I grew up in a house where it was emphasized that not only were women equal to men- they were competitive with men. If a man could do a job then a woman could do it better. My mother was one of five women studying animal science at her university when she was an undergrad. One of five females in a large department taught only by men. She had a lot to prove. My adviser was also my father's adviser when he was an undergrad (or possibly the professor he worked under while obtaining his master's.. I get confused). Dr. Bull told me (also an animal science major) that there was a lot of competition in this field. There are not nearly as many jobs available as there are college freshmen majoring in animal science. He also told me that if you were the top of your field there would always be positions available to you. Mom never lacked for job offers (or higher education offers).
So, as I was listening to yesterdays news, and learning about McCain's choice of VP, my feelings were mixed. First, I'm thrilled to think there may be a woman in the White House. I'm even more thrilled to think that the woman elected may be an advocate of wise use of natural resources (vs. no use or overuse). It's a benefit even that this woman isn't a career politician. She's a real woman, like me. She's a business owner, a wife, and a mom. She's even the mom of a special needs kid. She is a lot like us (all the women in the 30- 40 year age bracket).
And therein lies my ambivalence. She's a mother of 5. One of them is less than a year old and has Down's Syndrome. When I think how much like the rest of us she is, I worry. I worry because her children will change so much while she's in office (if she's elected). I worry that the needs of a developmentally challenged toddler will be difficult to balance with the needs of a nation. I worry that her marriage will be strained by the demands of her job and her family. I worry about a host of issues that would affect me and my marriage if I were the woman running for office.
Is that fair? It did briefly cross my mind when I saw how young Obama's children are that he might be a little bit young to be President. However, I didn't have the myriad of concerns I feel when I think about Palin (Of course there's no way I'm voting for Obama either). I am disappointed in myself. Just because I choose to stay home with my children (and boy am I ever home with my children now) doesn't mean that other women need to do the same thing. I'm sure Palin has very good childcare (and probably more flexibility in her schedule than most working moms). I'm positive that she thought long and hard about the challenges running for public office would create for her family.
There's no reason to question her ability to balance family and work unless we're prepared to question Obama's ability to balance both as well. Why is it automatically assumed that women are the sex who need to accomodate everyone's needs? Isn't it possible that her husband could just as easily meet the children's needs while she's working as Michelle Obama can care for the Obama children? If I worked and my husband stayed home and cared for our lovely offspring would that make me less responsible as a mother? Would it make him less responsible as a husband? Heavy social prejudices raise questions in my own mind about how well this election will turn out. It should be interesting to see what the rest of the conservative moms have to say. Will it be possible for them to "forgive" this mother for being something that the rest of us don't even have the energy to aspire to? Or will the conservative women be able to embrace this woman, so like us and yet different, and really support her running for office?