karate class, field trips, and school clothes for the kids. If we need new clothes, we wait for clearance sales and shop at discount stores. If one of the kids wants to add an enrichment activity to their schedule, we juggle our finances to decide what we can give up.
We have debt and student loans that impede our financial progress, both of which have accrued over the years as we have tried to live pretty average everyday lives. When it’s time for our kids to go to college, let’s hope they qualify for scholarships; “shopping around” for a more affordable option would mean no higher education for our kids. Period.
Disposable income for this middle class family is a joke.
But I digress. I am a woman, and you don’t know the first thing about me. When you suggest that it’s a “woman’s lot” to work all day then come home and cater to her husband and kids, and that you hear my voice, my blood boils.
You may hear my voice and “love you women,” but you are certainly not listening.
Your life does not resemble mine in any way. Yes, you have five children and a debilitating illness. But you also have the monetary resources to finance support systems. I believe wholeheartedly that being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job, but you have no idea what it is like to be that parent and work a second, or even a third job at the same time to make ends meet.
So please refrain from claiming allegiance with me, from suggesting that you are an example of “every woman.” That claim is a lie.
Have you ever bounced a check because you had to put gas in your car?
Have you ever been forced to calculate the cost of your groceries as you shop to be sure you’re not over-budget?
Have you ever told one of your children that they can have new shoes that fit…after payday?
Welcome to the reality of this woman.
And I am incredibly lucky.
I have a job, as does my extremely supportive husband. We have two sets of grandparents a stone’s throw away who take care of our kids when they’re sick or they have days off of school so we don’t have to miss work. We have a roof over our heads, food to eat, and we have each other.
I can’t imagine surviving under alternate conditions. What about the single woman who spends fully half of her paycheck on childcare? What about the woman who is struck with Cancer but ignores her medical needs in order to put food on the table for her family? What about the woman who forfeited higher education to raise a child and now has no skills to find a job? What about the woman who lives in a shelter with her children in order to escape an abusive partner or as a result of an eviction?
Shopping at Costco does not level this playing field.
So I take exception to your statement that all women share the same lot in life.
If you want to make this claim, if you want to try to convince me that we are more similar than different, you’re going to have to spend a week or so walking in my $15 Payless clearance shoes.
You are not every woman. You are an incredibly privileged, elite, distorted version of American womanhood, and you have no idea how the other 99% live.
As your husband and his party try to control my body, my choices, my well-being, please remember that you and your party will never speak for me.
How dare you even try.
- Cathy Walker-Gilman