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Ann Romney, mommy wars and Natalie Portman

I've always been fascinated with "mommy wars" -- you know, the debate over how a woman defines her career after having children.

In one corner: Women who still apply the term to a traditional office setting, despite mastering strollers and diapers. In the other corner: Women who maintain that motherhood is a job.

My fascination with the debate is a little surprising, since I don't have children. I'm not married, either. But I've watched friends make those critical life choices, and I've admired them for the confidence they've shown in their decisions.

Discussions of "mommy wars" have resurfaced, thanks to a Democratic strategist's recent remark that Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, "never worked a day in her life." This article from McClatchy Newspapers describes the fallout:

Obama sought to repair the damage in an interview Thursday. "There's no tougher job than being a mom," he told a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TV station. "Anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement."

But with women poised to play a critical role in the election, the Romney campaign sought full advantage, Ann Romney appeared on Fox News to say that her "career choice was to be a mother" and that her husband "respects women that make those different choices."

While many women defend Ann Romney, one female writer offers this Daily Beast piece: "The myth of the stay-at-home-mommy job." An excerpt:

All mothers know that motherhood involves a lot of hard work, but let’s stop pretending that that’s the same as working for a living. It isn’t. When you’re a stay-at-home mom, somebody else is bringing home the paycheck.

The headlines immediately reminded me of a Salon piece from last year. It came out after Natalie Portman won an Oscar. In her acceptance speech, she suggested motherhood was "the most important role" of her life.

It's not too different from when I've listened to women call motherhood "the greatest job at all."

As a young woman trying to climb the professional ladder, it's hard to listen to that assertion without wondering if male executives will hear it and think that promoting female employees is an exercise in futility.

Want to resolve the debate? Good luck.

But I will offer this humble suggestion: Maybe it's time we stopped debating the meaning of "career" and "job" and instead focused our attention on somebody's passion. Maybe that word will finally make us embrace our choices without worrying about having to defend them.

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