Monday, September 22, 2008

I Guess I'm Not A Feminist ...

I'm late to the party with this post, but the idea has been stewing in my brain since a certain someone was named to the non-Democrat ticket. (No need to mention her by name. Though this weekend, I did see her referred to as the "Alaska Disasta"; that made me laugh for its forced rhyme.)

When the announcement happened, not only did questions torpedo to the surface about whether she's ready to be president should her runningmate cease to be, but lots of people questioned, very fairly, in my view, whether she can be both a mother and a vice president.

"We would NEVER ask such things of a man!" was the indignant cry. You could almost hear veins bulging in anger. "How DARE they ask that!"

How dare they? Really? It's not reasonable to wonder?

No, we don't ask the same questions of men. Because they're men. Because historically – and by historically, I mean "since the beginning of time" – roles have been rather well defined along gender lines.

I wasn't there, but I do believe that in caveman times, the men probably went out to hunt (and, you know, try not to get killed by saber-tooth somethings) and the women probably stayed back at the cave taking care of the kids, maybe venturing out a little way to gather berries or grubs or something.

And so it's been. In most societies, most of the time, women take care of the kids. Yes, there are stay-at-home dads, and there may be cultures where the male is the primary caregiver (I'm not up on my sociology that way), but there it is.

There are lots of nannies but there are very few mannies.

And She Who Shall Not Be Named has five kids, one of whom is a baby with Down Syndrome who will require extra care and attention (from what I've read) and another who is pregnant and three others who are simply growing up and need their mom for all the things we need our moms for.

"But she's the governor of Alaska!" women cite. "If she can do that with five kids, she can be vice president with five kids!"

No, I don't think so. Being the governor of the least-populous state in the nation versus being the second-in-command of the free world?

Call me crazy, but there's a difference.

And by the way, we could debate if her daughter would be in her delicate condition if she'd had more mom time. Maybe. Maybe not. It's impossible to know, really. Kids will be kids. But thinking back to my teen years, my mom was always there for me and I never got myself into any kind of trouble, baby- or otherwise. I sailed through four years of high school without so much as a detention. Why? My mom was firm but fair, though not even close to a pit bull with lipstick. By contrast, I knew someone who had a very contentious relationship with her mother, a mother who was much more removed for a host of reasons, and yup, that someone was pregnant at 17. So maybe there's a correlation. Or maybe there's not. But it's possible, that's all I'm saying.

So no, we don't ask these "Can he do it all?" questions of men in politics because men, traditionally, have left the home at the beginning of the day and returned home at the end of the day. We expect them to go forth and provide for their families. And women, traditionally, have stayed at home and raised the kids.

Maybe now, out of need or desire, women, too, leave the home and provide for their families, but all the studies show that it's the women who carry the bulk of the home responsibilities in those two-income families. For the most part, it's still the moms who come home and get dinner on the table, it's still the moms who do the laundry and make sure the kids' lunches are made for the next morning and get everyone off to bed and pick up around the house before turning in and doing it all again tomorrow.

And so, in my mind, it's an entirely fair question to ask of the Woman of the Hour.

Hillary's only child is grown, out in the world making her own way. Not that Chelsea never needs her mom (or her dad), but their work with her is done. The First Brood, as they'd be, still very much need their mom. And I truly don't see how she can do both jobs with the degree of dedication that each requires.

Being vice president of the United States is more than a full-time job, it's a lifestyle.

Likewise, being a mom isn't a full-time job, it's lifetime role.

The question has been on everyone's lips for decades: Can women have it all?

No, I don't think they can. Not fully.

I've never understood women who have children and then go back to work as soon as possible.

Mind you, I'm not talking about moms who need to work to help support the family. I'm talking about women who say, "I didn't go to college to stay home and raise kids!"

Well, then, why have them? (Note: This has caused quite a bit of a stir in the comments. I am not saying that people with careers should not procreate, as one of my commenters put it. I'm questioning, as you'll see below, if those people believe their careers are more important than their kids if they say, "I didn't go to college to stay home and raise kids!" In my opinion – and mind you, it's mine; you don't have to share it – having kids is the most important thing I'll ever do (if I'm so lucky someday). And so I – again, personally – would want to stay home to raise them, not race back to my job at the first opportunity.) You want kids, but you want someone else to raise them while you pursue your career? Does that mean your career is more important to you?

In the case of Neighbor the the North, I do believe it should have been an either/or decision.

Then again, in my mind, on November 5th, she'll return to Anchorage and resume her duties as governor and mom.

Excuse me: mom and governor.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I enjoy your posts, and although I disagree with you at times I think that you are a talented writer. This time, as a mother of 3 boys (ages 1, 6 & 9) I actually felt a little miffed at your blog today. Women do hold most of the brunt at home, but we also do that at work, so wouldn't that make a woman a better candidate. I have many friends that are stay at home moms whose children (under 17) have babies, and (gasp) do drugs. I have friends that work whose children do the same, it isn't that working mothers aren't there for there children, as a mother/woman you prioritize and you MAKE time for your family. There are CEO's that are women and I am sure they find time for their children. There are stay at home moms who barely see their kids, because of their "volunteering". It will be good for our young female children to see that you can have a family and be the president. Families are all different, and until you have children I don't think it is fair for you to judge our next vice president for choosing to do it all. Because we can.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Anon. I'm certainly open to having moms explain things to me from their perspectives.

But the way I see it, vice president of the United States isn't just a "job." It's not even like being CEO of a company. It's an unparalleled position. And it requires an extraordinary commitment. I just wonder how a mom of five can be there for her children and be second in command of the country and do both at the levels that both require.

Still, I look forward to a dialogue on this topic.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well, then, why have them? You want kids, but you want someone else to raise them while you pursue your career? Does that mean your career is more important to you?"

Seriously? Women who choose to work should not procreate? Wow.

My mother worked (by choice, not by financial necessity) our whole lives. My two siblings and I were never in much trouble (baby or otherwise), graduated from college and have good careers of our own. We are productive, happy adults despite being raised in a two-income home. I never once felt that my mother's career was more important than her children.

I have three children of my own now and have worked the majority of their lives. I can assure you that there is nothing more important to me than my children. My career has allowed us to provide our children with many opportunities that they would not have had without the extra income. More importantly, I hope it has shown them that women can successfully balance work and home and be fulfilled in many different ways. My oldest is heading off to college in the next year and so far she's quite well-adjusted, successful in her studies and looking toward a career of her own.

I'm happy to report that our society has come a long way since caveman times. My husband is very supportive of my career and we are truly partners in raising our children ~ sharing quite equally in all of the responsibilities. And nannies and caregivers are not "raising" our children. Any parent knows that there is a lot more to "raising" children than providing supervision and meals for eight hours a day!

Yes, some women work and raise terrible children... some women stay at home and raise terrible children. Many women work and raise wonderful children in loving households. Each and every couple has a right to decide which scenario works best for their family. But you should never suggest that anyone should be denied the joys of motherhood just because they also have a career.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is first "Anon" and as much as I disagree with Beth on this topic, no where does she say that women who work should not have children (this is to 2nd anon). This is a touchy subject, especially to moms that work as well as those who are against Mrs. Palin, so the dialogue is going to get really heated. I hear Beth saying the VP position is hard and motherhood is hard, so how can one person who is both do it. Which is a valid question...however because Palin is a mother/wife/politician I think because she is all three she brings more to the table than most men. Woman have some things men don't have (well, lets me honest, most men don't have...hee hee) and some see that as a negative, and others (like me!) see it as a positive. Women can do it all, and when women start attacking other women, because of their opinions we accomplish nothing. So agree to disagree and do what is best for YOUR family. Motherhood is a joy to those who choose to be mothers. How they choose to raise their families, as a working mom or stay at home mom...we all have faults, but deep down we are truly doing what is best for ourselves and our families.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay, re-read and Beth you did say "Well, then, why have them? You want kids, but you want someone else to raise them while you pursue your career? Does that mean your career is more important to you?"

Shame on you...

Anon II, I apologize.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I'm asking, if a woman has children and then immediately returns to work saying, "I didn't go to college to stay home and raise kids!" (I have heard women say this with my own two ears), does she value her career more?

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer your question, the answer is no. Having kids is a blessing, but as I said ealier, you have to be happy with your life (be it working, volunteering, singing...)in order to be a good parent. I LOVE my job and it is part of who I am...if I had to choose my kids over my career, no question, my kids and I wouldn't resent them (I speak for only myself) and would do a bang up job. But here's the thing...I don't have too...I can do both. I have been in relationships with men who said they would never marry someone who worked after kids...well...guess what there is a woman out there for them...there are woman who wouldn't dare think of working after kids, and good for them, because (here's the kicker...) it makes them happy. You have to do what makes you happy, as my papaw said a mad woman in the home equals a "madhouse". You have to find the ying and yang in relationships, all of them, your relationship with your husband (if he wants a stay at home wife...and you want to work...no ying/yang) your children (can't find quality care where you TRUST the caregiver!), your co-workers(use the excuse of kids to get out of work duties...) Families are all different, and you shouldn't blanket your opinion of what a parent is capable of...those who can't wait to get back to work and those who may have said that...but then had children and couldn't leave them...Self happiness is very important Beth...you can have it all...there are millions of women who do it everyday.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth,

Whatever side of the fence a woman finds herself on, she looks and longs for what is on the opposite side (whether she is willing to admit it or not). So don't expect many moms to agree with you wholeheartedly.

I have a wonderful thirteen year old who is driving me absolutely nuts (hormones I guess...do they have vaccines for hormonal teens???). I also work outside of the home by choice mostly but sometimes out of necessity. I can honestly say that most of the time when I'm at work I want to be at home taking care of my family and when I'm home I want to be at work.

Unless I missed the memo, you can only have it all in unequal portions and you have to make the best that.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Ah, Latest Anon, well expressed.

This is the crux of what I'm getting at in this post: Can you do both equally well?

I'm wondering, if you put a group of women who say they have it all in a room and said, "This is a safe zone. You can say anything you want in here and you won't be judged," and then asked them if the would want to change anything about their "having it all" lifestyle, how many would say they were perfectly happy? How many would want to shift the balance one way or the other?

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What person, male or female could say they are "perfectly happy"? This is not a perfect world we live in, a little sacrifice is always part of life. Latest Anon hit it on the head, there are days that I would rather be with the kids and then when I am home with them, I look forward to work (break/adult conversation). Balance, everyone has to have it. In my perfect world I wouldn't have to tell my kids to go to bed/do homework/stop hitting your brother or my husband to help with the dishes/laundry/dustin, not too mention the kazillion dollars I would have...hey, perfect world...why not? Is kazillion even an amount? My oldest says "yes".

11:21 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I think a kazillion dollars is what Wall Street needs for its bailout.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not that Chelsea never needs her mom (or her dad), but their work with her is done."

Their work with her is done? Hmmm... My son is 14 now. Please let me know what age he will be when my work is done.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I'm not saying that kids ever stop needing their parents, but Chelsea is out in the world, living on her own, working on her own. Bill and Hill's day-to-day rearing of her is done.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we stop labeling all unmarried women as "single" parents? There is a diference between a woman who is a widow with children and a woman who has children because she is a mattress back. The lefties love talking about the sacrifices of "single" moms, like homosexual women getting a sperm donor because they want some of their DNA in the kid when they should be adopting children who need homes first. What's the time frame on Lindsey Lohan or her gal pal cranking out a hollywood kid?

I'm not saying the mother has to stay home with a small child - a mother OR father can do the stay at home work. But to have both parents decide to crank out kids and have a nanny (fancy word for babysitter) raise their kids is child abuse. Don't tell me you "have to work" to pay the bills. No one forced you to have multiple children. How about stopping after one? Plenty of birth control available at the lefties favorite place, Planned Parenthood.

These "parents" will send their kid to a babysitter they find posted on bulletin board at the grocery store, but they'll look long and hard for a good dry cleaner. Let's stop rewarding bad parents by telling them it's OK for strangers to raise their kids.

8:39 PM  

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