Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

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Here's where we keep you updated on news about parenting as it relates to division of responsibilities, career versus home decisions, work/life balance, and legislative and grass-roots movements toward equality or better choices for families. We'll also throw in our opinions of life as equal parents in a nonequal world, regardless of what's in the news.

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Equality Blog

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

You Can't Be President

It has taken me a few days to get over the shock of John McCain's running mate choice - at least enough to put words to computer screen. Marc and I purposefully don't wish ESP.com to be a sounding board for our political, religious or other sacred-territory views. So I'll bite my tongue - hard - and try to stay on-topic (kind of).

We have always said that if you choose to be an ESP parent, there will be sacrifices. And that one of those sacrifices is that you cannot also be President. You can't have the uber-power career with 24/7 availability that we all expect (and need) our President to embrace, and still have time left for involved parenthood. It is simply mathematically and emotionally impossible. Yes, the President would undoubtedly have plenty of staff hovering around him/her and wouldn't have to do any housework, but when having to choose between declaring war (or brokering peace) and handling the children's bedtime routine, we hope our President would choose the foreign relations for all of our sakes.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say you can't even be much of an involved parent and be President. Yes, you could surely have a reasonably powerful career and still be involved 'enough' with young kids, spouse and home - but you can't be President. That's why the Presidency has worked well for men with wives who care for the children and/or children who are reasonably grown already.

Enter Sarah Palin. Regardless of her gender, she's a parent of five children. One is an infant, with special needs that will keep him childlike for the rest of his life. Another is facing one of the hardest trials any teenager should ever have to face - unplanned motherhood and marriage at age 17. Another is going off to Iraq. The other two are, we hope, normal kids with all the crazy normal worries and fears of elementary and teenage years.

The media focus on Ms. Palin (why do they call her "Ms. Palin" but they call Hillary "Mrs. Clinton"?) has been on her motherhood. Her emotional strength (or lack) for choosing to give birth to a baby with Down's Syndrome, or her ability to raise an oh-so-normal family with its imperfections (a pregnant teen - oh well, that can happen to anyone, say her supporters). But I say we should skip talking about her status as a mother, except to say that by accepting a position such as Vice President of the United States (and quite possibly President if McCain's health declines), she is letting go of involved parenthood.

Is the world ready for that concept? Are we ready to say that these 5 children (including an infant) must be parented primarily by someone else? If that was all that worried me about Sarah Palin, I'd be simply calling on her husband to declare himself thrilled to be a hard core SAHD (which, from the scant information available on him to date, doesn't appear to be the case). Because I believe that motherhood is no more sacred than fatherhood, I'm not going to crucify her for making this choice if it is right for her, her husband and family. But no ESP for this couple! No Sarah-Palin-Has-It-All either. You can have it all, but not in extreme measure - and VP is an extreme career.

Alas my worries about Ms. Palin's candidacy are far more catastrophic than her parental status. But I think we can safely say "parent" is a role she's put on the back burner as much as any other President or VP candidate. Let's not fool ourselves otherwise, even as we prepare to weather the media circus that is a wedding, a baby and an election countdown over the next few months. Can the real issues be heard over the din?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Can the real issues be heard over >the din?

Excellent point.

Considering Palin knew her daughter was pregnant before accepting the nomination, it surprises me that she would subject her daughter to such intense public scrutiny during an already difficult time. And as the mother of an almost-four-month-old without Downs, I just don't see how she can be a good mother to her son (not to mention her older kids). I wonder the same thing about Obama as the father of two young girls...

5:57 AM  
Blogger Angela V-C said...

Thanks for this post Amy. Of course one interesting thing is how important Palin's children are becoming, when other candidates' children haven't been big issues.

What would we be saying if she was a man with 5 children, one of whom was a special needs infant? It would all be different, including the fact that if she was a man her wife would likely be at home full time with the kids.

As a woman and a feminist I find her candidacy difficult. I wish I wasn't worried about her kids because they don't have anything to do with her as a candidate (that is, if she makes the necessary choice, as you say, to be a fairly uninvolved parent). I wish McCain would have chosen a candidate (male or female) who didn't have an infant at home. One can imagine a school-aged child weathering having a VP as parent, but it's harder for me to imagine it with an infant.

Oh, and just for one more thing that I hate -- the Ms and the Mrs. Palin should be called Governor Palin, and Clinton should be called Senator Clinton and the Ms/Mrs by the media actually drives me crazy!

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm tired of people complaining that nobody would have a second thought to a male candidate with 5 kinds and a 4 month old baby. They would- or should- if the male candidate's wife had a demanding high profile job. If Sarah's husband is going to be Mr Dad, great! If not, she's choosing the oval office over her own kids. And that's wrong.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Jen and Steve said...

It does bring up some interesting issues. There was a segment on the Today Show the other day looking at her candidacy from the "Mommy Wars" perspective - although there was a notable lack of discussion of the role of the children's father in that context. (as you said, it seems like he would pretty much have to be a full time dad to make this work - but it also seems like nobody's talking about that possibility).

I do take exception, however, to your classification of her child with Down syndrome as being "childlike for the rest of his life." Adults with developmental disabilities may need more support (from family or otherwise) than other adults, but they are still adults, not lifelong children.

- Jen

PS: I love your blog and have been following for a while. My husband and I are ESP parents of a one year old and we love it. In fact, Steve even shared your site with his bosses when he was in the process of negotiating a reduced workweek.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for the great comments on this. I struggle with so many issues that bubble around inside of me with this VP nomination. On the parenting front, I really wish we'd hear something about Todd Palin's super-involved-dad life or his stepping-up-to-super-involved-dad intentions. I'm still waiting so far.

Yes, Governor and Senator are much better than Ms. or Mrs!

And of course I hope you know I didn't mean to characterize adults with Downs as never growing up. I think I'm just focusing on the fact that most people with this diagnosis will need assistance with independent adult life.

So cool that we could be of help in negotiating for the work schedule you want, Steve! That definitely makes my day!

9:24 PM  

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