Sure, I’m curious to see the titillating made-for-Lifetime TV drama of Alaskan Governor Sarah “Barracuda” Palin play out and stick a thumb in the eye of all of those social conservatives who believe they own America’s family values. However, I think Sarah owes it to all of us women, but perhaps most importantly her eldest daughter and youngest son, to elegantly withdraw herself from the Republican Party’s nomination for vice president.
That’s right. Go home. Run your state, which has a smaller population than Jacksonville, Florida. Shoot more caribou. And take care of your infant son and soon-to-arrive grandchild.
Not wanting to be redundant, I promise this is not going to be a post bashing McCain’s vexing V.P. pick and outlining Palin’s clear lack of experience to be promoted to “Heartbeat Away from Leader of the Free World.” Like my fellow Democrats (or at least some of them) I am going to try to take the high road here. So I’ll be clear, this is not a personal attack on Sarah Palin. Yes, I’m insulted that McCain chose someone so completely unqualified to be his number two. And that just because his pick had ovaries and a feisty fearless reputation, McCain thought he would woo women or ridiculously the Hillary vote. But that’s almost beside the point.
Sarah clearly has a complicated life that yes, many of us women can relate to. And I believe that some of our best leaders have come from places of adversity, dysfunctional families and untraditional upbringings, think Bill Clinton and well, Barack Obama. But for all of my Girl Power passion, I just don’t think a mom with a special needs infant and a pregnant teenage daughter and two other youngish kids at home will be able to focus on her very big job in the West Wing. It’s refreshing to have leaders who are real people and, of course, who are mothers, but let’s be honest, when the school calls to say that your kid is throwing up and has a fever and you are away in Albuquerque on a business trip, are you able to be focused on your job? The everyday kid stuff is distracting. So I don’t think it’s a great leap to imagine the energy drain a child with special needs takes on a family, and particularly a mother. We worry more. It’s primal. It may not be politically correct; it’s biology.
As I write this post at work, my babysitter is taking my son to the dentist to have his cavity filled and I am wracked with guilt that I am not there with him (it’s his first filling ouch!) Yes, we working moms have to outsource some of the kid stuff. But there are certain jobs that moms with young children or even teenage children just can’t take on – or they can’t take them on well.
A few years ago I interviewed the governor of Massachusetts, Jane Swift, who at that time was the mother of three girls under three years old. She was the first governor to give birth while in office. “60 Minutes” had profiled Swift as the novelty that she was – the Supermom Governor of the Commonwealth. Two years later after ruthless beating in the press for several incidents where Swift’s judgment was called into question as it related to her work/life choices, she decided not to run for re-election. Swift made her announcement at a teary press conference that created a storm of coverage – she had been a Republican superstar and now she was a weepy governor with abysmal poll numbers and three toddlers who just couldn’t hack it. Ugh.
Did this prove that a woman couldn’t do it all? Well, sort of. I had the amazing opportunity to interview Swift twice – once while she was governor and then a year after she had left that job for a career in the private sector. Swift could be a mom and a business executive. But governor, well, it was not the right job at the right time, Swift would be the first to tell you. Does she have a second act in politics? Perhaps she does, but not until the kids are older.
Sarah Palin couldn’t turn down a chance to be on the ticket. Who would? Jeez, it seems like she got a call and 24 hours later she was in Dayton, Ohio, announcing her unlikely candidacy. I imagine the former small town beauty queen never considered what this would really mean for her family or for the scrutiny and exposure of her daughter Bristol. Will the blogosphere bash Bristol and call her a slut? Or will she be glorified -- her pregnancy another Jamie Lynn Spears on the cover of “US Magazine” complete with baby shower pictures? Either way, it just all seems like such a bad idea.
And finally, the drama may hurt all women. Instead of finally cracking through the glass ceiling, Palin is likely to just leave more dangerous shards on the ground for women to have to tip toe through. Again, it’s not just personal or even political. In this case timing is everything.