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Not another Mommy War

By Joanne Bamberger, Special to CNN
April 16, 2012 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Ann Romney campaigns with her husband, Mitt, in Cincinnati before last month's Super Tuesday primaries.
Ann Romney campaigns with her husband, Mitt, in Cincinnati before last month's Super Tuesday primaries.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hilary Rosen said Mitt Romney shouldn't use his wife as a surrogate on economic issues
  • Joanne Bamberger: Critics of Rosen are missing her point
  • She says Rosen right to ask if Ann Romney knows about women's economic struggles
  • Bamberger: The real debate is not about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms

Editor's note: Joanne Bamberger is the author of "Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America" (Bright Sky Press). She is the 2012 election editor/correspondent at iVillage.com and author of the political blog PunditMom.

(CNN) -- Does one slip of the tongue by a Democratic strategist equal a left-wing assault on stay-at-home moms? That's what the Mitt Romney campaign would like us to think.

CNN commentator Hilary Rosen, who also is an adviser to the Democratic National Committee, uttered these words about the Romney campaign using the candidate's wife, Ann, as a surrogate on economic issues facing working women and working moms today:

"Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life."

I'm pretty sure Rosen would take those comments back in a heartbeat if she could, because now instead of talking about whether the GOP hopeful is really connecting with the economic struggles of real women, we're debating Mommy Wars 3.0.

I'm not going to defend Rosen's choice of words. Every mother is a working mother. Period. I know how much work my one daughter is, so I can't begin to imagine just how much time and patience it took to raise five boys (six if you count Ann's comments about Mitt in a recent campaign video).

News: Rosen sorry for Ann Romney remark

But the argument that so many of Rosen's critics are missing is this -- she was trying to make a point about whether a wealthy woman who has never had to worry about choosing between buying groceries or paying the electric bill is the best person to be the Romney campaign's surrogate on how women and families are struggling economically today.

Hilary Rosen: Ann Romney 'never worked'

It's a totally fair question to ask whether someone who has never had to work to earn money is the right person to advise anyone on the economic struggles of women today. Asking that question shouldn't be the start of a new skirmish in the stay-at-home mom vs. working mom debate.

As a tactical matter, the Romney campaign was smart to jump on this and try to make it look like Democrats are attacking conservative stay-at-home moms. The whole Mommy Wars meme is one that always gets lots of attention, and it's one that conservative women activists like to promote. But this one has short shelf life.

News: Comment on Romney's wife keeps campaign focus on women

Before this story broke, I was speaking to a group of women about this very topic -- the media narrative of women attacking other women's choices. One mom lamented that she was tired of being asked by men whether she was jealous of other mom's choices or whether she regretted her decision about working and parenting. She said she and her friends don't judge each other's choices, so why do people keep assuming that they do?

It's an excellent question. And one that will hopefully make this a short-lived, nonstory.

News: Team Romney tries to focus Rosen controversy on the White House

The real issue is whether the Romney campaign wants to understand the economic issues so many women are facing in this election year. Yes, he should have his wife reach out to women voters and try to connect as a campaign secret weapon, but it's a mistake for the campaign to suggest that Ann Romney is the one he relies on for economic advice. Remember how the right got so riled up over the idea of Hillary Clinton advising her husband on health care policy?

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Joanne Bamberger.

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