Ooooo, this can make one’s head hurt.

According to the NY Times, it’s the Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition

But this time the battle lines are drawn inside out, with social conservatives, usually staunch advocates for stay-at-home motherhood, mostly defending her [Gov. Palin], while some others, including plenty of working mothers, worry that she is taking on too much.

And the others include working mothers who support Obama. 

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.

“You can juggle a BlackBerry and a breast pump in a lot of jobs, but not in the vice presidency,” said Christina Henry de Tessan, a mother of two in Portland, Ore., who supports Mr. Obama.

Isn’t the idea supposed to be that the children are the responsibility of a family?  There might be a good argument for saying that a family cannot take on the VP-ship and a special needs child, but to assume that the clash is between being a mother with such a child and the  job is, surely, just a bit…well, what?…Post-feminist?

Of course, there’s an easy explanation here.  The working mothers recognize that she’d happily take away some of their most important choices, and fail to recognize some of their most important needs.  So they’re dumping on her.  Well, maybe, but let’s remember that the way these things get described is very important, and we are not doing ourselves a favor by suggesting that motherhood might bring special conflicts with a very demanding job that others, and that the mother’s decision is not necessarily the last word..

What do you think?

19 thoughts on “Ooooo, this can make one’s head hurt.

  1. I find it amazing, frankly, that people aren’t paying any attention to the fact that these kids *do* have a full-time carer: they have a stay-at-home dad. Much as I dislike Palin’s politics, there are ways that her family (at least since her husband quit his job to care for the kids) provides quite an impressively radical model. I find myself wondering if right-wing Christian admiration for this family in which a man sacrifices his career to raise the kids while his wife pursues her career might actually have some really positive long-term effects. (Just to be clear: I don’t think AT ALL that Palin is generally good thing. I just think this aspect of her situation is potentially good.)

  2. Jender, I firmly hope that her being called a feminist and her being a working mother will mean that some terms and ideas get inside minds that appear to have been closed to them.

  3. I was thinking about this last night, and realized that if she were the father instead of the mother, and running for VP with a six month old child who will require more attention than many other children, I would think that he was also taking on too much, and not being a good parent. Mom or dad, male or female: parents need to spend time with their kids, and not leave it all to the other parent. If I would criticize a man for leaving his kids in this way, I ought to also criticize a women, not because she has extra duties towards those children, but because she has the same duties towards those children.

  4. sylvie, I do agree. And I might well decide similarly based on very similar grounds – that is, decide our family couldn’t take the strain. I’m puzzled by a discussion that seems to focus just on her, though there are a number of reasons why that might be so, including how the question is posed. Still, I think we’ve got to resist regressing to an earlier time.

  5. BRAVO this post. I find it incredible that women, and even feminist women, would critisize another woman’s childcare and career choices. And I disagree, sylvie. I just can’t imagine a man in a similar situation being held to account in this way and, if he was, I would defend his right to make family decisions privately. I do have some sympathy for people’s concerns – when I saw Sasha and Malia Obama on stage at the DNC, I had the thought that I wouldn’t expose my children to that level of intrusion in their lives; I wouldn’t want them living in the White House; and they ARE going to miss out on a lot of time with their father over the next 4-8 years if he should become President. Also, being First Lady likely takes up a lot of time too. These are years of their lives that will pass quickly and they’re SO important. But people make these decisions every day and they do different things than I would choose for myself. Supposedly, that is their right.

  6. This is never a concern when it’s a man running for political office. Just because she is a woman with children doesn’t mean she cannot take on the role of President or VP if she is politically capable of doing so. This double standard is sickening. Does anyone say hey Obama you have 2 girls at home you’re ignoring while campaigning to be President? No of course not and they shouldn’t be saying these types of things about Palin.

  7. The double-standard is troubling–infuriating, even, after all this time… but I think Palin herself and what her politics represents is the most disturbing of all and the reason so many women are not particularly on her side with respect to how her family obligations vs her political ambitions are being discussed. I mean, what about HER double-standards??

    Personally, I don’t give a damn about her family issues. I just don’t want someone with her record and background anywhere near the highest office in the land.

  8. “There might be a good argument for saying that a family cannot take on the VP-ship and a special needs child”

    I suppose I’m curious about the wording here. It seems like “ought” would be better, that one should not ignore their child in the way that (supposedly) being VP would entail.

    For me, that’s not my primary concern in a (vice) presidential candidate. Think about it this way–suppose both candidates are equally qualified, happen to agree with my view on all issues, etc. One of them, though, has five kids, the other has two. One of them has no stay at home parent (the one with five) and the other does. In that situation, I might say, well, I don’t think I should inflict that poor ethical choice (child neglect) on the candidate.

    However, whether someone’s job *might* hurt their family doesn’t seem like the first question you ask–do you ask potential employees how their family will respond to the new situation?

    So the whole debate seems strange to me. I suppose it goes to show a kind of paternalistic streak still in our country when it comes to women, since something which really isn’t our business becomes it–don’t we think she’s already planned for these contingencies? (And a paternalism, I’d say, even, among feminists towards traditionalist women…at least that’s the sense I’m getting, but I’m willing to withdraw the charge if I’m shown I’m wrong)

  9. I thought asking potential employees about their family situations/childcare arrangements was *illegal*, because of its discriminatory potential. If only we could apply that to political office!

  10. I like how having a busy working parent = neglect, or at least the potential for it. Both of my parents worked full time when I was small, leaving my older sister, myself, and our baby sister often in the care of babysitters or relatives. My other worked nights at the hospital in the ER, and my father as an airline pilot; essentially, both of them were in situations that kept them away from the home the majority of the time. I never resented them for it, probably because when they WERE home, I had their attention. I never felt neglected or a lack of love; through good parenting and thoughtful scheduling (for things like horse back riding lessons and softball games, when I was older [yes! they both worked full time and still, I had these luxury hobbies]) it was clear to me I was their top priority, even though work ate up most of their schedule. While neither my sisters nor myself were special needs children – who obviously demand more time and resources than most kinderlings – the point I am trying to make here is that having a high stress job and good parenting are by no means mutually exclusive. Even with special needs children. Damn right, I said it. As we all know many unemployed parents with all the time in the world to dote on their offspring, should have never been allowed to reproduce in the first place. Of course there are parents who work who neglect their children, but if we’re taking deontologial sort of approach to this, then the whole thing is is a load of horse pucky.

    I realize this isn’t reflecting a great deal on the nature of the post, which is to say the problematic relationship between women, work, and motherhood and how it is handled by the media and the voting masses; but every time I hear something about poor, neglected proto-persons with working parents (especially when the commentary is singled out on a mother) I have to roll my eyes. It sure as hell didn’t hurt me to have working parents, and I doubt the children of high ranking politicians want for much either.


  11. this conversation reminds me of my constant doubt: isnt it better in the long run to have women on top, even if we dont agree with…creationism, etc.!?

    should we maybe give women a chance, regardless of the party line, etc.??? after all, congress can be democrat, that we “she” would be controlled.

    for record, i consider myself far left…but i was taught …”there is more than one way to skin cat..”

    imagination to power!!!!!

  12. I agree with Jenders comment right-wing Christian admiration for this family, but might go a little further in that I think that that is actually quite a big gain.

    If the republicans need to talk about empowering women and breaking up the old boys network, to even have a chance of winning then you will achieve gains with around half the population that you could never have achieved through any other method. Taking the reigns of power from republicans is one thing – but converting them is a much more permanent victory.

    That being said – I’m still hoping they loose, just glad they chose Palin as opposed to Romney or some Cheney mark II.

  13. Other moms have to work full time, even 2 or 3 jobs when they have kids, that getting to choose whether to work or not for either a man or a woman is a HUGE privilege, most get the work or starve choice. I won’t stick up for Palin as a person but I watched my best friend with 5 kids go to college AND work full time while her husband held 2 full time jobs, why is only when one reaches a certain mark on their bank account that all of a sudden it is too much to work and have kids? SHe has someone sitting at home- it shouldn’t even be an issue, even if her husband got a job they would hire a nanny or 2 or 3.
    This class chasm problem in feminism is crazy. When a woman with choices to work or let her husband work she is criticized for working, when a mother with no money and no choices takes Welfare for a bit to stay home with her kids while they are young she is criticized for not working- why is it good for moms with money to be stay at homes but not moms without money- is it about the moms or about the kids? It always feels to me like it is saying these kids deserve a parent at home because they are privileged but these poor kids do not deserve a parent at home, is this really a gender issue or it is truly a class issue? If it is a gender issue then one would have to assume that women in the dominant group are not holding themselves as capable as oppressed women (like the woman alone who can waitress 12 hours a day or go on welfare, they say work, a woman who has help at home they say can’t take it, that doesn’t seem to be a gender issue at all since there is a double standard about it within the gender. HAs anyone seen any work on this? Hmmmm maybe a new conference paper for me???

  14. CNZ, I think a lot of us are worried sick that that gain might pale in comparison to the loses, particularly if she becomes president.

  15. rovirosa,
    I hope you don’t mind my noting your cat metaphor in light of the fact that she’s a hunter and can dress a moose by herself. (“Dress” being here a technical term.)

  16. Ilovefanon, I’m very surprised that you find the following a sign of a class chasm in feminism:

    When a woman with choices to work or let her husband work she is criticized for working, when a mother with no money and no choices takes Welfare for a bit to stay home with her kids while they are young she is criticized for not working- why is it good for moms with money to be stay at homes but not moms without money- is it about the moms or about the kids?

    That sounds to me like the classist thought of right-wingers. That Bill Clinton got caught up in limiting welfare has seem to many feminists a huge black mark against him.

    There’s a lot of feminist work on the attacks on welfare moms. Here might be a place to start:

  17. jj
    Thanks, my research centers around poverty so any new info is good for me because it is extremely hard to find work on poverty that actually has the work of poverty in it. I’ll chedck it out.
    I was not saying that that is the right, correct, fair, whatever frame of mind, I was just saying that I have observed that happening so many times.
    I have read things written by feminists saying that- not all feminists, but I have read them. Also, through my experiences and speaking wth others from my background about feminism it is often not taken up by many of the women I know with backgrounds like mine because of all the emphasis on women wanting to be paid to stay home while their husbands work while not addressing the issues of those women who have no choice but to work that is often (in my own experience and the experience of others I am speaking about) taken up in women’s studies or feminism classes.
    I have experienced the class chasm within feminism as many times as others I am friends with have experienced the race chasm, a good place to look at this is in Mariana Ortega’s article Being Knowingly, Lovingly Ignorant- it was in Hypatia summer, 2006. I think this is why there are different kinds of feminism,, because different women need different things and while I want all women to have what they need I think that those who are going completely without should be helped first. Again, I am not saying all feminists, just some. There are some feminist listservs that will shut down ANY talk of poverty at all, as if those women do not exist.
    That is why it just angers me when someone with money gets all this attention for working, it seems like then feminism picks up on that and starts defending it and the truly helpless get left behind.
    My view is that if someone has the good luck to find a job good for them, everyone should be allowed to work (and for a living wage at that).
    Mary Childers has an amazing book called Welfare Brat that looks at welfare moms in depth. I know there was nothing my mom liked about welfare, I mean who likes being humiliated and left with nothing? I was just showing the double standard for work between women with and without.

  18. ILF, I’m wondering about the existence of blogs that shut down all talk of poverty, but are still feminist.

    What I’d wonder about is what is it that they are shutting down and why. I’ve seen tons of occasions where the people running something say they are trying to shut out X, and then they are interpreted as doing something quite different.

    Thanks for the references, by the way.

  19. Oh please.. This is so ridiculous! It’s so funny how we are in a presidential race and people aren’t even noticing what Palin stands for. Of course kids will be taken care of… shes got the support and money to help raise her kids! I am sure they have hired a nanny or nannies to help them out. Wouldn’t you if you had their money? My mom raised six kids by herself while my dad worked three jobs.. I am sure the Palins will not have to go through the struggles my family had to go through. I wish people would wake up and look at the real picture.

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