Sarah Palin – The Working Mother Debate

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I was growing up during the Feminist movement, when it all seemed weird that a woman wanted equal pay for equal work, and that we all wanted to be able to run companies and work our way up the company ladder without talking a back-seat or deferring to men. 

And now we have a vice-presidential nominee who’s logically and unremarkably a woman.  The only thing is – she has a big family, including a new baby.

So – the debate is revived – can a woman – or actually SHOULD a woman work if she has small children?

For me, each woman is like a snowflake – totally and completely unique, and each woman’s circumstances are different.

Some of us have good jobs and can pay for high-quality childcare, or for help around the house so we can free up our time for our children.

Some of us have older children at home who can help with the younger children, and some of us have husbands with very flexible work who can be the primary parent at any time, and some of us have parents and aunts and uncles close by and happy to help.

Some of us have no help, no support system at all.

Some of us have to work only because our husband’s salary doesn’t pay the bills.

Or because we are now, after a divorce that may not have even been our choice, a single mother.

Some of us are passionate about our work and are happy to let our husbands be the primary child care-taker in the household, and some of us treasure motherhood more than anything and resent even a part-time job that keeps us from our kids.

And some of us have work that’s very flexible, and allows us to have our kids with us at work, allows us to structure our work schedules around our kids lives.

Clearly, if we have children, their welfare – including providing them closeness, bonding, nurturing, attention, affection, and an atmosphere of calmness and love – comes first.

And there has to be enough time for US, and enough time for our husbands – if we have them – so that there’s a good marriage anchoring the family.

But HOW we make that happen is so very individual, and so very dependent on circumstances.

Is it possible for us to look at a woman and treat her as though she were a man?

In other words – can we look at a woman and imagine her doing her job and raising her family in the same way we’d look at her if she were a man?

Feminism changed the world and helped it begin to grow up. I also think some parts of what we women have been through as we’ve become slowly more powerful in the world has made our relationships with men more difficult and unsatisfying.

My work is all about having it all – power and love and children and family, and having it with men who are the way they are – right now.

I’d love to hear about YOUR circumstances, and what you think about all of this, so please comment, here, so we can get this discussion started…



  1.  #1Maggie on September 9, 2008 at 5:56 am

    I am a working mother with my own business, but I have worked from home her entire life. When my daughter was younger and needed a lot of supervision, she was in daycare during the day. Now she’s old enough to hang around the house without having to be constantly monitored (she’s 10).

    I often feel so very guilty for not being more present for my daughter when she gets home from school because I’m sitting here working for 2 hours a day when she gets home from school. She’s downstairs watching TV, doing homework, eating too many snacks. I feel so mentally burned out that I just let her do whatever…and later kick myself for not being more strict! I constantly feel guilty, lazy, like a failure somehow.

    Meanwhile, what I hear from my girlfriends and also what I experience myself, is that MANY (certainly not all) men really don’t get too guilty when they don’t see their kids too often because they’re working long hours. They aren’t racked with the same emotions I am, or my friends are.

    This is why I find the notion of having the 2nd MOST challenging job in the US and being a relaxed, confident mother to small children a complete impossibility. How many hours a day, days per week does a person put in who works at the White House? I hear it takes over your whole life. You’re on call 7/24.

    My theory is that men just don’t suffer the same guilt, so they can do well at work and not be too torn up if they only see their kids a few hours a week.

    What do you think, Rori? Is guilt over not being there enough for your kids while you’re focused on work a “woman” thing or just a personal problem?

  2.  #2Rori Raye on September 9, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    So interesting – you, like me, have been able to turn work into an at-home thing (I was a bookkeeper when my daughter was small, managed to work from home) – and I feel awful even now about every minute I’ve had to turn away from her to get something done.

    But I met so many women in my park/playdate/preschool/school days with her who worked full-time, then volunteered afterwards, and went out with friends in the evening or took class, and never felt bad at all.

    I even wonder now if my over-attention to my daughter was 100% good – I sometimes wonder if I made her feel “watched.”

  3.  #3Carmela on September 15, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I don’t work at home. I work at a university. I don’t think we should look at women like we look at men. We are different and that is ok for us to be different and viewed differently. What is not ok is for women to be punished for not being like men.

    I think parents have needs too, we need “me” time as mothers and work times as breadwinners in our homes. As a single mom it requires more planning, but I make it a priority to have time for myself, time for dating, expanding my career, spiritual life, and for my family. Sometimes I do these things together even.

    I used to feel guilty, but then I had to stop myself because I would spend time with my children when I was angry and resentful and that was not good. So I have a policy now, when I need my me time, I give my 2 sons a big hug and a big kiss and I go off and do my own thing for a while. I feel good about it because I know when I get home to them again, I will be happy and relaxed and a better mother for it.

  4.  #4Wendy on September 15, 2008 at 11:28 am

    .My comment is about change or the wave of the future. I am happy that I have chosen a certain type of school for my daughter. We are going thru K12. ( In our state it is called IDVA or Idaho Virtual Acadamy. She is 17 and going thru her Senior year. I am soo exctied to be writing about this

    She did Traditional school (public school) until her 9th grade year. (she has also had 3 or 4 classes each year at a local high school so that she can have the “High School ” experience) My point is about being a teacher and being a mom. Once a week my daughter meets on line with her teacher. ( she has a teacher for every class) in a class session, called elluminite sessions. (it is like a chat room with all the students and the teacher and the teacher has a blackboard.) I just want to tell you a few things that have happened during our class time. When we first got started (in 9th grade) Her history teacher was letting all the kids chat while he was talking. He even said that it was all right for everyone to talk ( they were texting, exchanging e-mail etc) Her English teacher didn’t like it and told them that they all had to stop typing and listen to her or she would freeze the keyboards. well, she had to freeze the key boards. Anyway this teacher also during class had to put the class on hold because her 3 year old daughter fell down the stairs. ( it was about 4 steps) during the class. The child was not hurt and sat on mom’s lap while she finished the class.
    Another time ( yesterday) Her Spanish teacher had to walk over and let her cat in because she couldn’t handle the noise of the cat scratching on the glass while she was talking. She said all this in a kind fun way. I just want to say that today is a great time for moms. And I am happy that my daughter and I have been a part of this program and that no-one should give up being a mom because society is just now starting to change. Together we can end this idea of putting all our kids in daycare for strangers to raise, because we are told that we have to work. Maybe for the future we can do what we want, make money and still be with our children.