On Motherhood and Ambition

I wrote a post today for How Do You Do It? about my decision to be a stay-at-home-mom, and marked the beginning of my second year living outside of the academic calendar.  Check it out.

Clearly, I’m not a particularly ambitious person as far as career trajectory and such things.  Not that ambition is inherently bad in any way, it’s just not my thing.  I always worked to live, not the other way around.

Which leads me to this whole Sarah Palin thing.

I know, I’m stepping way outside my usual topics.  I’m not a political blogger.  I’m a mommy blogger.  But she’s a mom, and I have a few things to say.  And, well, it’s my blog.

When McCain announced her as a running mate, I was baffled. An insulting appeal to holdout Hillary supporters?  “Look, she’s a woman! You like women, right? I mean, she’s the antithesis of everything Hillary holds dear, but who cares?”  An odd appeal to the right-wingers?  It’s been a trainwreck to watch.  She’s under an ethics investigation, McCain listed Governor, Mayor, and PTA as her executive experience. It completely undercuts his whole “ready to be Commander-in-Chief” argument. It’s just weird, and I’m at a total loss as to why on earth this was his choice.  I keep waiting for something new to jump out that would have it make sense, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening.

But hey, I’m not supposed to like his running mate.  I’m a Democrat, through and through, and wasn’t going to vote for him in the first place.  His choice of a right-wing nutter just gave me another reason.  Fine.  But as a fellow mother, I have to question Sarah Palin on her judgment.  And as everyone wants us to remember, it’s all about good judgment, right?

Let’s ignore the conspiracy theories about her youngest son actually being her grandson. It smells fishy, but I obviously have no basis of proving or disproving it, so fine. And really, I could care less that her daughter is pregnant, even if it gives me a brief laugh at “so, how’s that abstinence-only sex ed working out for you?”  But fine, things happen to teenagers.  And while it sort of adds to the media/political train wreck, fine. I have really no beef with that at all.

My beef is with putting ambition before family. I know that sometimes there are sacrifices in life. But you have a very young child with special needs.  If bits and pieces of the conspiracy theories are to be believed, you were going into preterm labor and yet continued to give a speech and then fly across the continent instead of seeking medical attention. She went back to work after something like three days. And she’s campaigning and running for Vice President with a newborn with Down’s syndrome.

Sure, I suppose being asked to be the Vice Presidential candidate for a major political party is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it would be hard to turn it down. But with a newborn? When you have almost no high-level political experience? Ambition wins over family.

Yes, it’s a double standard. People wouldn’t be saying the same thing of a man in her position. But it’s no secret that being a mom is different than being a dad, like it or not.  Is it fair?  Maybe not, but I’m not sure that’s the point.

I’m rambling, I know.  This, among other reasons, is why I’m not a political blogger. But this Sarah Palin thing is just getting under my skin.  She wiggs me out. When she speaks, it just feels wrong to me.  Let’s just hope that my candidate actually wins for once, and I can forget Sarah Palin’s name after November 4.



Filed under Politics, SAHM, Working

14 responses to “On Motherhood and Ambition

  1. My thoughts exactly on the abstinence only ed. And same goes for the messed up priorities. I also worry about her pregnant daughter. Is it really fair that now the whole nation knows? What will happen in 5 or 10 years when all of this sinks in? All to advance her mom’s career. It just doesn’t seem fair to the kids.

  2. Helen

    I’ve had many similar feelings since the announcement. I don’t know how this family can move to Washington, D.C. (My mom was quite funny, she said “can you imagine Palin and her husband on the Washington cocktail party circuit.”) I mean, I was feeling bad for the Obama girls getting uprooted at the ages they are and moving from your beloved Chicago, but to move that whole family from ALASKA? The little girl (is she 8 or so) was so clingy to Palin when she was introduced on stage, and then the poor older ones were stuck being in charge of the baby. ( I look quite differently now at the oldest daughter holding that baby, hmmmm….)
    I am most definitely a feminist and think ambition or passion for something is really important, but I just don’t think I could do what she has chosen to do.

  3. I have started and stopped writing a post on this very t0pic myself. In the end, I decided against it because I come off sounding bitchy enough on my blog. But the truth is – every word you just said is right. What WAS the thought process here? On McCain’s part and hers. As a mother of (almost) four, I can’t imagine deciding to spend even less time with them than I already do. And is there a position that demands more of your time than VP (well, besides being the Big Cheese, that is). All of the other stuff about her is just adding up to trouble in my mind as well. I don’t know. I’m glad you put it out there. It makes me feel better just reading it

  4. This thing has been a train wreck from the get go. I don’t want to care because this isn’t my party, but I can’t stop reading everything coming out. You’ve said many things I’ve been thinking and summed it up great-I hope we are able to forget who she is when Obama wins in November!

  5. I felt the same way about Edwards. Liked his policies but hated him for running when his wife had cancer again. Yes, being president may be once in a lifetime opportunity but so are the last moments with your wife. So I actually don’t think it’s a double standard… you’re not saying she should stay at home forever, it’s just that there is a right time for everything. (Oh and karma eventually got Edwards, huh?)

    It’s also why I hate J Lo for doing a triathalon with 6 month old twins. She said her training schedule gives her little time to be with her kids. Then what’s the point of having them? You had your whole life to do a triathalon, why do it NOW?

  6. Not that there was much risk I’d cast a vote for McCain, but this just sealed the deal.

    Having said that, though, I actually have no problem with her running, and applaud her for that decision as a woman and mom. I think holding political office (and even running for office) requires a huge personal sacrifice, no matter what your circumstances are. I wish more people who run would view it as a sacrifice they are willing to make for their country, rather than an ego-boosting, fame-grubbing, power-tripping move.

    But, I’m far too selfish to ever run for a political office myself, so I’m glad there are some other women (and men, can’t forget them) who are willing to make the sacrifice I’m unwilling to take on myself…

  7. I love how fired up Democrats get over stuff like this. It’s what makes politics remotely interesting to me.
    This should definitely be an interesting watch this coming election.
    I might actually be able to stop my reality tv addiction for a bit.

  8. I think this is hard for me because I am ambitious about my job. Not only am I the primary breadwinner but I want to excel and maybe even make partner at my Big Firm. That is a huge amount of sacrafice for my family and not something I undertake lightly. Based on the women partners I know what makes them good moms is that they are ALWAYS patient and cheerful when they are with their kids and pay attention to them during family time. I’m not sure my patience level is high enough to be that self-sacraficing but I want to try.

    Would we even be having this conversation if it were her husband picked as VP candidate? I am often frustrated with how often things fall to “must be done by mom” realm. Maybe her husband is the primary caregiver (even if he works). I know my husband will likely be in charge of relieving the nanny and feeding and putting our kids to bed together. Does that make me a bad mom? This is all hypothetical since I haven’t started back up at work yet but I’ve been spending so much time thinking about “how to make it work” on my blog and with my Husband.

  9. I’m not technically supposed to comment on this, seeing as the Governor is my boss (I am a state employee)…but I have to say that I did see her pregnant and, one of my co-workers felt Trig kick and it was witnessed by several other co-workers…so the conspiracy theory is a bit funny to us.

    In any case, it’s been interesting to read the blogosphere’s reaction to our Gov being chosen as the GOP pick for VP…and I will say that I am lucky to be registered with a different political affiliation than that of Governor Palin.

    I’d like to say more, but I’m sure I’ll get axed just for this!

  10. Liz, I totally agree. Actually, the first time I heard Sarah Palin speak was on NPR, on Friday morning, when the announcement was made. My first impression (just from hearing her speak) was actually favorable — she sounded down to earth and pretty likeable. Then I learned more about her and started to dislike the choice — it really did seem like the McCain camp was just pandering to women voters. But, the part that did me in was learning that she has a newborn with Down Syndrome. As a mom, I just don’t see how she could prioritize running for VP over being with her kids. I know I’ll probably get a lot of flak for that comment, but I say it because a) it certainly doesn’t seem like she was gunning for this office in the first place, and b) even if her husband IS the primary caregiver, like you said, being a mom is different from being a dad. I just feel like in a two-parent home, a mom really holds a family together. It all comes down to what you said — given her political experience, is it worth sacrificing the well-being of her family for being VP?! I have a hard time believing that it is!

    Then again, I suppose this is why I won’t ever be picked to be a VP candidate! 🙂

    p.s. And the thing about her daughter’s pregnancy … I know this is terrible, but my first thought was, “Hmm, maybe if you paid closer attention to what your kids were doing, this wouldn’t have happened!” I know, I know, it’s unfair — teenagers have their own lives, and God knows I hid things from my own very attentive mom!

  11. Goddess,
    Love reading your blog and I think it’s great that you posted on this topic. I am curious though, if Palin’s husband is a stay at home dad, do you feel different about her choice? I would look up what he does for work, but I have 5 moth old twins who just woke up, so I gotta go!

  12. Katie

    You wrote exactly what I was thinking and talking about with my husband this morning! Having a baby is a lot of work…having one with special needs is even more work. I really have to question her thought process. By the way I thought republicans were all about family values…what happened to that?

  13. carol

    I just want to say, how many real mothers leave a newborn child to caretakers, must less ones that have medical dificulties?? But to go trapesing around the country and leave the little one and 4 others, Wow!!! Doesnt fit my style for a person with high morals and standards. Certainly not one I would want in the white house. So long to my republican vote.

  14. Stacy

    After reading your post on Tim Russert I knew you would have something insightful to say about Sarah Palin. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I am a working mom with a husband who is a stay at home dad. I think of myself as a very strong, independent woman but I found myself thinking the very same things. I had children to enjoy them and watch them grow. My family is #1 to me and no job or fame could ever replace baby smiles and singing ABC with him. And I hated the way the media harped on the fact that she “kept” her down’s syndrome baby. Um, I am very pro-choice and would have kept my baby regardless of any test results, but I still think its a woman’s choice to decided what happens to her body. Pro-choice does nto mean pro-kill-babies.

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