I've started a new blog for posting ideas and such things that are unrelated to the day to day stories of parenting. See it here: http://srsmusings.blogspot.com/. Check back in a few days since its now too late for me to rant about the surreal nature of the Republican National Convention.
Since this post is about mothering, I rationalize that it still belongs with Jackson's posts.
It's been over a weak now since John McCain and his Carl Rovian machine sent the media into a frenzy (No, I'm not talking about the repeated jeers against "Liberal Media Bias". ) I'm referring to the selection of Vice President. This is enough time to weigh the facts and organize my complaint somewhat. Let me first say that it's not about her having children and worry that she won't be able to give them enough attention. As a mother who returned to work when my baby was a young infant (7 1/2 weeks) I sympathize--to an extent.
There's been a tremendous fuss made about whether she has time to both govern and mother. I don't think the people making these attacks have really thought it through. It was reported that she returned to work 3 days after giving birth. The details of that reveal she attended a few meetings here and there with her baby in tow. I imagine she's having an easier time mothering in public office than those of us with regular, corporate, 9-5 jobs are. I understand she has a Pack-n-Play in her office and carries her child in a sling, nursing while she's on conference calls. I hear she dismissed the Alaskan Governor's personal chef, but I suppose she kept the landskeeping crew and has someone on hand to carry out the trash. I'm sure no one questions if her assistant holds her baby while she delivers proclamations.
I saw the clip of Ms Palin answering the media's premature question on her job intentions by saying, "when I find out what exactly the Vice President does." with a certain sarcastic tone. If I understand correctly, the Vice President waits around for the President to die, breaks congressional ties, parlays with lobbyists, and like the current president, spends a lot of quality time on vacation/hunting trips. I don't expect it will keep her away from her children if they're willing to leave the frigid north for the Mid-Atlantic Seaboard.
In comparison, I'm one of the lucky ones who works for a surprisingly family friendly employer. I had 6 weeks of alotted time off, paid until I ran out of sickdays, then paid at 2/3 of my salary as short term disability. I have access to nearly affordable health care, and a tax free option if I plan ahead to cover my medical bills. I have access to a secure, sanitary place to pump breast milk. I have a flexible schedule that allows me to go in late and leave early, provided I work atleast 40 hours each week and attend all of my meetings. My child isn't allowed in the building until he turns 7 at which time, he will be given entry 1/2 day each year in late April.
In comparison, my husband's coworkers are less fortunate. They have 6 weeks of alotted time off, paid only until they run out of sickdays (maximum 10, I believe). Their health care is unaffordable, especially on their salaries, but they do have access to the State CHIP Husky program for the children, and often the adults once they become parents. Despite a state law requiring employers provide lactation rooms that are not bathroom stalls, they don't have one. They have "flexible" schedules, but in their case, it means the company can flex their hours according to the needs of the company, their hours are never consistent. Their children are allowed in the building, but only in public areas and in the company of another caretaker. No taking care of children while working.
I haven't seen Ms Palin come out in favor of extending the Family Medical Leave Act FMLA or guaranteeing basic rights to new parents in the workplace. I don't expect her to, it wouldn't be in keeping with the party line. I hope the "Liberal Media" isn't too cowardly to ask the question. It's my fear that she's the Clarence Thomas working mom. A beneficiary of a very accommodating employment arrangement who doesn't want other mothers to have the same unfair advantage in the workplace.
My initial reaction was anger at the unabashed pandering to Hillary supporters. Is there a such thing as voter grubbing? I'm skeptical of this strategy. I recognize that there are a lot of hard feelings amongst the Hillary's supporters, but I imagine that they're by and large feminists. I hold feminists in high esteem and expect them to 1-question the motives, 2-research the issues, and 3-vote in the best interest of women, even if that means they vote against an individual woman. The initial polls don't show my theory, but in time...then again, I couldn't imagine this country would send George Bush back to the White House for a 2nd term.
The first bit of information to surface was Sara Palin's biography, with highlights including, high school basketball star, Beauty Pageant runner up, "Hockey Mom" with a bazillian kids with made up names, and a 4 month old with Down's Syndrome. I fixated on items 2 and 3. John McCain, who's spent the last 6 months railing about Obama's slim resume, has just selected a Beauty Pageant runner up and Hockey-Mom as his VP selection?! Now, my stomach churns when I hear a woman define herself by such frivolous events. Don't get me wrong, you can get pretty far in life on looks, and being an engaged parent is what I believe the role requires. I just see these things as part of everyone's life, things that happen to you and you do the best you can. I don't view them as accomplishments. In my view, accomplishments are earned. High school basketball star is an accomplishment, I'm sure she worked very hard to earn it. Still, it leaves a bitter taste when its on a presidential resume--It was high school, afterall.
Now I come to that last highlight on the list, a 4 month old with Down's Syndrome. I think that is a family matter, and I pray the family has strength and resources to raise a special needs child. I don't think that this topic is really worthy of much press time, except its fundamental to the discussion of politics. A few hours after the selection was made public (or in all probability even made in private, since McCain acted the part of "Decider" on this one) the realization of what a critical campaign issue this child is came to light. In the first trimester of her pregnancy, Sara Palin had the tests that all pregnant women over 35 are urged to undergo. The tests revealed that the child had Down's Syndrome. I imagine that the news was followed up by a discussion of her "options". She chose to [secretly] carry the child to term. It's hard to fault her for secrecy here. I kept my own pregnancy a secret for the first trimester. I also don't fault her for making the choice she did. I believe she made a good choice, and the right one for her family. I don't believe the choice will have a tremendous impact on her job performance. I would like to emphasize that it was her choice. This is where the story becomes the deciding issue for the McCain campaign. It's a choice that many in his party would like to deny women. Ms Palin has made clear she, herself, would like to deny this choice to other women.
A few days later it was revealed that the Palin family had made a second choice. In my mind this second choice is much more difficult, to make. Sara's daughter, 17 year old Bristol, is 5 months pregnant and "intends to marry the father". By the time they arrived for the RNC, Bristol was wearing a shimmering stone on her finger, and a boy on her arm. Reportedly, the boy's My Space page proclaimed that he was an "F***ing Redneck, and didn't want kids". Even without that last piece of information, we can surmise that this is a shotgun wedding between two naive kids who've just been made political pawns. I hope the young man is sincere and has really changed his mind, and that they live happily ever after and have sufficient access to education, high paying jobs, and healthcare. I know the odds are against them. I hope Bristol has been educated on all of her options, and is making the choice that she believes in, not the one that's good for her mother's political career.
It's this choice that has really rallied the fundamentalist voters to action, more so since Ms Palin has been a proponent of abstincence only sex education. (In case the statistics aren't enough, the preceding is a personal testament to the ineffectiveness of that tactic.) Despite the glaring evidence that abstinence only education doesn't make kids abstain and contributes to the rise of teen pregnancy and the spread of diseases, the GOP supports and funds these programs in the public schools. And with the support of the John McCain/Sara Palin ticket, would reduce the number of choices girls like Bristol Palin have to make by one.
I question the family values of the supposed values voters. Denying healthcare to women, denying birth control education. These same values voters say they want women to stay home with their families and out of the workplace. They say they want kids to abstain from sex. They say that any life is precious and should be preserved. I see hipocracy when they encourage this nation to fight pre-emptive wars overseas, encourage pregnant teens to wed, and support a women for the nations second highest office who has several kids at home including a special needs infant--just as long as she shares their values.
Let me make a few things clear here. First, I think that there are no easy choices for either of these mother's. Any option they take will have great consequences. Maybe they'll look back on this experience with happiness that they did what they thought was best, and having found out that the consequences were within their capabilities. Perhaps they'll look back with remorse and wonder what they're future would've been like if they had selected differently, or had never had to face these particular crossroads.
It should also be clear that Roe v Wade didn't so much give women access to abortion, as it gave us access to safe abortions. A few months ago, there was an interview on NPR where a pre-RvW nurse was recalling what it was like treating women after their illegal abortions, sorry, I can't find the link. The stories recounted all manner of objects used to remove fetuses, punctured uteruses, damage to other internal organs... Those are the stories of women who in desperate straits, resorted to desperate means. It was chilling. I'm sure some of you have religious beliefs that hold that abortion is a sin. I suggest to you that denying women safe medical care and supplanting it with that alternative is no less sinful.
If this arguement still has you one the fence, I'll point out a few other facts about the Alaskan Governer. Feel free to verify them--I suggest factcheck.org or even the Wikipedia entry that was doctored up special a few hours before and in anticipation of Ms Palin's entry onto the national stage. Sara Palin the "reformer" was for the "Bridge to Nowhere", even using it as a campaign issue, until it became a public symbol of elicit/wasteful earmarks, and it had been made clear that congress was withdrawing their support. As governor, she still took and spent the funds. She also signed into law the largest state budget in Alaskan history. Sara Palin the "ethics watchdog" is the subject of her own ethics investigation into charges she fired the public safety commissioner who refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law. As mayor of Wasilla, she fired everyone she couldn't verify was a "supporter" of her position and policies. Sara Palin the "environmentalist" went after the oil companies to share some of their windfall profits with the state. She is a proponent of drilling in ANWAR, building more pipelines, and brought the helicopter wolf hunt to her home state. She doesn't support green energy or acknowledge than human actions contribute to climate change. She opposes adding polar bears and beluga whales to the endangered species list. Sara Palin the "libertarian" opposed abortion except when the mother's life is in danger, opposes sex education, and until recently, belonged to a political party which promotes the separation of Alaska from the United States. Sara Palin the "teachers daughter" supports teaching creationism in the science classroom. She also opposes rights for gays and backs capital punishment.
I'm ashamed of John McCain (the self proclaimed "Maverick") for succumbing to the pressure of his Party and selecting a Vice President who panders to the extremists in his party. I'm even more ashamed for him that he's trying to conceal it as the shameful act of pandering to disheartened Clinton supporters.
There's some buzz out there saying that the flaw in the Sara Palin selection is that she was "unvetted" and offers a window to the real decision making style of John McCain. This is supposedly a glimpse of his Maverick decision making style and that he will forego the advice of his cohorts and make his own decision, shooting from the hip. I think this might be another rouse, McCain makes much of his supposedly independent decision making ability--and this country has touted "decision making" as a strength, never mind the disastrous results its had on the nation and the world. I believe this selection was carefully calculated, and originated with the GOP political machine. If McCain was truly his own man, he would've gone with his friend and long time supported, the self proclaimed "independent democrat" Joe Lieberman.
John McCain is hoping that the women out there are voting with their ovaries instead of their brains. I'm asking you to educate your ovaries on what is really at stake here, and then, please, encourage them to vote in November.
1 year ago