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If I hear one more talking head ...

Posted Nov 21 2008 3:09pm

If I hear one more talking head complain that Sarah Palin couldn’t possibly act as vice president or president because she has five children, including a special-needs child, I think my head will fly off.

In case you’ve been in a hole somewhere, I’m talking about quotes like this from the Telegraph in the United Kingdom: How can she reconcile such a high-profile job as “veep” - a “heartbeat” away from leadership of the free world and all that - with bringing up five children, the oldest of whom is about to serve in Iraq and the youngest of whom is just five months old and has Down’s Syndrome?

Or this, same source:  The former beauty queen with the myopic gaze, who traded pageant chic for power suits and designer specs to stalk the halls of power in the 49th state, a breast-pump under her arm and a BlackBerry in each hand…

Or how about this from the New York Times: In interviews, many women, citing their own difficulties with less demanding jobs, said it would be impossible for Ms. Palin to succeed both at motherhood and in the nation’s second-highest elected position at once.

Impossible?

Really?

While I don’t agree with Palin’s politics, I take issue with anyone who says a mother cannot hold any job as long as she has the physical capabilities to do so.*  What is it that a vice president does that is more taxing than the life of a governor of a state one-fifth the size of the whole country, complete with natural resource issues, international borders, and budget crises? There is travel, of course, and late-night meeting times and other inconveniences, but these could be accommodated. How many other high-level families inside the Beltway have household help to deal with basic family issues? All the Nannygate stories we’ve heard over the years would indicate that it’s no sin to find help to make sure children are well-supervised (unless you hire the undocumented).

And not to burst anyone’s bubble, but everyone who thinks George W. Bush does all his own work every day, raise your hand now!

That’s what I thought. Presidents and vice presidents have “people,” assistants and staff who perform triage and make sure their executive has the right information at the right time, drivers, planners, secretaries….you name it. Any busy mother I know could only benefit and bloom in such a situation, not get bogged down.

As for having a special-needs child, I have to say that since I’ve had mine, I’ve had to become smarter about time management and more efficient with resources to accomplish all the tasks I want to in a day. The many parents in similar circumstances I’ve met, both in real-life and online, manage their families’ lives with a sharp eye, making doctors’ and therapy appointments, trying medication schemes, advocating their child’s cases at school, seeking out social situations that benefit their child. All the while, they work and take care of significant others and other children–some even care for parents as well.

I mean, imagine my surprise to find I agree with Phyllis Schlafly!

“(Motherhood) changes your life and gives you a different perspective on the world,” said Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative organizer who helped defeat the equal rights amendment nearly three decades ago.

“People who don’t have children or who have only one or two are kind of overwhelmed at the notion of five children,” Ms. Schlafly continued, mentioning that she had raised six children and run for Congress as well. “I think a hard-working, well-organized C.E.O. type can handle it very well.”

That being said, I’m not sure Palin as a mother is making good decisions at this particular juncture. Would I have put myself in a national spotlight when my teenaged daughter was having a painful personal crisis, knowing how the media sharks would devour her? Not likely. That’s a decision she’ll have to live with.

Women have had to balance many issues as they’ve made progress through the years, and Palin may have rationalized that to move women forward a step in the ranks of equality, that this sacrifice was worthwhile.

Robert A. Heinlein, in his persona of Lazarus Long, says, “Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, “equality” is a disaster.”

Perhaps this will be the outcome of Sarah Palin’s choice in the long run.  On the other handWill she be good for women or an awful embarrassment? Too soon to tell. But, heck, she can’t be any more embarrassing than a vice president who gets indicted like Spiro Agnew, can’t spell potato like Dan Quayle or shoots his buddy like Dick Cheney.

It’s Sarah Palin’s choice to make, not naysayers in the media and the political parties and the religious extremists– hers.  I, for one, support her right to make it. You go, girl.

*For example, a pregnant woman would have a heck of a time shinnying through an 18-inch diameter pipe. But women who have the strength, endurance, intelligence or any other skill it takes to fulfill a job description (and there really aren’t many that list “penis” as a requirement ), should absolutely be equally considered and hired.

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