Friday, September 05, 2008

The Sarah Palin Chronicles, Continued

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.


Marinka said...

It's been a strange week, with everyone weighing in on Palin's family. I weighed in on it, too, and Obama's. I do not support Palin's candidacy, but because of the issues, not because of her family. Her family is her business, like Obama's is his.

blue milk said...

Terrific post and a great antidote to the stuff I've been reading from supposedly left-wing bloggers and readers. Agree completely with your point.

Leslie said...

Thanks for saying this. I am soooo sick of people slamming her for having a career. I don't agree with her on the issues for the most part but I was really intrigued when McCain picked her. Mostly because I was interested in what the commentators were going to say about her. I was just waiting for someone to slam her for being a mother with a high powered career. Unfortunately, I didn't have to wait long (milliseconds, in fact).

Sigh...even the progressives don't seem to be as progressive as I had hoped. On this particular issue anyway.

Thanks for your post. Finally some sanity...

Earth Muffin said...

I don't disagree with you that Mr. Palin is capable of caring appropriately for his family, I also agree with Suburban Turmoil, that the Palin family could benefit from both parents being available right now. For me, their situation is not about who would be the more competent parent. It's about the fact that there are two children in that family with crucial needs right now and it might be better for the parents to take a "team approach".

Backpacking Dad said...

In fairness to Lindsay she also has a hard time with Obama taking the job with his kids still at home. She leans a little harder on Palin because she has the perspective of an at-home mom, raised by mom. I think her post was more personal than judgmental.

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

Lindsay at Surburban Turmoil is not the issue; I just plucked her quote out of a very large hat to illustrate a certain tendency in the blogosphere and on op-ed pages. The fact that she and folks like her are "a little harder on Palin because she has the perspective of an at-home mom, raised by mom..." is just another way of saying that this debate reflects a very strong cultural bias against women as successful breadwinners and men as caregivers. If you're going to vote against Palin and McCain, do it because of Iraq, the economy, global warming--there are many good reasons. This isn't one of them.

chicago pop said...

I think putting Palin in the Republican VP slot was a cunning move to win over the at-home-dad vote, a key swing constituency.

When Obama was running for Illinois State Senator in 2004, the Republicans picked a black conservative, Alan Keyes, to run against him, thinking they could fool blacks into voting for a lunatic -- because he's black!

As you may know, it didn't quite work that way.

Hopefully, the Palin bait won't work for women either, although I'm sure this was the idea.

Personally, I'll breath a sigh of relief after the obsession with Palin's family dies. It's a huge media hog at a time when people need to be pounding on her career record.