This may seem trivial, but the question is already being asked by some liberal opponents of McCain/Palin: will the Evangelical members of their base rally around one of their own, who is not modeling what they hold up as the Biblical model of wifehood/motherhood? Sarah Palin has nearly always worked, even if some of the work she did was in her husband's commercial fishing company; she's also a member of Feminists for Life. Is she really going to appeal to the stay-at-home moms, the homeschooling moms, the moms who reject feminism, even its Christian variations?
The first thing that springs to mind is that most moms of many I know would find a job like the vice presidency relatively restful, compared to the logistics of running a home, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and meeting the basic needs of five (or more) children. I'm fairly sure this 9,000 plus square foot home employs a good-sized staff to take care of the chores, which would give the average mom plenty of time to do vice-presidential tasks, raise the children, and probably some extra leisure time to boot. I mean, how much more could you get done in a day if somebody else was doing all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry? Heck, maybe more moms should be running for public office.
The second is that I see a vast difference between a wife helping out with a family business, and then getting involved with the PTA, and only then answering the call to public office when it became clear that the city council was a wreck and needed somebody to come in and yell at them to pick up their dirty socks and put the toilet seat down, for heaven's sake, than I do with somebody who places career above family obligations. The Palin children are 19 (Track, the son who is in the Army) Bristol who is 17, Willow who is 13, Piper who is 7 and the baby, Trig, who was born in April of this year. So by the time Gov. Palin started getting involved in politics, the older children weren't babies, and the younger two hadn't even been born.
And since Piper and Trig came along, Gov. Palin hasn't been an absentee mother. Piper accompanied her mother to work, just as Trig does now.
I think there's a big difference between what is sometimes called "Christian Feminism" and the other sort of feminism. The Christian variety is focused on making sure that the dignity and worth of women is seen in its reality, that women are never objectified or denied education or other opportunities based on their gender, and that real accomodations are made so that if a female governor happens to give birth while in office, she can be a nursing mommy and a governor at the same time. The Christian idea of feminism isn't that different, I think, from what the late Pope John Paul II was saying in Mulieris Dignitatem when he wrote:
In every age and in every country we find many "perfect" women (cf. Prov. 31:10) who, despite persecution, difficulties and discrimination, have shared in the Church's mission. It suffices to mention: Monica, the mother of Augustine, Macrina, Olga of Kiev, Matilda of Tuscany, Hedwig of Silesia, Jadwiga of Cracow, Elizabeth of Thuringia, Birgitta of Sweden, Joan of Arc, Rose of Lima, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Mary Ward.
The witness and the achievements of Christian women have had a significant impact on the life of the Church as well as of society. Even in the face of serious social discrimination, holy women have acted "freely", strengthened by their union with Christ. Such union and freedom rooted in God explain, for example, the great work of Saint Catherine of Siena in the life of the Church, and the work of Saint Teresa of Jesus in the monastic life.
In our own days too the Church is constantly enriched by the witness of the many women who fulfil their vocation to holiness. Holy women are an incarnation of the feminine ideal; they are also a model for all Christians, a model of the "sequela Christi", an example of how the Bride must respond with love to the love of the Bridegroom.
In some ages, it is sufficient for married Christian women to witness to Christ by focusing solely on the task of raising and educating their children to follow Him; in all ages, this is the most important witness a Christian wife and mother can give. But sometimes it is possible, without neglecting our tasks to our families, to share those gifts God has given us as His daughters with the wider community. And it's up to each of us to consider whether He is calling us to do that, and to what degree it's possible for us to do that without neglecting our primary obligation to our husbands and children.
Gov. Palin is the only person who knows whether she can fulfill her role as mother while also serving as this country's vice-president. But I don't think we can say that being a mother automatically disqualifies a person from such service. The powerful witness to the value of innocent human life made present by her children, especially baby Trig, is hard to ignore in this culture that values slick notions of perfection and hides away or aborts or euthanizes those we deem less than perfect. And the angry feminism that pits mothers against their children might benefit from seeing an example of how it is possible to take an active role in the world without neglecting the most important role of all, that of motherhood.
Should mothers be vice-presidents? Maybe some should. We are all called to serve in the wider community, though the details and opportunities and skills and possibilities will vary. But the Scripture passage Pope John Paul II referenced reminds us that our role as wives and mothers is important, and may involve many different responsibilities:
- When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.
- Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.
- 1 She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.
- She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands.
- 2 Like merchant ships, she secures her provisions from afar.
- She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household.
- She picks out a field to purchase; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
- She is girt about with strength, and sturdy are her arms.
- 3 She enjoys the success of her dealings; at night her lamp is undimmed.
- She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.
- She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.
- She fears not the snow for her household; all her charges are doubly clothed.
- She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing.
- Her husband is prominent at the city gates as he sits with the elders of the land.
- She makes garments and sells them, and stocks the merchants with belts.
- 4 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come.
- She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel.
- She watches the conduct of her household, and eats not her food in idleness.
- Her children rise up and praise her; her husband, too, extols her:
- "Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all."
- 5 Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
- Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.