Since I’m a pretty progressive Democrat and she’s, um, not, there aren’t a lot of things we agree on politically. We don’t have a lot in common in how our motherhood experiences look, either.
I don’t have five kids and I’m not a governor (though, I am a PTA mom, so maybe I’m headed in that direction!). But, more importantly, in the discussion about working mothers in America there’s this — I don’t have the support network or work situation that Palin does that has given her the luxury to bring home the caribou bacon and fry it up in a pan. So whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican or something else entirely, I have to wonder whether it’s fair to hold Sarah Palin up as the latest shining example of working motherhood?
If Palin is the new standard, how will the rest of us mere mortals ever measure up?
I only have one daughter at home, and I find it almost impossible at times to juggle her schedule, household obligations (please don’t stop by my house unannounced if you know me!) and, oh yeah, work. Palin is, to say the least, lucky. She has a bevy of family and friends who have taken over for her when she can’t take the kids to the office or be home for their school and social obligations.
I don’t have that. Zippo. Nada. And there are plenty of working parents who don’t either. Nor do they even have decent, affordable child care to try to make the whole crazy puzzle work.
There’s a whole host of reasons our personal parenting safety net is non-existent, including the fact that we don’t live close to many family members. I suspect there are many families in the same situation — ones who would give anything if a mom or sister or cousin or aunt lived close by to help out.
So will this uber-mom portrait that has been painted of Palin force the rest of us to don the cape and become super-moms ourselves? At the blog Conversation Starter, Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay comments that whether we can be uber-moms is a function of life circumstances:
Men and women are different, and their parenthood experiences in the early months or years of a child’s life are different . As I wrote in a post earlier this year, I was hired when I was eight months’ pregnant. Because this hire happened in April and my husband’s teaching schedule allowed him to be a full-time parent in the summer months, I returned to my very new job when my first child was only eight weeks old. My company’s lactation rooms allowed me to continue breastfeeding, but nothing anyone could do–not my employer, not my spouse–could alleviate the wrenching exhaustion of working an 8-to-6 schedule when night after night, I slept in 2-hour shifts because I was nursing. By my second week back, I was, quite literally, walking into walls.
I worry that regardless of what happens to Palin in November, that having her in the spotlight has put an unwanted spin on what successful modern working motherhood looks like. While there’s much to admire in the punching-through-the-maternal-wall perspective, if we start to raise the bar on what motherhood should look like, as described by Kathy G. at The G Spot blog:
A prime example is this excellent article by Katherine Marsh in the current New Republic. Marsh analyzes how Palin’s image as a [Ayn] Rand-ian superwoman reinforces right wing tropes that government help for working women, such as paid leave and publicly provided child care, is not necessary. “Stop whining — I did it on my own, and so can you!” is basically the message Palin delivers, where issues of sexism and work/family balance are concerned. But unlike Palin, few of the rest of us are lucky enough to have a well-paying job, a stay-at-home husband and a strong, supportive network of relatives who are happy to pitch in where child care duties are concerned.
I can’t do it all on my own without the circle of support that Palin has, but somehow I muddle through with some things, OK many things, inevitably falling through the cracks.
No neat home. Stacks of laundry and paperwork everywhere. Homework that has to be finished, social obligations (not big ones, just little things like remembering birthdays) and food in the house. These are the things I struggle with because in my world, there is no village there to chip in to allow me to pursue the career I love without abandon.
That’s OK with me — I love my crazy, messy life and wouldn’t give up the time I get with my daughter for anything. I just don’t want the rest of the world to expect me to live up to the Sarah Palin model of motherhood since it’s getting applause from so many.
For most of us, real life just doesn’t work that way.
Cross-posted from BlogHer, where PunditMom is a Contributing Editor for Politics & News.