The Woman of the House Takes A Mommy Moment.
After U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi - mother of five and former at-home parent -- was sworn in as the first woman speaker, she invited the children who were present in the House chamber to come on up to the rostrum and touch the speaker's gavel. Many were stunned. It was a move you would've never imagined seeing if the newly minted House speaker were a dad.
As photographers and videographers captured the historic "Mommy Moment," Pelosi stood there, beaming, surrounded by kids and basking in her newfound power. And it was the symbolism of this moment on which many members of the media commented over the past week. While some thought it was a seminal cultural moment for working mothers - with many noting that Pelosi balanced her family and her career, others disliked the melding of parenthood with politics.
Here's a round-up of how various news outlets and commentators saw Pelosi's Mommy Moment:
o The San Francisco Chronicle  noted that Pelosi provided a "woman's touch": "Pelosi, joined on the floor by her six grandchildren, including a 2-month-old boy, wasted no time bringing a woman's touch to the office. As she concluded her remarks, the new speaker invited the children gathered in the historic chamber to join her on the rostrum and touch the speaker's gavel."
o The Washington Post  observed the novelty of Pelosi encircled by children: "The role model herself stood on the dais to swear in the entire House amid a clutch of children, including several of her own grandchildren. She was calm enough to let one of the younger girls hold the newest grandbaby, and she was focused enough to do her work amid their antics, a talent she perfected years ago as a mother of five and grass-roots political activist."
o Huffington Post  blogger Kristina Brittenham wrote that seeing this image made her wonder why male politicians aren't expected to balance families and careers: "Pelosi is just as likely to take a phone call from one of her daughters as from the President. She devotes as much time to her family as to her constituents . . . To be sure, Pelosi should be commended for honoring her many commitments with such balance and grace. Yet all of the accolades leave me asking: when will a similar reaction accompany the election of a man? When will men be expected to work two jobs, as women who work outside the home always have? Or, ideally, when will work/life balance be something that families achieve together, with both partners committed to their children and each other as well as their careers? When will that be the norm and not the exception?"
o Syndicated columnist  Ellen Goodman pointed out that Pelosi was once an at-home mom: "And so Nancy Pelosi ascends to the speakership with a series of 'firsts' raining down on her like confetti. She's the first woman, the first Italian-American, the first Californian, probably the first chocoholic to take her place two heartbeats away from the Oval Office . . . But maybe there's another moniker worth adding to her resume as head of the unruly House-hold of Representatives. She's the only speaker whose first career was as a stay-at-home mom."
o Star-Gazette  columnist Kathleen Costello said the symbolism of Pelosi's ascension could wind up helping all mothers: "It is challenging for women to enter or re-enter the workforce after staying home with children for several years. Employers are often leery of hiring people without recent paid work experience, no matter what backgrounds might be on their resumes. And often, women who return to work after staying home with children find that they need to accept entry-level positions. This could affect them economically for the rest of their lives."
o Salon.com's  Debra J. Dickerson said she thinks Americans can identify with a proud, accomplished Grandma Pelosi: "Infant grandchild in one hand, herding five more with the other, nattily dressed nanny discreetly within hand-off distance, the new speaker was the picture of the kind of woman with whom America ought to feel an immediate affinity. The daughter of a political dynasty and a longtime party insider, Pelosi ignored her own electoral urges until the youngest of her five kids was a senior in high school and all but ordered Mom to go for it . . . Pelosi was 46. Because of my own ambivalence about motherhood, I have something near reverence for this type of female selflessness, whether forced on her by custom and family pressure or freely chosen. Pelosi proves that women can have it all. Just not all at once. And also that motherhood doesn't have to calcify your spirit, your brain, your looks, your intellect or your drive."
o However Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation  wrote that she was "conflicted" about Pelosi being portrayed as a working mom and grandmother, instead of simply as a tough politician:
"I wonder why Pelosi, a woman I admire, seemed so keen to use her first day as Speaker to portray herself as a traditional, family-first kind of woman? Sure, it was fun to see children working a room usually used for adults (who too often act like babies). But why not use those first, symbolic hours to surround yourself with all the Democratic women in the House -- including the newly elected eight -- and signal that this is 'The Year of the Democratic Woman?' (That image would have also shown those newly elected alpha males, macho Dems the power women have in the new House!)
". . . At the Nation, where the top senior editors are women (as are the top business staff), one thought that invoking the 'Mother thing' makes women seem weak and passive -- following, not leading. Another worried that it reinforced stereotypes of the Dems as the so-called Mommy Party. That certainly has been the stereotype and, sure, it is still very present in the culture. But maybe things are changing.
 http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/01/08/pelosi/index.html?source=rs s