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?