Skip to main content

working mothers: in light of Sarah Palin

By September 3, 2008News

No, I have not lost my mind or closed my business to become a political pundit. But the political goings on are so infuriating at the moment…and being a working mom is part of who I am on this blog…and, I fall into this description of current events so perfectly:

“It’s the Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition,” as Jodi Kantor and Rachel Swarns put it so memorably in today’s New York Times, “But this time the battle lines are drawn inside out, with social conservatives, usually staunch advocates for stay-at-home motherhood, mostly defending her, while some others, including plenty of working mothers, worry that she is taking on too much.” Barclay Palmer

I’m a liberal Democrat, a card-carrying member of the feminist party…and a working mother that is worried Sarah Palin is taking on too much. Of course, I think that women should be able to work outside of the home (as I do), but I also think that mothers are critical to the development of their children – and she doesn’t just want to ‘work outside the home’ – no one can claim that the role of VP compares to a 9-5 or even an 8-6.

And, I hear myself and understand that it could sound sexist – that I expect this mom to stay home and raise her children, that I might not have the same expectation if it were Todd Palin. But, here’s the thing (or 4):

1. She is running as a MOM. George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did not run as DADS. They didn’t talk about how they were ‘hockey dads’ and ‘PTA dads’ – these ‘jobs’ were not listed as crucial items on their resumes, pertinent to their readiness for the job. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin is – in fact, it’s pretty much all that she has. Her mother of 5 status is flaunted like a badge of honor – it’s critical to who she is and maintained as critical to her identity and experience.

But, if she gets this job, she will be none of those things – she’ll be either absent as a mother, or absent as a VP, possibly as President. And from what she’s told us, she doesn’t even know what the job entails, so I’d hope she’d be around learning how to govern.

2. I believe that moms are special. Our bonds to our children are extraordinary – our closeness is essential. Father’s are special too – I’m not trying to put them down. But, there’s something that women possess, inherently, that is different. It’s one of the things that make women women, that makes me proud to be one. As you can see, it’s indescribable, but it’s there. I believe that men and women are different – that doesn’t make them unequal.

3. I know that being a hands on mom isn’t always possible – but this is a choice that Sarah Palin is making. She isn’t, for example, single and poor and needing to work 2 jobs to feed her family. Instead, she is looking at a job that doesn’t have set hours, that doesn’t have vacation time built in, where you can’t really bring your baby to work. She isn’t just wanting to be a working mom. She wants to be a working mom whose job is the Vice President of the United States! And, if old McCain kicks it, the whole story gets worse – either way, she’ll work until midnight and need to be in the office at 6am – sometimes she’ll be up all night. The world doesn’t click off at 5.

Also, I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, saying that a woman and/or a mother can not be a world leader – I believe we can, wholeheartedly. But, I think that it makes sense for said woman to be at a specific place in her life – or rather to not be at a specific place in her life…like a mother of young children. Hilary’s daughter is grown, and even when the Clinton’s were in the White House, Chelsea was not a young child, much less an infant.

Not to mention this: it isn’t as easy as going to work and leaving your children somewhere – you need to find the right people, that you trust to raise your children.

4. My last point is harsh, but I’m going to say it anyway. She did this ‘incredible thing’ by birthing her Downs Syndrome child, a child with intense special needs. But isn’t part of that choice about taking responsibility for and being with the child? How will she have time to do this? I work full-time and my children do not have special needs, and I still don’t feel like I have enough time with them (and the guilt pounds on my heart every day…and I’m lucky that their other parent is with them when I’m not).

Before I had kids, I may have had a bit of a different attitude, or at least it wouldn’t have been quite as easy for me to be against her working as VP and having a family (maybe) – but now I have 2 kids and I work (a lot) and I know how it is…

Of course, this is all side-tracking us from the fact that this woman has no experience, that an administrator had to be hired to run the town (5,000 pop.) she was mayor of because she had no idea how to do the job, that she has fired or ruined anyone that has fought against her, that she is working for Alaska’s secession from the United States and that she has no experience that could prepare her to work with world leaders. (To read more, go here.)

I’m going to spend the next 9 weeks working very hard to get Barack Obama elected…and I’m starting by supporting Move On a fantastic organization working to energize and educate young voters. Read more about this citizens group and make a donation here. I just did because I will do everything I can to make a difference in this election.

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Gia says:

    I couldn’t agree more. What social conservatives don’t seem to get is the ‘different, but equal’ thing. I, too, am a working mom and there is no WAY I’d accept a job that would keep me away from my 12 yr old son for 4 years. The Palin kids will be without a mother for 4 YEARS? No way.

    I keep hearing social conservatives saying things like, ‘She’s a woman, you’d think the left would be happy with that.’ as if ones ‘inside plumbing’ is all that matters.

  • Julie Roads says:

    You said it, Sister. As I’ve said umpteen times in the last few days: the only thing Hilary and Sarah have in common is a vagina.

    The scariest thing? I haven’t found a Republican yet that is willing to say they made a mistake. SCARY.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • janifost says:

    you hit the nail on the head… Thank you for articulating so well what has been swirling around in my head. I’m just plain offended that McCain chose her – because I see his choice as adding a token woman to the ticket. If he really wanted a woman with experience, charisma, poise, etc… there are plenty of them out there (some of them are even republicans!!). Keep writing! – Janine

  • Julie Roads says:

    Thank you, Janine!!!! I mean, did McCain want his nominee on the cover of all of the magazines at the grocery store!!!

  • Claude says:

    As liberals, don’t you gals believe in the power of the public school system to help you raise your kids? It sounds like you do not.

    So what if she wants to run for VP at McCain’s behest? Shouldn’t she, as an independent woman, make that choice? Besides, she’d never be *your choice* anyway, so why bother. I am sure you ladies were ready to vote for the token black guy or token woman on the Dem. side because of their great talents, right?

    Your only choice is a former community organizer (read rabble-rouser) turned politician, with zero executive experience, but sure can talk pretty, from a teleprompter.

    I’d take a NRA card carrying member, moose hunting, “working/hockey mom” that has run a successful state any time.

  • Julie Roads says:

    I actually don’t trust the public school system – having gone through it and now watching it be void of any individual attention, real life learning or creativity as the result of standardized testing.

    I will never understand how Obama is being perceived as having no executive experience…did he create dramatic social change and betterment by himself? No! But that isn’t even the issue. I don’t want someone who will do it like everyone else – Obama hasn’t been governor, but he’s going to change the way it’s being done…and I agree with him on many things, so that works for me.

    She wants things even tighter than they are – she will destroy our environment, a woman’s right to choose and leave women in the dust on equal pay (to name a few things). I don’t like her ideals, I like his, end of story.

    Never would vote for a token anything. Thrilled that Obama and Hilary were not. So it hasn’t been an issue.

    From what I’ve seen Palin is a manipulative person who will step on anyone in her way – it’s the same old shit – male or female.

    Oh, and nice blog by the way…and thanks for speaking up…

  • Amy says:

    I’m not actually a card carrying anything — that isn’t true, i have a library card — so maybe my comments may not be welcome here, but I’m moved to comment just the same.

    There are plenty of parents, mothers included, who have to leave their children for extended periods of time, I’m thinking of women in the military for example, and are still capable of being good parents. I think having your mom one heart beat away from the most powerful person in the world is a pretty amazing opportunity, and one I wouldn’t turn down no matter how old my children were. To ask a woman to do otherwise seem anti-feminist, to me.

    I think the Republicans want to cast her into the motherhood cult because they don’t know what else to do with women, it is the role they fill in society and to market her first and foremost as something different would be against their grain. Her redneck credentials – she can hunt and shoot with the best of them and bully her way around her community – fit right in with the 30% of people who still approve of George Bush. While the pundits may say this is pandering to those lost Hillary voters, I call bullshit – this is pandering to the right, to shore up the conservative voters that McCain almost lost to Huckabee.

    I think feminists – Republican or Democrat – owe it to themselves to critique her on everything except her gendered perspective, if we called foul when they did it to Hillary, we must call foul now.

  • San says:

    I don’t have kids, so I can’t speak to the parenting part. But the hypocrisy of her running as a Mom does bother me. A good article helped me understand why McCain chose her, “Many people are conditioned by their life experiences to see this choice of a running mate through the prism of identity politics, but that’s the wrong frame. Sarah Barracuda was picked because she lit up every pattern in McCain’s brain, because she seems so much like himself.” To read more go here:

    But if you want to hear a Republican saying they made a mistake…here you go!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Very interesting, San…great article, FANTASTIC YouTube segment…much appreciated.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Hello Amy! Your comments are absolutely welcome here – these are some great insights you’ve delivered. I agree that there are situations where a woman may need to leave her children – but my point is: don’t have your major selling point be that you are a super mom and then take a job that will delete that position – maybe it won’t make her a bad mom, but it will make her a different mom, and if the mom role she’s played is so important, then this presents a problem. Doesn’t it?

    Also, these are my heartstrings being pulled…it is hard for me to go to work (albeit 20 feet away from my house in my little backyard office) and leave my children. I built my business so that I could be completely flexible and close to them when I need to be. But that isn’t 24/7. I have to work, I have to feed my family…but that doesn’t make it any easier when I hear them waking up from nap, crying and calling my name. I had a NICU baby who needed me desperately, and it’s hard for me not to project the needs of SP’s 4 month old son.

    And, like I said before, I’m much more upset about her political positions than her momminess…choice, the environment, gay rights, separation of church and state, did I say environment…

    Again, thanks for stopping by.

  • Ali B. says:

    I honestly can’t figure out how I feel about the motherhood thing. But you’re right – she does wear it like a badge of honor, whereas Hillary didn’t (though, for the record, I never cried foul for Hillary – I thought she ran a poor campaign, and that it was far too convenient to cry “sexism.” Of course there was sexism. I just didn’t think that’s why she lost).

    But still, Hillary’s daughter was also a grown woman, not 4 months old, and not special needs. And the truth is, most mothers who work full-time do feel like they’re doing one job badly, or the other job badly. Is there an opportunity for a different kind of mothering experience? Sure, if there are grandparents, or stay-at-home dads, or fantastic amazing loving nannies. But then maybe we should be more honest about what’s actually going on. For example, how long has it been since Palin actually attended a PTA meeting with any regularity? It’s okay if she hasn’t recently (I’ve heard it’s been over a decade, though I don’t know if that’s true). But is she actually a PTA mom, then?

    On the other hand, I’ve got daughters, and I would very much like for them to have every door open to them. Although I agree with Palin on… hmmm…perhaps nothing…I do think it’s incredibly cool that we could have a woman VP.

    (most of all, I think it’s amazing that we’ll either have an African-American president OR a woman veep. Even if I agree with that veep on…oh, that’s right. Nothing).

    So. I don’t know. It’s so hard for me to sort through my feelings on this. This is great food for thought, though. Well said.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ali! I love, love, love your blog…I’m a total real food foodie (and very opinionated about it – no surprise). Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    I agree it’s hard to know what these feelings actually are…all I know is that I’m feeling them intensely…and I feel a bit scared. What I’m trying to do is focus on the positive – how it will feel when we have a fantastic and fair president that will fight hard to save our planet, our rights, our jobs, our homes, our health, our………

    Thrilled to meet you…can’t wait to keep reading your stuff. People! Check it out: Maybe Ali will even let me guest post…pretty please!

  • Hi Julie,

    I usually keep my political views to myself but felt compelled to tell you that I mostly agree with you on this. It doesn’t really bother me that Sarah Palin doesn’t have a lot of experience. It doesn’t bother me that she’s a woman. Or that she has kids.

    What does bother me is the age of her kids and fact that her youngest, at barely 4 months old, has a major health issue. In such situations, inho, mom belongs at home or at least as close to the child as possible and as often as possible. I can’t see her fulfilling that obligation well from clear across the country, in a position that really has no work “hours” and could potentially take her away to some other land at a moments notice.

    While I’m thrilled that a woman has been chosen as a VP candidate, I don’t think Sarah Palin is the *right* woman.

    And that’s all I’m going to say before I get myself in trouble! ;-)

    ~ Annie

  • Julie Roads says:

    Hi Annie – just checked out your blog – fantastic…whoa, am I feeling for your freshman daughter – feeling lost and out of place with no help SUCKS.
    I think you’ve made your points about Palin well in this comment…I’ve been thinking a lot about the mom vs. dad issue and the truth is that I also feel bad for Obama’s kids – even though they’re older, daddy is going to be busy. But they aren’t infants and they aren’t special needs, and I do think there is a ‘mommy’ thing here – in terms of connection…
    Thanks for writing…can’t wait to read more of your blog!

Leave a Reply