I’ve been wanting to post about the whole Sarah Palin running for Vice President with a special needs infant and a pregnant teen at home thing, but I worried that it might be too controversial. It’s sort of the “can working moms be good moms?” question on steroids, and while I think it’s a worthy discussion for a blog such as this, I’ve been a little scared of where that discussion might lead.

But then NPR did a story on this very topic, this very morning. I listened to it while I drove to work. You can listen to the story here.

OK. Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first: I’ve always been an Obama Mama and Senator McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate did nothing to either strengthen or weaken my resolve. I’m actually happy to see a female in the running, and if Palin were on the Democratic ticket, I’d still be itching to discuss.

Now, to the topic at hand…

As my headline indicates, I’m torn. I don’t want disparage other moms or try to limit what they can do, because I feel like that’s a really, really slippery slope. But I do feel like there’s a big difference between working a job that lets you be with your family at night and on weekends and running for Vice President, which pretty much requires that you be on the campaign trail 24/7. I also feel like it’s a moot point to compare Palin with Hillary Clinton and other female politicians of that ilk, because if I remember correctly, their children were at least out of diapers (and not in crisis) when they assumed such a major and time-consuming role. I also feel like the job of Vice President falls into the category of “would be nice to have” as opposed to “must have.” Many working moms work because they absolutely need to in order to feed their children. I don’t think the Palins will be going on welfare if Mrs. Palin doesn’t win in November.

And then, I have to ask myself whether I’d be asking the same questions if we were talking about a man. In a day when men are (or should be) better able to request family leave of their employers and contribute just as much to their children as far as nurturing goes, I like to think that a decent number of men, if faced with a special needs infant and a pregnant teen all at once, might approach their bosses with the request for a bit more flexibility in order to care for their families. Or at least ask themselves whether that huge new position of responsibility–one that would take them away from their families at such a critical time–is absolutely necessary. I think we all, men and women, realize that life is about balance and give and take, and sometimes, when people are offering you something really huge, you have to say no because something even greater is at stake. Which, I guess, is a really roundabout way of saying that I probably *would* wonder the same thing about a man. Or at least, I long to live in a world where we can look at men–just as we do women–and wonder these things.

I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m not going to vote for McCain/Palin, but it’s not because of any opinion I might have about Palin’s commitment to her family. It’s just that her candidacy has thrust this topic into the spotlight, and the whole family values thing is bound to become an issue this year, just as it always does come election time. I’m really curious what my fellow working moms think, politics aside. Speak up, ladies!

21 thoughts on “Torn

  1. Anonymous says:

    You’re right. This is a topic that begs discussion regardless of politics. There is a bit of politics in it for me. I’m an Obama mama, too. The selection of Palin insults me that, as a woman, I should be happy with any woman making this kind of “history.” But I do not support Palin’s views, period. That being said, I too, wonder how she can take on this job with all the needs at home. Maybe that makes me sound like June Cleaver, but I thought to myself as I was listening to NPR that it is an awful lot to take on with a special needs child at home. And a new grandbaby on the way. I’m all for women having the same opportunities as men, but we cannot compare this to asking ourselves if Barack would still be able to care for his children in the same regard. Moms are different. We are. There is no getting around it. When my daughter had her tonsils out and was in pain, she wants mommy. When she’s sad, she wants mommy. When she wants to talk, she wants mommy. When she’s happy, she wants mommy. My husband is a GREAT dad, but he is not mommy. Sometimes I wish it was more equitable, I could use the break, but it is not. This issue is hard for me to discuss without the politics in it, becasue I so disagree with Palin’s views. To me the issue is that smart women won’t be pacified by just any woman, especially the wrong woman, for this office.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Politics aside – we all know as working moms that we are all equipped differently at meeting our families needs. I know people that are not working outside the home and say they can’t get to laundry, cooking meals, general cleaning…I’m not saying I’m always great at it, but I make it happen most of the time. It’s not because I’m better…we all have different strengths/struggles. Palin does have a lot on her plate, and if I were in her shoes I don’t think I could do it. But I’m not in her shoes, she is. Some people want to tell me I shouldn’t work outside my home because they wouldn’t be able to do it…and I don’t like that, because my family and I are doing alright. I’m thankful to have a GREAT husband — that helps. He isn’t mom–he doesn’t do things the way I would– but he helps. If Palin says she can do it, who am I to judge her and say she can’t. Her son Trig will need extra help with learning and other areas possibly, but he’ll get that help whether she is VP or not. He may get more help if she is VP–it may spur educational opportunities for other children with learning needs…who knows? I know plenty of other moms that work outside the home and schedule activities for their kids every night of the week…essentially rarely having time with their children. There are moms everywhere that don’t spend time with their kids…Joe Biden raised his children due to his wife’s death when they were young…and people aren’t speaking badly of him. I am a Christian and regardless of my political beliefs, I know that God has called each of us to serve others in different ways. I am just saying, if Palin can handle it, we shouldn’t condemn her for it.

  3. FreshHell says:

    I won’t go into all my feelings about this topic here (and I’m glad you raised it – I wondered whether it would come up here) but I do have to wonder about a woman who gives birth to a baby (never mind a special needs baby) and then goes right back to work 3 days later unless she’s working some terrible job that offers no benefits, sick leave, etc. I think this is where we can’t compare men and women equally. She just gave birth. I remember the state my body and mind was in 3 days post partum and it was not a happy place. Can we assume she’s not in her governor’s office pumping milk dead on her feet? I don’t want to get into the work issues too much but I will say that I’ve worked for women like Palin before and they DID put career before family (look where its gotten MEN who’ve done this – its not a pretty sight no matter your gender) and I had to leave that job. They fired everyone with longevity and experience as they ruthlessly climbed the ladder, worked round the clock and the children were basically raised by the remaining parent. I don’t think this scenario works best for anyone NO MATTER whether its the man or the woman working these kind of hours. The children lose either way. It’s not a man/woman issue so much as its a how-do-you-want-to-live-your-life issue. Where are your priorities? What’s more important, your career or your family? Palin seems to be giving the impression that it’s career. Otherwise, why accept the position when your hands are otherwise so full? Isn’t the governorship enough? Don’t her kids deserve better than this? She won’t ever get this time back. Of course, I’m making lots of assumptions and generalities here but that’s the impression I’m left with. Obama all the way. HIS wife, I’d vote for in a heart beat.

  4. freshhell made a lot of the points i would have. yes it is her choice, but i don’ care how good you are, she is taking on a monstrous load. we are talking about the 2nd highest postion in this country. I have always worked full time and with 4 kids, can’t even fathom the possibility. But wonder woman or not, those kids will (and should)be raised by their father. Her time should be devoted to serving and fixing this country (as a Barrack supporter I don’t see that happening) and if that is not her belief, she should not have accepted the position. Not being there for her children is a sacrifice that she will have to make for the next 4 years. And also, as a parent of a special needs kid, I find her comments about us having a new voice in the white house insulting. as insulting as their thoughts that because she is a woman she can sway woman voters. That would be like saying because Barrack is black – he will be a special voice in the WH for all blacks. She asks for her kids to be left out of things, but then she throws them out there to pander for votes. Not cool…but perhaps I digress.

  5. PS – Great topic Sara!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I too heard the NPR story yesterday, and am glad to see this post here. The topic has also made me torn. As a working mom with the potential and opportunity to fast track my career, I made a decision to slow it down for the sake of my family. I have two small children (the youngest just a couple weeks older than cute, little Trig) and would much prefer to spend my free time with them than at the office, or traveling to clients. I do it because I have to, to provide them with opportunities in life. I work long hours, often getting home just in time for bed, or after, and have to travel more than I’d like. I can’t imagine choosing to be “on the campaign trail” and away from my kids for such a duration. Or dragging them along for the ride. How about school and friends? While the “trail” is only 60 days, once in office the time devoted to work vs family will still be great. Maybe she and her husband can handle it, but it certainly wouldn’t be for me. Also, it must be nice to be able to set up your baby swing in your office, or pump while on conference calls. For the rest of us working moms, that is simply not an option.
    I also wonder the long-term effect of thrusting her kids into the spotlight. They say the kids are off limits, but she certainly has no probably using them to her advantage when its convenient for her. All this said, I’m still torn. I know I couldn’t do it, and wouldn’t want to. But who am I to judge what someone else can do, and how someone else’s family works. What I do know, is I wholly disagree with her views and find it extremely insulting that the RP thinks they can simply add a woman on the ticket and all the women out there will vote for her simply because she’s a working “hockey” mom. Give us some credit. All she does is make me want to get out there a campaign hard for Obama!

  7. I’m enjoying all the comments!

  8. Anonymous says:

    All politics aside, if Sarah Palin was not “Sarah” but “Sam” Palin, the question never would have been asked.

    I am honestly surprised at the number of people I know (and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone here just generalizing from my own aquaintance)that tout feminism and equlity yet ask these same questions.

    Do I think that I would make the same choice as Sarah? No. But I have never been asked to serve in a capacity where I could make as much difference as she will be able to.

    Perhaps, instead of assuming she makes the choice to LEAVE her children, perhaps we could think she makes this choice to better their lives through her service to the country? A mother who serves in the military makes a similar choice to serve our country in some cases (in terms of time away) and would be hailed as a heroine should the supreme sacrifice be made.

    I’d rather think positively of someone (no matter if I agree with them or not) than assume the worst. Anyone that gets as far as the current candidates have must have some good intentions for the country whether I agree with them or not.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Go Sarah Palin! I’m all for her. I was teetering on whether to vote McCain or Obama but she made my mind up real quick.
    Would I even consider that position if I were in the same position…No probably not but I’m not in her position.
    Anonymous posted at 1:14 makes excellent points about serving her country and family. If it were her husband running and not her, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation because it wouldn’t even be questioned. I fully support her and her decision! It drives me crazy when I feel criticized by others for my decision to work outside the home or I feel like someone is looking down on me for my choices. It’s not up to someone else to decide what she can or can’t handle. She’s an amazing woman!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been reading a lot about Palin and it does appear that she has a helpful husband and keeps her kids with her a lot, especially her baby, who has been travelling with her.
    That being said, I don’t think we should be questioning her mothering if we really support women’s rights and equality. How she manages her family is her business. Women are often our own worst enemies, quick to judge one another instead of offer support, whatever our choices may be.

  11. just4ofus says:

    As I am not a Palin supporter for a bunch of reasons. I don’t think she should be judged for having a family or children. She will have a demanding job, hopefully not b/c that means she’s elected, but if she is… then she hopefully will have a supportive husband and family that can support balance.
    Read the book, The Feminine Mistake..are we giving up to much.. it touches on a lot of this.

  12. I, too, am really enjoying the comments, and considering everything before I jump in to the fray–because I haven’t really done my research on Palin yet.

    I wonder why there are so many anonymous though!!

  13. I wrote a post about this too (I never have any problem talking about politics!). Something that was hard for me to admit at first, but that a few others have said here, is that women are different from men. I probably WOULDN’T be asking these questions about a man in the same situation. As a mom, I think it’s different. If my husband were offered the VP nomination I would tell him he was crazy for even considering not taking it. If I were offered it, it would be a much harder call. Call it a double standard, whatever. And who knows, maybe their family is just different from what we all expect. Maybe it’s daddy that they ask for when they’re sick, or sad. But a woman who gets on a plane while she’s in labor with a baby that she knows has developmental issues, then goes back to work 3 days later? I have to wonder.

  14. If Sarah was a Sam, then no, these questions would not be brought up.
    If Sarah was someone with actual qualifications for the job, maybe there also wouldn’t be as many questions – because perhaps her service to the country would actually be worth something. But the fact is Sarah was brought to the RP ticket as a skirt. And that is deeply offensive to me as a woman to think that I’d be swayed just because she’s a cool, got it all, strong working hockey mom.

    I think they grossly misundertand the mental capacity of all of us savvy, strong women. We will make our political decisions based on issues we feel will best impact our nation.

    Certainly they also misunderstand our catty nature, esp when there’s a beauty queen involved! 😉 Women have to work harder amongst ourselves to prove ourselves. But if you earn it, you’ve got some serious power behind you.

    Personally, I don’t think Palin has earned it.

  15. The Q Family says:

    Great post and great comments. I will say that I don’t understand her decision but I respect her choice to do so. That’s why I will NOT vote for her. 🙂 Not because she is a mom with a young special need child but because we have different believe.

    I agree that it’s an insult for the McCain to bring her to the ticket just because she is a woman with strong conservative view. They think all the women will run to the poll and vote for her? I admire her background but I don’t agree with a lot of her positions.

    This is what great about our country that each one of us has a choice that different from others.

    -Amy @ The Q Family

  16. I’m so glad you brought this up! It is, indeed, a very contentious topic. All the previous comments bring up good points. Just a couple thoughts to add:

    Palin touts herself as “just a Hockey Mom”. But the reality is quite the opposite. She is a high-powered career woman.

    The actress, Barbara Billingsley, famously played June Cleaver on TV. I remember seeing an interview with her where she remarked on the irony that she was both the icon for all stay-at-home moms, yet she was a working mom herself. She lamented that she didn’t spend enough time with her children when they were growing up because she was so busy with her TV career.

    Last year, I had a high-powered job (lots of travel, long hours), a new baby at home, and a husband who was gone during the week working in a different city. I was miserable. We both were.
    We wanted to have another baby, but I just couldn’t see adding another baby to that situation. So, my husband and I both quit our jobs, found jobs working in the same city, with both of us working more normal hours. We were fortunate that our incomes didn’t have to suffer to do this, in fact, my salary went slightly up. Fast forward 1 year, and we just had our second baby 4 months ago, and our lives are pretty sane. (as sane as any dual-income two-child family can be).

    I bring this up *not* as an example of me (a woman) prioritizing her family over her career. But as an example of a *couple* prioritizing their family over their careers.

    The way I look at it is that I can always ramp up my career in a few years when my children are more self-sufficient, and/or we put my husband’s career on low burn.

    If Sara Palin were a man, I would be asking the same questions. She doesn’t have to take this opportunity now. If she really is the political star they are making her out to be, she will have future opportunities to run for Vice President or even President.

    She has a special needs baby and a teenage daughter who need her right now. In a similar situation, I could can not wrap my brain around wanting to take on more responsibility in my career at a time like this. It is so against what my core would be telling me to do.

    That doesn’t mean that she *can’t* make it work. But my gut is telling me that it is likely that her children will end up getting short changed.

    I do not think it is anti-feminist to be asking these kinds of questions. As working parents, we all have to draw the line between work and family. Having a debate about where it is healthy to draw that line is good.

    Feminism has succeeded in that Sara Palin is on the ticket. I think that’s a *good thing*. But, being a feminist does not mean that I have to condone the choices of all working moms if I don’t think they are healthy choices.

    Full disclosure – I will be voting for Obama.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Of course we would be asking the same questions if she were a man. We questioned John Edwards decision to run when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Rudy Guiliani dropped out of the senatorial race against Hilary due to health issues. To suggest that a candidate may have too many personal issues is not sexist, it’s human nature.

  18. Dancing B.A.G. Lady says:

    I have a saying her BAG is not my BAG and my BAG is not her BAG.

    I don’t know how much support Sarah’s husband provides, so NO we would not be having the conversation if Sarah was Sam. I agree.

    I’m with you. Obama all the way, but don’t tell my husband.

    Don’t bash. Just support your candidate and get the facts.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Hi From Texas; If you all would listen carefully, Sara Palin do not run the state of Alaska; Tod Palin is making the decision. I
    know it will be a big mistake if anything would happen to John McCain and Sara Palin would become president. Remember she will not be able to care for a family and also be president. Shame on you all!

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