I can’t stop thinking about Sarah Palin.
As a mother? I think she seems to love her family, I assume she has plenty of competency and resources to care for them, and beyond that, it’s none of my goshdarn business. But the blogosphere is filling up with questions and opinions about her family situation, her work/family balance, whether or not it’s sexist to question her work/family balance, and so on. Do you see where this is headed?
Yep. Too late. I saw those dreaded, inflammatory, useless words in a headline today: “Mommy War.”
Come on now. We all make compromises in life—to make ends meet, to advance our careers, to follow our passions, to live where we want to live, to deal with how one family member’s actions affect the others, to decide how to focus our time and energy. We have some nonnegotiables, and the rest is constant readjustment, looking for the balance.
In that, Sarah Palin is no different than Michelle Obama, or Joe Biden, or me. Or a million other women and men who are trying to walk the minefield without starting a “war.”
If you want to talk family and politics, let’s talk about all the women and men who whose work/family choices aren’t really choices.
Let’s talk about the parents who don’t have a spouse who can help support the family and how an American can work full time and still earn less than the federal poverty level.
Let’s talk about the women who go back to work right after they give birth not because they are ready but because they can’t afford not to or are afraid they’ll lose their position.
Let’s talk about the families with a child or adult who has a disability, chronic condition, or other preexisting condition that requires care denied by insurance—or who can’t even get insurance because no one will sell it to them due to their condition.
You want to talk about teen pregnancy? Instead of putting a microscope on one family, let’s talk about how even in the best-intentioned and most-attentive family, kids are being crushed by pressures and insecurities most adults have no idea about; let’s talk about how adolescents today are being systemically abandoned by a society that is so narcissistic and adult-centric that it leaves kids on their own to figure out how to become adults—then wonders why they try to grow up too soon yet get stuck in adolescence longer and longer before they really do. (For research and explanation read Hurt by Chap Clark.)
There are plenty of issues having to do with families and children and work and policies that we can and should talk about. These aren’t mommy wars; they’re issues for our whole society—because no one’s family lives in a vacuum. It’s not just how we each build our families; it’s how we want to shape our world.
If we spend all our scrutinizing each other’s choices, we won’t have enough energy left to work for the people who don’t have any choices. We’ll never get anything done except arguing.
I personally don’t think Sarah Palin is the right person to be nominated to be second in line for the one who sets the course for our country. But I don’t think arguing about how the course she is taking may affect her family is helpful for women or for the decisions our country has to make about policies and direction. A “mommy war” over Sarah Palin won’t end oil dependence, stop genocide, or educate kids for the global economy. If we let this time become a battle between women, we’ll never win the fight for our children’s futures.
We don’t need a mommy war. We’ve got real battles to fight.