Palin Post-Game from the Convention Floor.
First day back to school. Three new grades: first, fourth and sixth. My kids and I celebrated by munching tortillas at our favorite Mexican café in the bright September sunshine. We dissected who had grown. Who had braces. Which teacher was most strict.
Then my cell phone rang. The caller offered a thrilling balance of opportunity and chaos: Could I be on a plane in two hours to attend the Republican National Convention and give a Today Show interview about the “mommy wars” stirred up by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s nomination?
Well, yes I could. We rushed home. Cell phone cocked against my ear, I made travel arrangements, I threw together a suitcase, makeup, toiletries. As my husband walked in the front door I ran out in the same stay-at-home mom clothes I’d been wearing at the Mexican restaurant.
A few measly hours later, I was in the St. Paul convention center, wearing salmon silk, professionally lacquered, my right arm resting next to Meredith Viera’s left arm. Although it was not yet 7 am, Sarah Palin had just finished practicing her acceptance speech. I caught an electrifying few final words before it was my turn to talk under the bright tv lights. I spoke about the surprise of the Republican party vigorously championing a working mom of five after decades of seeming to insist that a good mom could not work outside the home. I offered a possible explanation behind women’s criticism of Palin: the “mommy wars” propensity to overpersonalize others’ decisions regarding juggling work and family.
That interview led to another. My media pass meant I could stay a few more hours and hear Palin herself deliver the entirety of what was sure to be a landmark speech. I wanted to witness thousands of formerly sexist politicians listening raptly to her tale of juggling kids and career, and what she dreamt of doing for America as the first female vice president. I felt like the girl who gets asked to the prom by Jake.
Then my nine-year-old burst into tears over the phone when I told her I was staying a second night. My son confessed the dog had pooped in the dining room because he had forgotten to walk him. My six-year-old babbled excitedly and incoherently about her first homework assignment: assembling a coin collection, which sounded like doin doolection because she just lost her second front tooth. Every muscle told me how tired I was from being up since 4 am. I caught a whiff of my own stinky armpits trapped in clothes I would have to wear another day since I hadn’t packed enough outfits.
Home tugged as hard as Sarah Palin’s words.
I thought of how many nights with her children Palin has missed over the last two decades. What it must feel like to return to work three days after giving birth to a disabled infant. Lost in the debate about right and wrong ways to be a working mom is the lingering, private pain that accompanies balancing our ambition with love for our children.