Making Motherhood Look Too Easy.

Working moms around the country, myself included, have rejoiced in the spotlight on Sarah Palin: finally, a working mom like us who juggles the messy chaos of “having it all.” What a relief after decades of a two-party system (and I’m talking about the wives here, not the candidates). Women in politics seemingly had only two choices: Choice A --coiffed demure stay-at-home wives like Laura Bush, Elizabeth Edwards and Nancy Reagan, smart women honored to sit a few steps behind their men at the podium. Choice B -- angry, conflicted women (think Clinton, Ferraro, Pelosi) who either have zero children or delay their careers until they are practically grandmothers, and wear compromise like a brass shield salvaged from a Middle Ages battlefield. Sarah Palin’s uncontrollable brood, her zest for work, and her feisty tone resonate with working moms who rely on moxie to get through each and every rockin’ roller coaster day of working motherhood.

 

However, even if you like Sarah Palin, here’s the problem with her candidacy: she makes being a working mom look too easy. Marriage and pregnancy at 24? Five kids born over 20 years? A pregnant 17-year-old daughter? An infant with Down syndrome? A career with 24/7 responsibilities? Zero paid childcare? Three days maternity leave? A husband with a career exploring far off oil-fields and commercial fishing, whose hobby is stressful, dangerous, time-consuming champion snowmobile racing?
I can almost hear the new Republican retort to the building blocks of working motherhood: more plentiful, affordable quality childcare; healthcare reimbursement for birth control; more generous FMLA regulations; and incentives for companies to offer extended leaves, part-time positions, and flexible work schedules. What is the big deal, ladies? If Sarah Palin can go without those frills, why can’t all of you?

 

But I’m here to say, proudly, that there is no way on earth most working moms I know could juggle work and raising kids without everything Sarah Palin publicly eschews.

 

Let’s go down the list of essentials Palin apparently has done without.

 

First: Birth control. Although this may shock my friends in the Republican Party, I didn’t wait until either my first or second marriage to explore my sexuality. I’ve been lovin’ it for nearly three decades. Without the right to choose when and how many babies I’ve had, I’d probably have at least a dozen by now instead of three. Given my temperament, I can’t promise that all of those would have made it past the terrible twos. I’m pretty sure every one of the employers that hired, paid and promoted me over the past three decades would have fired me for all the sick days and maternity leaves I would have had to take to care for those 12 kids. Not to mention how much fun it would have been for my Harvard College and Wharton business school classmates to have my babies running around our study groups and final exams. And the dads? Well, if I were tied to my high school or college boyfriends by a mutual child, I think instead of providing emotional and economic security for my family, I’d be spending my days in an insane asylum or women’s prison (after the funerals, of course).

 

mammasaurus
10.06.08

Do we really want to rejoice that "anyone" can be president or v.p.? Don't we want the smartest, most capable candidate to step in? The biggest disappointment about this whole Sarah Palin mess is that she was picked BECAUSE she was a woman and McCain wanted to pander to women and Hillary lovers. I would be so much more willing to support her if she were picked because she was the best candidate and just happened to be a woman. Wouldn't that be a real source of pride? Barak wasn't the democratic nominee BECAUSE he is black, which is why the black population and others who feel marginalized feel a sense of triumph that he's close to taking office. Palin is something altogether different, and I can't say that she is doing anything positive for working moms right now, except representing them in a less than favorable way.

leslie morgan s...
10.01.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

mommycita -- thank you! after katie couric and saturday night live, i feel a bit like a fool right now for giving palin a fair shake, but you are so right. think about cheney or dan quayle: the thought of THEM being VP terrifies me far more than Sarah Palin!

mommycita
10.01.08

I'm fairly well-educated and up on current affairs. I know the constitutional job description of the VP role is a really big deal. But one thing still irks me: I only know 3 things that our current VP for the last 8 years has spent his time doing:
Hunting (and accidentally shooting his pal)
Fishing across 2 seasons (sometimes on the rivers where I flyfish)
Defending his time/role/interests at Halliburton.

Am I missing something about why Mr. Cheney was so qualified for a second term other than he was a Washington insider, worked for W's dad for awhile, and didn't do much of anything in the first 4 years? There hasn't been a whole lot of national conversation about what he's brought to the table or accomplished during his VPship. Ditto his wife's contributions (I literally don't recall her name right now!).

I'm voting for Obama, but I think Sarah Palin would be an active VP if (sigh) their ticket won.

leslie morgan s...
09.25.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Smash, I'm sorry but I disagree somewhat.

First, her experience as a mother counts for a whole lot in my book. For too long (forever) we've had politicians who had never truly cared for children, and I think the lack of support for working mothers shows in widespread workplace bias against moms, our abysmal FMLA regulations, and non-existent support for quality, affordable daycare.

Second, I remember people saying the same stuff about Bill Clinton when he was first running. "No experience...governor from a podunk state...white trash..."

I don't think ANYTHING adequately prepares you to be president or vice president of the United States.

My vote is going for Obama, but I think Sarah Palin should not be dismissed so quickly. Personally, I WANT to live in a country where "anyone" can be president or vp, even a former stay-at-home mom like Palin.

smash
09.25.08

The real problem here is that Sarah Palin is completely unqualified to be VP! I'm not sure how someone who's total resume is local weather girl, 4 years on the city council, 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people and 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people makes you qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive and next in line behind a man in his eighth decade. This choice is a slap in the face to intelligent women because McCain thinks he can just stick any woman in there and we'll all vote for her. I take offense that this is a working mom to look up to! I would take a working mom like Hillary, who might "wear compromise like a brass shield salvaged from a Middle Ages battlefield" and is actually well educated and QUALIFIED to be president, over a woman who went to 5 small colleges before graduating and uses aggression to cover her bluff any day.

leslie morgan s...
09.22.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

MSMom -- Great points. My friend Betsy Habib, who also has a child with physical disabilities, wrote a fabulous open letter to Governor Palin making many excellent points about longterm needs ALL politicians should pay attention to. Here's the link:

http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080914/OPINIO...

msmom
09.20.08

As a mother of a special needs child, I worry about that baby with Downs, and the family surrounding him. Something is going to give--either the husband will have to curtail most if not all of his activities, or Sarah Palin will. Care of a typically developing child is time intensive, but the added therapy, doctor appointments, school meetings, and just general stress of parenting a special needs child along with 4 others--this will be very interesting to see. Someone is going to lose, and I hope it is not that child.

leslie morgan s...
09.20.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Kenna -- my DH was in your class. Small world!!!

Watching Larry King interview four brilliant gorgeous successful empowered women (including Naomi Wolf) about the whole Palin situation. Gotta love it. No matter who you are going to vote for -- this is good for our country.

kennamom
09.19.08

Leslie,
Thanks for clarifying!
Check out results of this PBS poll, stupefying: http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html
(By the way, I'm fellow WG93 although I don't believe we ever met.)

leslie morgan s...
09.19.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Hunters Mom -- What you said. Totally profound. Keep talking and telling the truth. Exactly what we need is an end to mythologizing motherhood. Speaking the truth, as you do, is the antidote!