It seems that I more things to say about Sarah Palin. Weird.
There are lots and lots of mommy bloggers and mommy columnists out there saying that, as "Suburban Turmoil" puts it, it's hard "to believe that this country needs Sarah Palin more than her own children." They look at the baby with Down Syndrome and the pregnant teenager, and they think, mom is the one who needs to be there.
Whenever I read things like this, I think of the Hoffman family (not their real names). They are a family I profile in my book.
The mother, Misun, has a super-high-powered career (she was in the private sector when I interviewed them, making gobs of cash advising Fortune 500 companies; now they live in Washington, D.C. and she works in a high-level position for the Securities and Exchange Commission.) The father, Kent, is a stay-at-home dad.
Their son Clinton was born with multiple, life-threatening disabilities, at just the moment when Misun's career was taking off. In the year after Clinton was born, Misun was working 70 hour weeks and traveling 2-3 times a month. "It was very hard," Misun told me. "I remember for several weeks I would cry when I got on the plane."
But she still got on the plane. She knew her husband Kent was at home taking care of Clinton, doing what had to be done. And she was doing what she had to do, providing for the family.
She never doubted her choice, and neither did Kent. The burdens he carried were terrible--Clinton demanded 24-hour care--but he took them on willingly. To Misun, making money was a part of mothering; to Kent, caring for his child was a part of fathering.
“Her career got a major boost as a result of me staying at home,” said Kent. “When she goes away, she doesn’t have to worry about the kids or juggling anything. She’s been able to do what it takes and focus on her job.”
It's a waste of time to judge Misun as a bad mother for not being the one to take care of Clinton or judge Kent as a bad father for not serving as the breadwinner, because they don't care what you think. Here's the only thing that matters: When I interviewed them, Clinton was starting Kindergarten, and he was a happy, healthy little dude.
I have no idea what kind of person Palin's husband is. I don't know who does what in their family, but I suspect that there's a lot of responsibility falling on his shoulders right now.
And you know what? As a father, he can do it; there's nothing in his biological sex or even his socially constructed gender that will prevent him from serving as a caregiver. He can be the one to take care of the baby. He can be the parent who is there for his daughter. The mother doesn't have to be the one to do it. And it's not for us to judge a mother like her.