The New Mommy War.

By Amy Campbell Smith

 

The announcement on a lazy, late summer Friday afternoon, of John McCain's running mate for the presidential election could have been a real snooze. But McCain made a bold and calculated choice. He introduced the governor of Alaska as his choice for vice-president. And the whole wide U.S. of A. went wild.

 

Of the many things that have struck me about this in the last few days, the one that is most surprising is the new mommy war that has emerged. The "mommy war" I am familiar with is the one between stay home moms and working moms. This is the battleground of day-care vs. mommy-care and of often vicious and judgmental assumptions about other mother's priorities. I am a working mom and I avoid the work / home debate. My belief is that we should be supporting each other as women who are struggling to raise our kids well and live the best life we can.

 

Enter Sarah Palin and the New Mommy War. She is running for VP and (gasp!) she has five children. As I've watched the torrent of criticism unleashed upon her and her family, I've been appalled at the new alignment of allies in the war against the working mother. Feminists and liberals suddenly sound like conservative evangelicals, fairly seething over the fact that this woman's place is raising her children and it's somehow irresponsible for her to run for VP. Working mothers are outraged that she's considering a national political campaign and possibly assuming the second highest office in the land with a pack-n-play in tow.

 

Women are questioning her judgment because of her decision to run. Women are saying she's a bad mother. Women are implying that her children won't be properly cared for and nurtured if she is busy being vice-president. Her husband should be thoroughly insulted. Do we think he's capable of exactly nothing?

 

I would have expected some numbers of men and right-wing wackos to try this, and I would have thought they'd be smacked down pretty quick on this particular objection to Palin. But it's coming from us too. From women who proudly proclaim themselves liberated and who now look like hypocrites. Even if you are on the other side of the aisle and Palin is not your candidate, her having a large, busy family can't possibly be a real objection.

 

How can we, as women of any political stripe, participate in this blatant double standard? Would we ask a male candidate for VP how he'll manage to spend enough time with his kids? Would we question his judgment because he's running for high office when he has a special needs child? We would naturally assume that his wife will be by his side to take care of the family. Do we think Palin's husband won't be?

 

We need to take a hard look at why this treatment of Sarah Palin by other working moms is taking place. Disagree on real issues and cast your vote elsewhere, but let's not be self-defeating here. I'm not about to tell my daughter that a serious, high level career is irresponsible after children.

 

We still want to look our daughters in the eye and say, "You can be anything you want to be."

 

Right?

penn_girl
09.16.08

You don't have to look further than this website to find dozens of successful women with demanding careers who are viciously slamming Sarah Palin for her personal (not political) choices. You don't have to agree with her politics (I certainly don't) and not all women would want to make the family sacrifices that she is willing to make (I certainly wouldn't), but I have been absolutely appalled by the vitriolic statements coming from women (CEOs, lawyers, etc.) who condemn Palin for her demanding career choices. How can anybody take the "feminist" movement seriously when some of the brightest, most successful and "liberated" our own gender set such a ridiculous double-standard?

Amy3
09.15.08

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122143727571134335.html?mod=opinion_main...

This article provides numerous quotes from liberal feminists about Palin.

Amy3
09.08.08

Gloria Stienem, “This isn’t the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need.” So, Palin isn't given a shred of credit. She doesn't further liberal agendas so she can't be a feminist role model.

Hello - I'm the author. I'm not sure how one could miss a weeks worth of feminist liberals slamming her, but it's got to be a few quick Google searches away. I've read a lot and seen much on TV - it's all available I'm sure.

I have a video up on my blog in the post dated Sept. 1 that is one small example.
(www.milkbreathandmargaritas.blogspot.com)

And
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/09/a_feminists_argument_f.... This is a well done article explaining why liberal feminists are so undone by Palin.

jdavidow
09.06.08

My wife and I both want to know your source for all these claims of liberal/feminist working moms accusing Palin of abandoing her children? We read some of the MOST liberal sources and we have seen NONE of that. So please be specific.

squeakere
09.05.08

First off, Palin is not the first female VP candidate. Geraldine Ferraro was the first female to be on the ticket of a major party. As early as 1884, women have been standing as candidates for the vice presidency for other smaller or fringe parties. So let's leave this whole "history" thing alone, because it's simply inaccurate. What would have been historical would have been a woman at the top of either major party's ticket, but that didn't happen, and now we are where we are.

Secondly, and more to the point, the reality is that we as a nation know virtually nothing about Sarah Palin. In her introductory speech in Ohio, she proclaimed herself a proud hockey mom in addition to being a variety of other things (notably, she seems to have left out pageant participant, but I digress). She did this in a manner that stands in stark contrast to Obama's listing of his own qualifications, and she did so purposefully in order to "connect" to women voters, to seem like one of us. It was, in my eyes, a total pander to lead with that... so as far as I am concerned, she put the issue on the table as to how she is going to do this by making it one of her list of reasons why she is qualified. Think of it this way - would you EVER go into a job interview and right out of the gate tell the decision-maker "I have five children, including a 4 month old baby"? No. Because to do so puts the issue right in the person's face, and begs for it to be factored into the decision-making process, whether rightly or wrongly.

Also, given the virtual vacuum of information about her life and her experiences, it is natural that people would inquire how she plans to accomplish this delicate balancing act. And I think it is only natural that working women - particularly working women who have very demanding jobs and struggle mightily to maintain even a tenuous balance - to question how she will do it. We know how hard it is. We know what the sacrifices are - either the work suffers or the family suffers, or both. We all talk about them here on this site and on other (obviously inferior) sites around the internet. The vice presidency is not a "flex-time" job, nor is the presidency - from which, if elected, she will be a chicken bone away. So we wonder "how." It doesn't make us less feminist, nor does it mean that we are shaming her. It simply means we are looking at her from every possible angle to decide whether she - overall and as a complete package - is a good candidate for the position.

Texas Mother
09.05.08

I am absolutely stunned by the outrage coming out of the left "feminist" camp over Sarah Palin. A strong, confident woman who succeeds on her own merit and raises a family and has a loving husband supporting her is somehow an insult to women?!?! Seems like the American dream to me.

Amy3
09.05.08

hockeymom: I also think it's OK for us to wonder how she came to this decision, what they've (she and her husband) worked out, how she is planning to handle it all. I wonder that too. It would be a gut wrenching deision for most of us. What I object to is everyone assuming she didn't struggle over this. Assuming she doesn't care about the kids, and just thoughtlessly staked out her own personal plan, disregarding her family. Maybe the family said "Oh my God how could you say no?? Of course we'll work it out! You must do this Mom!!" Maybe Bristol said she knew what would come to her personally, and she could handle it.

Maybe Sarah is losing sleep over this decision still. I would be.

Wondering is natural. But slamming her as a bad mom and saying she's absolutely wrong to do this? We hurt ourselves.

hockeymom
09.05.08

I agree that a serious, high level career is certainly possible after children. I'm a living example of that and stand up for every woman's right to make her own choices for her family.

But I do understand people, even other working moms, wondering how she plans to handle it all. After all, we're not talking about Governor or even CEO -- she will second in line for President and will be required to make frequent foreign travel, host state dinners, etc.

When my five year old son complained about Mommy being out of town too much, I offered my resignation. He's only going to be young once, and for me, the decision was easy. Luckily for me, I work for a great company that was able to redefine my role (but at the same position and compensation) and require less travel.

While I'm all for women proving that they be anything they want to be, I do not think it is unreasonable for people to at least wonder how she plans to manage it all.

I also wonder how Barack Obama feels about spending so much time away from his young children. While also very cute, it was kind of sad to see them talking to him over the video conference at their convention and wondering how often he gets to actually tuck them in.

Ultimately, it is her decision and as fellow working moms we should support her. But I think it's O.K. to wonder and to decide that we wouldn't make the same choices if we were in her shoes.

slackermommy
09.05.08

Absolutely!

We have a female VP candidate! I would think all women would be excited about being part of this history making. Instead, we judge her and declare war on each other.

What a shame.