The kerfuffle over Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen really hit home for me. Not because I don’t think stay-at-home moms work very hard. I know they do. Not because Hilary Rosen thinks Ann Romney can’t speak for working moms. Frankly, I’d feel more comfortable if it were Mitt listening to moms’ concerns, but I’m pretty sure Ann is a good listener. She’d have to be to raise five kids.
No, what hit home for me is the idea that, because she adopted her children, Hilary Rosen is less of a mother than Ann Romney. Witness this Tweet from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights: “Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.”
So much about that statement is offensive to parents of children who were adopted that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the idea that giving birth to your children makes them any more your own than children you adopted. I gave birth to my son; we adopted our daughter. They are both our children, our own children. I’m not really comfortable with using “own” when talking about children, but I know the intent of the statement is to distinguish children we bear from children we adopt. And that’s the problem. To adoptive parents, there is no difference.
As many people who ask if my son is my own, ask my daughter who her real mother is. Since my daughter is Chinese, it’s pretty clear that I am not her birth mother. Oh, I get that “real” mother is code for birth mother, but my daughter doesn’t. To her, I am real and I am her mother. A real mother changes diapers, hugs you when you get hurt and tucks you in at night. Recently, I overheard my daughter tell her best friend that someone asked my daughter who her real mother is. The friend said, “That’s so weird!” and my daughter replied, “I know! My mom is my mom!” It’s harder for her to deal with “your real parents didn’t want you,” but she’s learning. She has to.
I think the thing about the Catholic League statement that angers me the most is the idea that Rosen—or anyone, for that matter—had to adopt, as if anything less than birthing children is second best. No one holds a gun to your head and makes you adopt. In fact, adoptive parents willingly open themselves to having every aspect of their lives examined. I think the only thing that wasn’t scrutinized when we adopted was our son’s piggy bank.
Every mom is a full-time mom no matter what else she does in her day. And children are children, no matter how they come to us. Ann Romney raised children of her own, just as Hilary Rosen is doing now.