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Ann Romney, Hilary Rosen & the Value of Mothers

The Value of Stay-at-Home Moms Has Become a Political Issue in This Presidential Election

The ongoing political debate about the so-called "war on women" took an unexpected turn this week when a comment by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen ignited anger among those who feel she was denigrating the work of stay-at-home mothers.

Rosen made the statement in question on Wednesday night, during an appearance on CNN. Asked if there was anything wrong with Republicans reaching out to women on economic matters, Rosen replied that there was not. She then went on to say that presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney "doesn't connect on that issue."

She took issue with Romney citing the perspective of his wife, Ann Romney.

"His wife has actually never worked a day in her life," Rosen said. "She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and why do we worry about their future."

Soon, the Internet was aflame with those arguing that Rosen had slighted stay-at-home mothers. Ann Romney herself took to Twitter to challenge Rosen's comment.

"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," she tweeted. 

All of this controversy raised the age old question of how much do stay-at-home moms really work and how valuable are they? Luckily, Salary.com has the answer.

Salary.com this week put a dollar value on that hard work, calculating the paycheck mothers would be due if they were paid market rate for the hours they put in as cooks, teachers, child psychologists, drivers and chief executives. The bottom line? Stay-at-home mothers are worth an annual salary of $112,962; working moms are due $66,979 for their efforts. 

Thus far in the presidential campaign season, Democrats have enjoyed an edge with women voters, as Republicans have railed against abortion rights and improved access to contraception. Now, however, pundits are wondering if the uproar about Rosen's comments will swing public sentiment back towards the Romney camp. 

The consternation has not been limited to Republicans: Prominent Democrats, including President Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have distanced themselves from Rosen's comments and even called on her to apologize. 

For some mothers, Rosen's remarks reinforced the stereotype that staying at home with children is not challenging work. 

"What makes me most angry about this is that another woman is the one saying it," said Carolyn Yetto, a mother of four who has stayed home with her children and now works outside the home part-time.

Theresa Connolly, a stay-at-home mother of four (soon to be five), said she was saddened rather than angered by Rosen's statement. Connolly also pointed out that raising children rather than working outside the house is sometimes an economic necessity. 

"In my case, childcare would be impossible to justify," she said. "I would be paying to go to work."

Some mothers, however, think that Rosen has been misinterpreted. Ann Romney's ability to stay at home with her children was made easier by the family's wealth, noted Lara Seaver, a working mother of two. 

"I think Ann is grabbing an argument against classism and turning into a stay-at-home-mom-baiting soundbite," Seaver said. 

Responding the furor her remarks caused, Rosen released a statement Thursday afternoon, which said, in part, "As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen … I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended."

At the same time, however, she called much of the outrage directed at her "phony" and did not back down from what, she said, was her point all along: Romney's "poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles."

But despite the controversy and hard feelings on both sides, the silver lining is the spotlight on the value of women and mothers to the economy. And regardless of your political leanings, anything that highlights the important work all mothers do is a positive thing. So go to Salary.com's Mom Salary Wizard to calculate how much you (or your mother) would earn if she received a paycheck for her mom duties, and even print out a personalized check to give her for Mother's Day.