Amid all of the questions raised by Republican Sen. John McCain's vice presidential choice of Sarah Palin -- and, wow, there are many -- this one rises to the top: Why do we continue to hold working moms to a different set of standards in their personal lives when considering their working lives?
When the Alaska governor was first named by McCain as his surprising pick for the second most powerful job in the country, she got lots of kudos for standing up to big business and being a working mom of five. Sure, her breadth of experience as a government leader was questioned. But less questioned (at first) was whether as a mom of five, including a four-month old baby boy who has Down syndrome, she could juggle a big job with a family. Progress, right?
Then, the news that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant hit the holiday weekend news, and the questioning began. How can she possibly handle all of her complicated family issues along with the duties of the second most powerful job in the country? How could she put her daughter and family through such intense public scrutiny in pursuit of this job? Can she really be there as a parent and be there for our country?
Tell the truth: Would we ask the same questions if Bristol's dad were the governor and he was tapped for the VP slot on the ticket? Do we criticize Barack Obama because he is on the road most days, far away from his impressionable young daughters?
This New York Times article calls it, "the Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition." The interesting thing is how the arguments are all over the place. Socially conservative women who ardently defend women who choose to leave the work force to care for children are coming to Palin's defense. Women who have long advocated working mothers' advancement in the workplace question Palin's ability to do both jobs. I have long argued that women should have the same choices as men when it comes to work and parenthood, how it is up to us as individuals and couples to work out how to provide a living for our children while being there for them personally. Yet, I found myself shaking my head when I read that Palin had returned to work three days after giving birth to her son, Trig, who has Down syndrome. I know as governor, she had to appear on top of her job; but as a mother, I know those early days with a baby are so intense and all-consuming, as they should be, with or without a complicating disability. I think it does all women a disservice to give the appearance that it's possible to "do it all" within the first week of a birth.