Friday, August 29, 2008

Should Mothers Be Vice Presidents?

An interesting bit of discussion is going on among some homeschooling moms and others here, about whether or not the fact that Sarah Palin still has two young children (among her five) is something that more traditional-minded moms should support, or frown upon, in terms of her new role as the candidate for the vice-presidency for the GOP.

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.


Jeff Miller said...

The Obama camp will have a hard time knocking her for this since shortly after Sen. Biden was first elected his wife died leaving him to young children and he was encouraged to stay on.

Red Cardigan said...

The campaign, sure. But earlier today one of the media talking heads started blasting her for considering this job at all when she has a special-needs infant son. I'm looking for the link; will post it if I find it...

mostly young said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Red Cardigan said...

The gentlemen at CMR have come to my rescue once again; the comment I heard was written about on Newsbusters and posted at CMR, here:

Teresa said...

Mothers (AND fathers) working with their children beside them is not a new phenomenon and I believe the idea of it became yet another casualty of the feminist movement. I, too, work while raising four children. It has strengthened our marriage, my children (18, 16, 13 and 1) have not been short-changed physically, emotionally or spiritually and, because I insist on far less meetings than my industry counterparts, made me more productive and more cost-effective. Certainly not all businesses are conducive to having minors present, however, we should have been working towards how mothers AND fathers could be with their children more. Never did I hear, when Mrs. Palin and I were marinated in the feminist movement mantras, any invitation for men to broaden their roles as fathers -- only that they were not necessary.

Daddio said...

Good post. I'm sure her first thought at each new opportunity and promotion was, "Will I still be able to put my family first?" She truly appears to have been sought after and encouraged by those around her, rather than searching for her own opportunities and putting herself first. Not that she isn't ambitious, but she seems to have been in the right place at the right time and just sort of exploded over the last 15 years. I suspect the three youngest children would not even exist if she had been planning this political career from the beginning. So very unlike what everyone thinks of Hillary Clinton (putting up with Bill all these years for her own gain).

I'm sure it has occurred to her and her husband that they will have an amazing opportunity to promote the pro-life and pro-family message, especially with their youngest. Not to "put him on display" or use him for political gain, but to show the world that his is a life worth living. It will be quite a boost to the Down's community.

Has anyone read anything from Mr. Palin? Is he planning to set aside his fishing and production jobs and come to Washington while she serves? It would bother me to see them try and pull off the "long distance" relationship that so many politicians and corporate executives do these days, her flying back to Alaska every weekend (I doubt it - that's a very long flight). Even the McCains appear to have quite separate lives, but there's that old double standard again - we can tolerate dad traveling all the time, but not mom.

Mary G said...

Excellent points! I've posted a link back to you from my blog as you've said so much better what I'd like to say ....


Irenaeus said...

She's a homeschooling mom, by the way, or at least Dreher says so.

matthew archbold said...

As a Dad who works from home and has primary responsibility over the five crazy short people who live here, I think I do a pretty fine job. I"m sure Mr. Palin is helping out quite a bit as well.
It seems a little weird to be questioning this. The kids seem like good kids. If they were showing up weekly in the police blotter of the local newspaper, then things would be different but they're not. The mother is not a sole caregiver. They are a family.

Mommaluvy said...

As a mom of a 3 yr old with Down Syndrome... I can say I am rooting for her 100%. THey are a family.. and they will all work together to help their son with therapies etc to meet his milestones. I think its Awesome. I have No DOUBT she can do it. I am excited about voting now! I was holding my nose.. to vote McCain.. But now.. I am dancing to the poll.

When you have a child born with DS you are told by advocates to " raise him/her as you would your other children. " AMEN. End of discussion.

Btw.. I am a SAHM who homeschools. Even my preschooler with DS. They got my vote.

Sandy said...

I've linked here today. Excellent post.

molly said...

Very well stated! And as Catholic mother of 7, I more than think this lady is capable of being VP!!!!!! Even President.
I too, am going to link to you from my blog, more folks need to hear this side.

Red Cardigan said...

Thanks to all who are linking to this! I appreciate it very much. :)

TXMom2B said...

I'm going to link to this, too. What excellent points! I got goosebumps of the picture of her wearing her baby while working. We need more Christian, pro-life people with common sense to work in government. The Holy Spirit endows us all differently with our own vocation and mission. If Sarah Palin is following the Holy Spirit into public office, then she will be fruitful, and we will all benefit, especially the most vulnerable in this country. I hope to be a SAHM someday, at least when our future children need me home the most, but there is no one way to be a wife or mother. We must all follow the Holy Spirit wherever we are called.

Frieda said...

True, so she won't have to work, be a mom, AND cook and clean, like so many of today's working moms do. In that respect, yes, her life will be easier.

But how many other working moms have the stresses and pressures of being Vice President of the United States?

How many other working moms would have to step in and RUN the country if John McCain dies in office?

How many other working moms have to be in the international spotlight for the next 60+ days, going on grueling campaign tours, every move and comment being relentlessly scrutinized?

How many other working moms very well may have to make decisions on war, terrorism, and national security -- decisions that will affect the lives and futures of an entire country, or even the world?

That sounds a lot more stressful than any other working mother's experience. Bear in mind that the national political scene is also going to be entirely new to her.

If her kids were in their twenties, I could see her pulling it off. I just can't see it working now, no matter how competent she is.

Dawnie said...

Awesome post! You and Elizabeth Foss have said it all, and so beautifully! We've gotta stick together and support each other, not let the devil divide us! This is such a wonderful opportunity to elect a pro-life woman whose LIFE is a witness!

I'd like to link to this post, too, if I get a few spare minutes to blog.... :)

Amy said...

I thank you for this post as I have been struggling with this since hearing her speech. I do hope that her first thought when offered this running mate position was "will I still be able to put my children and husband first", but I'm not convinced of it yet. I applaud her for not wavering on her stance on abortion when faced with a personal test during pregnancy. However, I think she may be facing a personal test now as well. She knows her young baby has extra special needs and yet she is accepting a new tough challenging role instead of finishing the tough challenging role she began by winning the governorship of Alaska. She made lots of headway in Alaska and would presumably have the chance to continue running that rich yet less populated state while interacting in a cognitively meaningful way with her young baby should she Finnish out her governorship term. The cognitive headway that can be achieved from birth to 3 years is much greater than what was previously believed prior to the Neuroscience breakthroughs that have occurred prior to her last two children being born. I fear she may be putting her ambitions ahead of her babies needs. I think if she were to finish out her governorship and focus on interacting with her baby during the first 3-5 years of his life she would have both the most cognitive gain for her child accomplished as well as increasing her experience in government. I would then feel comfortable voting for her not as VP but as President of These United States. As it stands now, I'm not convinced she can do it without sacrificing her newborn baby. It's not just that we are responsible to bring them into the world we are responsible for giving them the best chance of success with God's help. Just my thoughts. I think she should finish what she started first before moving on to more challenges and fights.

also...I am now living with knowing that I was over-working outside the home during that 0-3yr period for one of my children. Unfortunately I didn't have a head's up that he had special needs until he was almost three. I would have done things differently had I known from his birth. You can't get those very early years back.