Does having it all make Sarah Palin more like us?

Filed under: In The News, Mommy Wars

Red Mom Blue Mom

Welcome to Red Mom Blue Mom, ParentDish's special coverage of the 2008 Presidential election. Each Tuesday through November 4, columnists Rachel Campos-Duffy (Red Mom) and Ada Calhoun (Blue Mom) will take on issues relevant to parents on both sides of the aisle. You can find past Red Mom/Blue Mom posts here.


Blue Mom: Sarah Palin -- She's not like us
By Ada Calhoun


Sarah PalinThe good news is we're popular. Women who are balancing career and family and worried about the tanking economy are this year's "security moms." Time magazine is calling us "Maxed-Out Moms" and saying we'll be deciding the election. Go, us!

The bad news is John McCain thinks he can woo us with a "Type A, antiabortion, Christian Stepford wife in a 'sexy librarian' costume," in the words of Salon.com's Cintra Wilson. Sarah Palin is George Bush in pumps. She thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution and that raped women should be denied abortions (and pay for their own rape kits).

The worse news: McCain's cynical bid for our attention has been working. And rather than focusing on Palin's political incompetence, we've been distracted by condescending questions you would never see if she were a man (and that are 100% projections of our own tough choices), like this one from Reuters:

"Should a 44-year-old mother of five, including a newborn with special needs and a pregnant teenager, take on a job that will keep her away from her home for much of the next two months to eight years?" The New York Times called these discussions "Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition."

It's a ridiculous conversation to even entertain. The truth is, we have far more in common with Barack and Michelle, who only recently paid off their student loan debt, than with Todd and Sarah, whose high-paying jobs allow them what appears to be infinite vacation time in which to gut moose and shoot wolves from planes . (Jobs that are low-paying in the rest of the U.S. are highly paid in Alaska.) Alaska might as well be Scandinavia for as much as it has in common with the hard reality of trying to support a family in America today.

Let's stop worrying about her family. She can afford babysitting and sick days. Thanks to what Slate describes as "Alaska's large negative income tax (and outsize share of federal pork)," the Palins are living it up on two six-figure incomes.

Sarah Palin has it all, in the traditional sense: the hunky husband, the passel of kids, the high-power job, the financial security, the silk Valentino jackets. She's Diane Keaton in Baby Boom meets Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. Her family is living the dream.

But what about our families? Sarah Palin may be like us in certain ways. Most of us acquired our foreign policy expertise from sixth-grade global studies, for example. But judging by her right-of-Bush positions on the issues, she doesn't appear to have any intention of sharing the wealth. Every plank of the McCain-Palin platform shows that she's far from one of the girls.



Red Mom: Along comes Sarah
By Rachel Campos-Duffy


Sarah PalinDuring one of the funnier moments in the Democrat primary, Barack Obama mocked Hillary's attempt to bond with Pennsylvania voters with childhood stories about hunting with her grandfather: "She's talking like she's Annie Oakley!" Obama laughed. Who could have predicted that five short months later an authentic Alaskan Annie Oakley, with pioneer-woman skills, down-home values, and sexy eyewear would shake up the race and our notions of successful motherhood.

On the left and right, much of the fascination with Sarah Palin has to do with her having seemingly accomplished the elusive female trifecta: big career, great marriage, and a brood of five kids ranging from 18 years of age to 4 months. Did I mention that she was able to hide her latest pregnancy well into her sixth month, thanks to tight abs? Just as women were giving up on being super-mom, and well-educated Gen Xers began dropping out of the work force to explore a more balanced approach to work and family ("I can have it all, just not all at the same time"), along comes Sarah. She's the successful governor of America's largest and most macho state, yet she's the most unabashed and overtly maternal politician our nation has ever seen.

How does she do it? Does she really have it all? Yes, she does have it all, but this type of high-level multi-tasking is never simple and the results are always complicated and sometimes messy, as the tabloids and her critics ceaselessly remind us.

But while her over-achiever approach to career and fertility may not be for you (as a fellow mother of five, I get exhausted just thinking about it), there is still plenty to learn and admire from how well she has managed to put it all together. The first and most important part of her success is a supportive husband. She has also chosen to live close to her extended family and believes teenagers need to pull their weight in the family (amen to that one!). Following the birth of her son Trig, Todd, not a nanny, came with her to the office to help out. As the mayor and then governor, Sarah keeps a baby swing and crib at the office and she has been known to nurse discreetly during meetings.

Not every woman is blessed with these options, but when a woman who can DOES, it says something about her priorities. Besides, with an 80% approval rating, the highest of any U.S. governor, who can credibly say she is neglecting her professional duties?

What impresses me most about Sarah Palin is the fact that she stood by her pro-life values when she found out that only one year into first term as governor she was pregnant with a Downs Syndrome baby. It was an unplanned pregnancy and she knew that that following through with it would raise serious questions about her ability to perform as governor and expose her to harsh and hurtful criticisms about her mothering. While other women may have chosen an easier road, she did not. Instead of compromising her principles for the sake of convenience or political expediency, she found creative and cooperative ways to make it work. Not a bad credential for a future VP!

Does having it all make Sarah Palin more like you?
Yes - she understands what's important to moms.392 (31.3%)
No - her political views are nothing like mine.479 (38.3%)
It's not relevant to her candidacy; only her qualifications are.381 (30.4%)

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