The working mother as candidate

I am just fascinated with the Sarah Palin pick. I’ve been trying to figure out why and I think it comes down to the fact that she has young kids. I was at a conference a few months ago and attended a panel discussion by a group of accomplished women. They were mostly a generation older than me — one was a former mayor of a major US city, several were successful business leaders and so on. The moderator kept asking them how being female had affected their careers and whether it had held them back. Several of the speakers talked about the blatant discrimination they experienced while in college (“You’re taking up the spot of a man. You’re just going to go be a housewife,” etc.) and in the workforce. Not ever having experienced such discrimination first hand, I could not relate to it. After the panel was over, I was disappointed that the moderator had not asked anyone about how they had combined motherhood with their careers. Personally, I think the decision to have a child has had a bigger impact on my life than gender. It turned out, several panelists had not had children. Others privately talked to me about “staging” their lives. As one put it, “You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once.” That is the familiar model embodied by Hillary Clinton — her own political career really took off once her daughter was grown, her husband was off stage. The Sarah Palin candidacy obviously breaks that mold and I will be fascinated to see how she pulls it off. Someone said to me today, hey, we wouldn’t be talking about this if she were a man. Of course not. We know how the male candidates do it: for the most part, they have wives. I can’t wait to see how the wife does it.

Update: The NYT talks to some working mothers about Sarah Palin and gets mixed reactions.

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