Many people in the public believe Palins daughters pregnancy casts a negative light on this candidates skills as a mother. Others argue that her childs actions or disabilities have nothing to do with her ability to serve our country well. Sarah Palins entry into this already crazed election brings back the long debated question of whether or not its truly possible to have it all. Ive been surprised that women are so drastically divided on this topic.
My expectations were that women would support a female candidate and communicate empathy for her challenges and ability to balance motherhood and a career. Instead, Sarah Palin has been the target of numerous harsh, and even abusive, media reports and expressions of public opinion. As a mother and another female professional working to further my career, I can relate to Sarah Palins struggle and the stigma she faces in our society.
It may seem as though the United States has adopted a mindset of gender equality, but even a self-labeled feminist was quoted by the Boston Globe to say, I dont really understand how she can be governor with all those kids to deal with, never mind Vice President of the country! My research revealed Sarah Palins husband works part-time and is able to dedicate much of his time to raising the children. If we dont believe a politician can be an effective leader and a good parent, then why dont we question the family roles of all the men that have occupied these offices for centuries?
Sarah Palin has already proven her ability to balance remarkable responsibilities during her role as Governor. An article titled Questions for a Superhuman Mom claims Palin breastfeeds her son during meetings and has even fired a chef appointed to the Governors mansion so she could cook her familys food. I consider these actions evidence that Palin has already shown creativity and dedication to meet the challenging demands of both her family and her job. The criticism Palin and her family have received following the announcement that her daughter is pregnant is both unfair and wrong.
While Bristol will undoubtedly need the support of her family to raise her child as a young mother, isnt that an ideal circumstance for any young parent? Even if Bristols teenage pregnancy is viewed as a mistake, I dont believe that reflects on the leadership potential of her mother. The fact that her mother has apparently accepted this reality and chose to announce it with dignity, surely anticipating harsh criticism, indicates this candidate is honest, straightforward, and willing to stand behind what she believes in despite potential backlash.
It should also be noted that we do not know this young woman or any of the circumstances that surround her pregnancy. According to many of the same media reports that unfairly portray Sarah Palin, Bristol plans to marry her unborn babys father and the two have been dating for nearly a year. Teenage love might be peak our interest as news consumers, but what does it really have to do with the role of a leader? Like other women, I can relate to Sarah Palin. None of our families are perfect, but she loves and accepts each of her children with pride.
During the Republican National Convention, Palin addressed the nation and introduced her family. After a captivating speech, she was joined by all of her children and her husband. Many political figures might have opted to leave their children or entire family out of the spotlight in light of that days controversial media coverage on Bristols pregnancy. Critics have a point that little is known about Palins stance on several noteworthy issues, but she should be given time to communicate her plans and provide evidence of her performance.
So many of Palins personal decisions have been picked apart by the media, but few people have taken the leap to extrapolate her parental decisions as a positive sign for her appointment to Vice President. Palin is willing to send her own son off to war. She made the unusual decision to continue a pregnancy knowing her child would have a disability because she believed she and her husband could meet the challenge. Shes been a member of her childrens schools PTA for longer than shes been in office and shes dedicated her scarce time and energy to improving schools.
If its acceptable to criticize Sarah Palin for her personal life, I think its only fair to consider her strength as a well-organized and dedicated mother as a sign that she should also be given a chance to continue proving herself as a leader. Whether or not I choose to vote for McCain and Palin has nothing to do with my admiration her acceptance as this countrys first female Vice-Presidential candidate. Shes already proven there are many different kinds of feminists, mothers, and leaders.
Before the media latched onto the finding that Bristol Palin is pregnant, much discussion swirled around the fact Sarah Palins youngest son, Trig, has Down syndrome. Sarah Palin and her husband have graciously shared their personal reaction to their sons prenatal diagnosis and provided their pro-life beliefs as explanation for why they made a different decision than 80% of parents given the same news. Trigs cognitive disability will offer new challenges for the Palin family, but by all accounts they have the financial resources and willingness to meet his needs and nourish his development into a happy, healthy young citizen.
Mothers of children with Down syndrome are divided in their support of Sarah Palin, but many are eager for a public official to so closely understand their struggles with education, housing, healthcare, and equal rights for people with disabilities. I agree with mothers of other children with Down syndrome who feel like many in the media are being unfair to label their children as burdens making it impossible for one to parent and lead a balanced life. One mother of a five year old child with Down syndrome has been quoted in the Boston Globe to say, If she has support, the sky is the limit.
While I disagree that Palin cant be or shouldnt be a political leader because shes a mother, my life experience tells me she will need support. If elected, any and all additional supports she and her husband might need would be available in Washington DC. Shes been able to manage four children for several years in a number of leadership positions, but perhaps the harsh critics are right. Maybe with the addition of a child with Down syndrome and the pregnancy of her young daughter, Sarah Palin will need reinforcements to provide what her family needs.
Is that such a horrible possibility? It seems odd that many members of the Democratic party profess whole-hearted agreement with the quote, It takes a village to raise a child. Yet if Sarah Palin suggested she or her family might benefit from support, it would be viewed as an utter failure of her ability to have it all. I hope Americans realize that theres no harm in supporting each other and accepting the fact that there are many different ways to lovingly raise children.
Many single mothers expect to be treated as equal professionals. Its a dangerous accusation to make that even with support a woman cant simultaneously function well as a leader and a parent. Im still educating myself about the views of Palin and all the candidates, but our shared experiences make her a political and public figure that I can relate to in several ways. If anything, her addition to this election makes it more interesting to me and perhaps a more important turning point for our country.