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).

 

Hunters Mom
09.19.08

First I have to say that I don't rejoice in Sarah Palin because she's no poster "working mom" in my book...as you highlight in your article, all the things she somehow does without portrays how "easy" it is to be a working mom. This portrayal does nothing more than perpetuate the myth, yes I said it, the myth that working moms can have it all. I think you summed it up in a nutshell, what working moms need is more compassion and more flexibility from our employers and some help from our spouses. Sarah Palin came back to work 3 days after giving birth....3 days after I gave birth I was home sitting in a sitz bath...get real, do you truly think she was a productive Governor...or a productive mom while doing both at that point? Come on ladies, the only way for modern day working moms to pick up where feminism left off is to tell society the truth and once and for all put supermom to bed so that we can get on with the real business of trying to make things a little more fair.

leslie morgan s...
09.18.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

And that last point about Palin is not necessarily mine -- I actually see a fair amount of appeal in all four candidates -- but rather based on the reception Palin received at the R.N.C. and from the media and Republican voters since then.

leslie morgan s...
09.18.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Kenna -- the media view, not mine!

And Cadahl, this may horrify you, but I hear lots of women (and men) rejoicing over Sarah Palin. Her optimism and feisty attitude have strong appeal. McCain definitely has hit a home run with her as his choice for VP.

kennamom
09.18.08

Leslie, I think I agree with the premise of your article, but I'm having a hard time because I find your choice B (angry, conflicted women who either have zero children or delay their careers until they are practically grandmothers) so objectionable. Is this your view, or are you projecting the general media perspective on female politicians of power?

cadahl
09.17.08

I don't know a single working mother (or SAHM) who is rejoicing at the selection of Sarah Palin, just the opposite in fact. But that said, I don't believe for a second that Palin is "doing it all", in fact, am sure she has a large staff that takes care of her family for her - the minutia of life is not on her To-Do list as it is ours, and it will be even less so if she were to become VP (goddess forbid). So I am offended that she characterizes her "situation" in this way.

I think it would be a mistake to believe that she would champion a working mother's rights when she's no champion of women's rights, let alone basic human rights.

jmvetter
09.17.08

Love the article! It's sad how few women know that FMLA was a Clinton era policy. Before this, maternity was an optional perk, usually reserved for the highest levels of white collar employees. One thing though; I believe that Ferraro has 4 children, and Pelosi 5. Nancy Pelosi has made references to staying home when the children were babies.

girlmogul
09.16.08

The fascinating thing about Sarah Palin is that she has managed to do it all - I keep thinking more about the how than about her policies or politics. I think it's because her husband has a flexible job. I also wonder if while she was breast feeding her infant during conference calls, if any other new moms in the Alaska statehouse had the same opportunity? Or was it something reserved for the boss? It seems that the higher you go, the more you can make the rules work for you.

leslie morgan s...
09.15.08

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Catalina -- Sounds like you have it made. Way to go and pay it forward to other moms!

Catalina88
09.14.08

Love this article! You have a great wit and tell it like it is. I was irritated to see Palin say, she would deal with having kids the same way a man would (in Oval Office). Uh actually no, POTUS and VPs being men, they have wives and nannies to take care of their kids. Palin should acknowlede that she will need full time, high quality childcare 24-7.

On pt #3 I have to say I am so grateful for my boss, who is a working mom too, because she is so flexible. Yay for the 21st century workplace.