Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mommy V.P.

So Bristol is pregnant. After the big announcement on the opening day of the Republican National Convention, I wasn't surprised that on Monday morning talk radio was all abuzz about it. I have to tell you, after the teenage years I had, I am not for visiting the sins of a daughter on her mother. My high school and college years were filled with activities my mother neither encouraged, facilitated, nor was aware of. Her daughter's pregnancy is certainly not Sarah Palin's fault.

I can't help wondering though, about the parental wisdom of thrusting a pregnant teenager into the national spotlight and under the unrelenting scrutiny of the media. As most parents know, parenting is filled with sacrifices. Most mothers know, many of those sacrifices are ours. While the offer of being number two on a presidential ticket is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we also get only one opportunity to do right by our children.

I hope it was at least a difficult decision for Governor Palin to run considering the impact on her daughter. I hope her daughter's pregnancy was not considered a bonus in the fight for the conservative, pro-life vote. That would be a terrible gamble that will never pay.

That being said, if the reports are true that the mother of five has been criticized in the media for running for office (I have not heard or seen any such criticism.), then I would have to join the RNC chants decrying journalists and reporters. Being a mother and trying to thrive in a career is no easy feat. Any woman who chooses to undertake those responsibilities has my admiration. Anyone who criticizes her, earns my eternal loathing.

Just choosing to be a mother can derail a woman's career. Taking six months of maternity leave can make the difference between being assigned choice projects resulting in advancement, and stagnation. That's a factor of many women's decision to have a child. It is not generally a thought for men.

My husband is a great dad. He is an active participant in his sons' care and I am grateful to have him as a partner. As with most couples I know though, medical appointments, school conferences, birthday parties, homework assignments, and other activities have become primarily my responsibility. On this day, at this time, that arrangement is ok for me. There have been moments though when I have had to decline invitations and assignments because of my maternal responsibilities and I have truly resented it. I didn't resent my children - or my husband. I resented that I had to make the choice. To face those often difficult choices and then be criticized by the stay-at-home brigade has always been disheartening to say the least.

These days I read articles in Fortune, Business Week and Working Mother that indicate that Corporate America is changing to take better advantage of the talent and expertise that working mothers bring to the work place. Shared jobs, telecommuting, flexible hours and onsite childcare are becoming more commonplace. Those are all good things, but the thing that needs to change most is our attitudes about women and parenting. I want the day to come when a mother is no more likely than a father to be asked about how she intends to juggle parenting and work. Better than that, I look forward to the day when the response of most women will be, "my husband is actually the primary caretaker."


  1. While your comments are well-intentioned and well-received, it highlights how far society has come, not as far as women's rights are concerned but the stifling of our natural inclinations.

    Both my wife and I are college graduates. I have gone on to graduate school and make a good living. My salary is sufficient enough to give my wife the opportunity to stay home if she likes. She works sporadically but is available to the children (who both attend daycare) more often than not.

    When we got married my wife was not really keen on having children. Two children later, she cannot imagine her life without them. After a couple years of marriage (and the ticking of the clock) her maternal instinct kicked in and she wanted to have children. This was completely divergent of her graduate school plans and other professional aspirations. It was like she couldn't help herself.

    I believe that by nature, women have a more nurturing instinct that is built-in. MOST women go about child-rearing in a more nurturing manner. MOST women have a desire to kind of "take care of their man" to a certain extent. And there's nothing wrong with that, I believe it's engrained in their DNA.

    Men, on the other hand, . . . eh, not so much!

    What has happened is that the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s has made it taboo to want to be a stay-at-home mom, or "take care of your man" or do those nurturing things that Mrs. Cunningham performed so well on Happy Days.

    Don't get me wrong, I love career women and don't fault them for wanting to work but we all pay a little price, don't you think, when it comes to our kids?

    I've always told my wife that I would be very happy to stay at home. But between us, I don't think I would last more than a couple of weeks before I went crazy.

    We all have roles that we play to make this team (family) work. None is more important than the other, just different.

  2. I think unfortunately Sarah Palin was hoist in the RNC's own petard. They've painted themselves into a corner by holding themselves out as the party of family values. Now, when it suits their own needs, they want to re-brand themselves using Palin as their poster girl. Their pro-life platform is inexorably tied to this idea of a traditional family with a stay-at-home wife and mother. So yeah, Sarah Palin's choice to enter political life while in the dog days of motherhood is a contradiction of sorts when you consider the conservative ideology of her party. I think whatever criticism there is of Palin isn’t so much an indictment of her choices but rather, a recognition that her choices don’t square with her own party’s principles. She needs to answer for that.